30 April 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
WATFORD 0 READING 3
Rougier (27 mins), Henderson (70 mins), Cureton (90 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
| Reading: Hahnemann, Brown,
Watson (Campbell 79), Viveash, Shorey, Rougier (Cureton 66), Hughes, Newman,
Sidwell, Tyson (Castle 79), Henderson. Subs not used: Mackie, Ashdown.
Watford: Chamberlain, Mahon, Dyche, Gayle, Glass, Ardley, Vernazza (McNamee 72), Hyde, Nielsen, Tommy Smith (Fitzgerald 68), Norville. Subs not used: Brown, Johnson, Lee.
| Reading: Newman.
Referee: A Bates (Stoke-on-Trent)
The Royals set all kinds of new records tonight with an impressive 3-0 victory at Watford. The win, which secured a third or fourth placed finish to the league campaign saw Reading match their previous best number of Division One points with one game still to spare. The victory guaranteed a home second leg for the play-off semi-final, which will now be played against either Wolves or Nottingham Forest as the Royals look to win promotion to the Premiership for the first time in the club's history. Reading's Peter Castle set a new club record for the youngest ever player to play for the first team, at the age of 16 years and 49 days, as he came off the bench with eleven mintues to play. The game also saw the debut for Darren Cambell, who, along with Castle, had an impressive short spell on the pitch. This victory, Reading's fourth from five fixtures saw Reading claim the highest number of away wins in the entire Division as they continued a superb run of forms to lead into the play-offs.
It was an all round very satisfying night and an unexpectedly comfortable win as Pardew selected a series of fringe squad players in a vastly changed starting line-up. Forster, Williams, Chadwick, Harper, Little and Murty were all missing from the line-up, rested ahead of the upcoming play-off fixtures. In their place Pardew picked a series of regular players that players that have played this season without winning extended runs in the squad. On the bench appeared academy players Castle and Cambell ready to make their Reading debuts. In defence Adrian Viveash made a return alongside Brown and Newman took right back with Shorey in his regular position. In midfield there were recalls for Watson, Sidwell, Tyson and Rougier with only Hughes keeping his place. Up front Henderson was the lone man with Forster left out for this game. Despite the drastic changes across the team, Pardew stuck to his usual formation and tactics and the whole team looked suprisingly comfortable with it. Sidwell was excellent in midfield and the Brown and Viveash combination looked secure in defence.
The first half failed to see a massive number of chances but Reading had the most of the half. The home side seemed like that hadn't played together themselves with a number of poor passes and an inability to give Hahnemann in the Reading goal anything to do at all with the Reading defence coping with ease. The sign next to the home stand read "Be loud. Be proud" - but the home supporters were ignoring that as their side gave them little to get excited about. On the other hand, after the silence of Portsmouth and Grimby, the Reading fans at last found their voices to celebrate Reading's play-off finish to the season and the impending victory over a generally poor Watford side. Reading's passing seemed of a higher quality and we continued to look the more positive side despite failing to create any serious openings within the opening twenty minutes. Watford had the first shot of the game but then faded quickly with Reading taking control. Ricky Newman went in the book early on as Reading showed their determination with a side of players all determined to make their mark.
Reading gradually gained the upper hand with a few crosses before they took the lead just before the half hour mark. A cross from the left saw Rougier in the right place at the right time to get his head on the ball and guide it past the keeper and into the back of the net. A rare Rougier goal - and the start of the celebrations. Reading had a couple of chances to extend the lead with Tyson forcing a save and Hughes putting one well over the Watford crossbar. The second half saw Watford come out with more purpose and have a good spell of play where they threatened to get back into the game. Hahnemann was called into his first real action of the match and made a couple of saves and the home side won a free-kick right on the edge of the box which might have caused some trouble if it had cleared the wall. After Watford briefly threatened Reading got Cureton in on the action as he replaced Rougier who seemed to be worn out and failing to make any further contribution after his goal.
Cureton's introduction gave Reading something extra up front after Henderson had been struggling a bit by himself. Not long after his entry Cureton did well to run onto a ball and put a superb cross in from the right. It looked like Cureton might have had a shot himself but the pass was perfect to Henderson who had shown a good burst of pace to dash into the area on the left. Henderson's finish was excellent with the ball flying across at speed as he connected to send the ball into the right side of the net giving the keeper no chance. It was an excellent goal that sent the Reading fans into full voice. The game was clearly over for Watford at this point and Reading threatened to extend their lead with balls played through for Cureton. Cureton was disappointingly caught offside on too many occasions - but at least once the decision seemed unfair when he would have otherwise been clean through to score.
