READING 3 BLACKPOOL 0 (Half Time: 2-0)
Forster (20 mins, 22 mins, 51 mins).
Blackpool Scorers: -
19 January 2002
Reading: Roberts, Murty, Williams, Mackie, Shorey, Igoe, Hughes, Parkinson (Gamble 83), Salako, Rougier (Henderson 73), Forster (Cureton 57). Subs not used: Ashdown, Alex Smith.
Blackpool: Barnes, Coid, Reid (Hughes 55), Marshall, Jaszczun (Day 27), Bullock, Collins, Wellens, Hills, Fenton (O'Kane 62), Walker. Subs not used: Pullen, Milligan.
Bookings: Mackie (Reading); Collins, Marshall (Blackpool).
Five consecutive wins, nine goals scored, none conceded and four points clear at the top of the division. Even the season ticket holder who has been sitting near me shouting abuse at Alan Pardew all season was quiet today! It doesn't seem that long ago when I found myself studying the league table trying to work out which teams we could expect to drop points to give us a chance to get near to the automatic promotion places. It must have given the manager considerable satisfaction today to be able to take off his leading scorer with half an hour to go in order to save him for a really big game on Tuesday night knowing that the game was already won.
This was Nicky Forster's day. His hat-trick consisted of three very different goals demonstrating why he poses such a threat to opposing defences. On twenty minutes he met a Sammy Igoe cross perfectly with his head and sent the ball powerfully downwards into the corner of the net. A minute later he chased a long ball which did not appear to present much of a problem for the defence, but his persistence was rewarded when his presence created sufficient panic to cause the Blackpool 'keeper to collide with his centre back leaving him with a simple tap in. He saved his best for last. Five minutes after half time he spun past Reid and accelerated away from the rest of the defence before driving the ball unerringly into the far corner of the net from the right side of the penalty area. You will not see a much better goal at any level of football.
Reading exerted a lot of pressure early in the game against a Blackpool side which looked as if it was waiting to be beaten. I found the lack of commitment surprising for a team managed by Steve McMahon. Reading were first to the ball all over the field. Even Sammy Igoe was winning the ball in midfield! I can only remember two attempts on goal from the away side. A free kick from about thirty yards which fizzed past the post and a header which went just wide close to half time (which served as a timely reminder that two-nil is not a comfortable lead).
Salako was constantly looking to drift inside to get more involved and take up scoring positions leaving space for Shorey to attack down the left side. Rougier, clearly desperate for a goal, thoroughly deserved one today. In a two minute spell around the half hour mark he struck a volley cleanly, which flew over the bar, and then twisted and turned before curling in a shot which rattled the bar. Overall the quality of the passing and crossing was good throughout the team. There was a lot of movement and invention shown today which is indicative of the growing confidence. It would be nice however to see a more ruthless finish when we outnumber the opposition on the break. Too often passes are delayed or not spotted when a simple direct approach would create clear scoring opportunities. At the moment we are creating so many it doesn't really matter. Timing of passes seems to catch Cureton out more than most. I'm sure he would appreciate an earlier ball, but he does need to have a look before he sets off, he was caught offside far too easily. Perhaps this was due to eagerness to get back in the team? Nevertheless he has looked sharp in his brief appearances recently and always looks likely to score.
After the third goal it was clearly all over and the game became quite open. Reading could, and perhaps should, have at least doubled their lead. Rougier looked progressively less likely to score, Henderson wasted a couple of decent chances and Cureton produced a couple of good attempts and looked a little disappointed as he walked off today. He needs to be patient - I am sure he will have a crucial role to play between now and the end of the season. The final phase of the game gave Roberts the opportunity to demonstrate that he is a competent and confident 'keeper and I'm pleased that we have got his services for the Wigan game bearing in mind they rattled six goals past Stoke before Christmas.
In his post match interview, Steve McMahon spent more time praising Reading and talking up our promotion chances than dwelling on his own team's poor performance, which was nice to hear. I can't get up to Wigan but I don't intend to miss many more games before the end of the season. With more players coming back from injury competition for places will be getting keener which is also good news. I should imagine they are all dying to get out there and do their stuff again on Tuesday. They will need to be at their best. Next to Stoke away, this could be the toughest game of the season.
Report by John Wells
Post Match Opinions
For 20 minutes this looked a little worrying. Blackpool clearly had
not come to put 10 men behind the ball and wanted to play football. A
couple of fair efforts on goal, both off target, matched our efforts.
Uh-oh, I thought. One of those matches I have seen so often - a real chance
to consolidate at the top against an ordinary side and we mess it up.