With the game won it gave Pardew the chance to bring
on Campbell and Castle with the three points already secured. However,
both players looked impressive and there was no need to worry as they
seemed to slot into the team without any problem. It was hard to believe
that Castle had only just turned 16 - he's a big player with a lot of
presence and got stuck right in with some an excellent first chance to
pass the ball out of defence. He put in a good few tackles and passed
well making just the one mistake. Campbell was initially overshadowed
by Castle's record breaking appearance and size, but he looked an excellent
prospect. He found plenty of space on the right wing and looked very fast
indeed beating his man on a couple of occassions. It must have been an
excellent moment for him as he was there to join in the celebrations for
Reading's third when Henderson and Cureton linked up yet again. Henderson
headed down for Cureton to blast it home from the right on the edge of
the box into the right corner of the net. An excellent finish deep in
injury time to complete a great win. Reading looked good tonight considering
the changes made and it showed what strength we have across the squad
as nearly every player impressed. A great night out in Watford.
FANS' POST MATCH OPINION
|This one was special - really special. For six years I have known a whole Watford family - 6 season ticket holders amongst them plus friends. For five years I have endured the taunts of being a little team who would have little chance against them. Tonight, with 6 reserves, a 16 and a (just) 17 year old we creamed them. I reckon we could have played Pards, Dill, Ron Grant, Gordon Neate, Neil Webb AND his father Douggie and still beaten them such is the belief in this squad. Thank you, thank you, thank you Pards for giving me a wonderful night out with my daughter. It doesn't get better than this - dare we believe?|
| A superb all round performance from
what can only be described as a 'scratch' team. Yankee Doodle Dandy was
virtually a spectator all evening with hardly a shot to deal with. The back
four was superb with Viveash putting in a 'shop window' performance as he
prepares to depart at the end of the season. He'll be sorely missed as a
dependable and secure centre back and squad member. I wish him well, particularly
if the rumour I hear that he is going to join Parky at Colchester is true.
Good Luck Adi.
In the midfield we saw Sidwell have one of his best games in a Reading shirt so far although even he was outshone by the outstanding Captain Kevin Watson who ran the game all evening. Whilst up front Darius 'Pop Idol' Henderson caused problems for what was a shaky Watford defence all night and thoroughly deserved his well taken goal to go with his assist for the first goal scored remarkably by the also soon to depart Tony Rougier. (Another rumour I hear is that The Rouge will be joining Brighton providing that they stay up, so lets' hope we can do the business at the weekend and defeat Stoke and try to help Tony on his way to the South Coast.) Rougier may have not been the most popular of players with the fans over the last couple of seasons due mainly to his inconsistency and lack of goals but off the pitch on the 3 or 4 occasions that I've met him he has always been a credit to himself and Reading FC, always obliging with autographs, photos or just a chat. Good luck Tony wherever you may end up! (and with Zamora having gone to Spurs I'm sure you'll get plenty of playing opportunities).
Final rumour from me for now is that Phil Whitehead could be joining QPR so again good luck Phil if this turns out to be the case. A final word on our 2 debutantes, both Darren Campbell and Peter Castle looked very comfortable for the 10 minutes or so that they were on last night. Campbell in particular looks to have great pace and perhaps in the years to come we will see a forward line that includes him on the right wing and Tyson on the left with Henderson up the middle. Some things never change though and last night was no exception with Ricky Newman picking up yet another booking and Andy Hughes flattering to deceive once again.
Well done Pards, a great all round performance, let's finish with a win at Stoke which will set us up nicely for the play offs.
Come on URZ
|Bloody marvellous, even with a mixture of reserves, youth, future rejects and "praise the lord" Rooogue. Reading FC playing academy players in a division one game! Play the youth team at Stoke I say, get no more injuries, play for fun and make Stoke fans sweat, then bring the big boys on for the play offs, don't care who it is but tell you something, providing we don't get stuffed in the first leg (we won't) what a night the second leg is going to be under the lights at the Mad Stad. Remember Wigan, hope the helicopter comes again!|
| My little boy James (6) came home
from school yesterday and said "Dad I am the only Reading fan in my class
among 15 Man Utd and 10 Liverpool fans" I felt great!
Good win tonight, great squad and great support: well done.
The future is very bright (what does that banner say?)
A very proud Royal.
| I sat in with the Watford fans for
this one as I was being entertained by a client who has a season ticket.
The noise and support from the away end was superb from 100 yards away,
especially compared with the silence and continual whingeing from the few
home fans who'd bothered to turn up. It was only after the first goal that
I told my host how seven of the eleven on the field wouldn't normally start.
He was gobsmacked (as was I, I must admit, with the all-round performance).
Yes, the Watford Gap really does exist, and we found it (on too many occasions
to count!) last night in sad, dismal Hertfordshire. Wouldn't it be delightful
to finish the regular season sittin in the sun, sending Stoke back down
to Division Two.
Roll on the play-offs, and Come On URZ....!!
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