And then the lads upped a gear and the match was alight. Service from
midfield? I lost count of the sheer number of balls into dangerous areas
from left, right and centre. Disappointing defence? 5th clean sheet on
the trot. Finishing - OK not perfect but give me a match every time where
you have about 20 chances and score from 3. Forster got his just desserts
but how we all desperately wanted Rougier to score. Still, when you repeatedly
tear a facing defence into shreds, win countless balls in midfield, play
devastating layoffs I'm not complaining. Mackie is a revelation. And for
once everyone else is crumbling not us. Can you imagine the reaction at
Stoke, Bristol, Brighton, Brentford, QPR, Wigan - bloody Reading won again.
Last 5 games - 5 wins, 5 clean sheets, 15 points, and clear at the
top. Yes I am talking about Reading!
Brilliant, fantastic, superb... pass me the dictionary someone, I
need more words to describe this demolition of a hard working Steve McMahon
side. I took a friend of mine today who is a Chelsea fan, and he really
enjoyed his day and is even threatening to come again. If the great Van
Nistelrooy was up front he would have had a quadruple hat-trick. I am
getting all gushy and American now I know (It must be the beer) but come
on Reading stand up and look at yourselves in the mirror and realise you
are now the best team in the league by a stretch.
I hope that Pardew enjoyed himself last night because he deserves
it. A squad which has had more than its fair share of injuries, a management
team that has been changed, an swithch (for the better) in the style of
football have all been part of our season. Go back to the first game of
the season. Only 5 who started then, started yesterday and yet we made
it look easy. Why? Because we work as a unit and play the ball around
on the floor.
At last the ghost of the long-ball has been laid to rest! The past
few games especially, the speed and passing has been excellent, at last
a team that is a joy to watch! Igoe was excellent but most surprisingly
was his strength, he tackled hard and won the ball so many times, for
a team managed by a legendary "hard-man" Blackpool looked very weak and
Igoe, smallest guy on the pitch, really had a field day. Mackie and Williams
have really gelled in the centre of defence and have covered for the recent
loan-goalies so well. I can't believe Pardew was considering selling Mackie,
please keep a hold of him! Shorey too has been a revelation, excellent
ball control and him and Murty have been really exciting wing-backs, getting
forward well but working so hard to get back to defend. Hughes is still
the weakest link but yesterday was one of his better games, after his
abysmal start to the season I hope the good run of results and team performances
will give him more confidence and he can only improve. Pardew does need
to get the shooting improved too, yesterday should have been at least
7-0, there were so many chances similar to the QPR game, against better
opposition, the poor finishing and problem with killing off weaker teams
could prove costly. What we, and the team really deserve is a real goal-fest,
yesterday promised one but next Saturday (Wigan will be tough) against
Colchester hopefully, Rougier and Cureton MUST score, the atmosphere would
be amazing if they did!
Another solid performance by Reading and it is encouraging that in
every department we looked competent, organised and a team in control
of its destination. Whilst 3-0 was a good score line, it was disappointing
that Reading couldn't make the tally more in keeping with the balance
of play, 4 or 5-0 would not have been an unreasonable result. Blackpool
who have scored 9 times in their last two league games never really threatened
apart from the odd break away in the first half and Reading too early
on in the match got into the comfort zone and almost treated the game
as a practice session, such was the standard of the opponents. It was
disappointing from the football perspective that Blackpool were not the
side a number of the pundits had warned could cause a threat to Reading,
whilst our home form against lower position sides has been far from impressive
this season, Blackpool never looked like causing an upset. On the day
though class told and Blackpool could not deal with the likes of Rougie,
Fozzy and Igo who are really playing with increasing confidence. Parkinson
put in another solid performance and although he is not a crowd pleaser
he is in inspirational form at the moment and his contribution must be
one reason why we are causing othersides so much trouble. Hughes hopefully
has now settled and I am sure more good things will come from him, It
was in midfield that Reading looked weak earlier in the season, it is
here though that we have improved and are starting to take charge and
control of matches. Pardew must feel confident with players like Gamble
and Smith ready to come in to carryon the good work if required, which
is a nice position to be in at this stage of the season. Gamble looked
class again when he made a brief appearance at the end of the match and
you feel if he gets a run in the first team as Shorey has, it will be
difficult for Pardew to leave him on the bench. I predict that he could
finish the season as a first team regular and make the difference Reading
are looking for to take us up as division two champion. Turning to the
Wigan match, Reading will feel they have plenty in reserve following this
performance against Blackpool, and as Milwall did last season can get
a result from a tough away fixture to emerg as the dominant division two
side. Reading and Wigan must be the two form teams at the moment and if
we can come away from the JCB stadium with a result Pardew and Dillon
will feel tactically, that they have come of age too. If Reading do come
away on Tuesday night with something to cheer about, our biggest threat
over coming weeks could be ourselves, either way Reading must feel like
true champion contenders at the moment and with Bristol and Stoke failing
to capitalise we look like the team to beat. Bring on Colchester and Notts
County and watch out Stoke the Royals are on a mission.
This is now serious!
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