2 (Half Time: 0-1)
Tottenham Scorers: Poyet (26 mins), Rebrov (89 mins) Date: 1 August 2001
Attendance: 21,874

Reading: Whitehead, Robinson, Murty (Casper), Williams, Viveash (Igoe), Whitbread, Parkinson (Gamble), Harper, Smith, Rougier (Henderson), Butler (Fashanu). 

Tottenham Hotspur: Sullivan, King, Doherty, Bunjevcevic, Carr, Ziege, Freund, Anderton, Poyet, Ferdinand, Rebrov
P Armstrong

Phil Whitehead proved to be Reading's hero last night as nearly 22,000 people watched him repel a star-studded Tottenham attack with an outstanding display of goalkeeping - sadly for him, both Gus Poyet and Sergei Rebrov managed to beat him to render his efforts in vain. Glenn Hoddle promised to bring a full first team squad to the Madejski, and he was as good as word - indeed the Spurs first team which started the game played the whole match without any substitutions. New signings Poyet, Ziege and Bunjevcevic lined up alongside internationals Anderton, Rebrov, Ferdinand, Sullivan, Carr and Freund in a 3-5-2 formation with Poyet playing in a free role behind the strikers.

Reading started, as Tottenham, with a back three - 'Adrian's Wall', comprised of Williams, Whitbread and Viveash - with Murty and Robinson in wing back roles. Parkinson, Harper and Alex Smith competed in midfield, and with Cureton and Forster still absent, Rougier partnered Butler up front. Royals made a good start, slipping the ball around neatly in an attempt to match the passing style of their Premiership opponents, and the first chance of the game fell to the hoops as Rougier blasted over the bar. Spurs didn't take long to threaten - Les Ferdinand just failed to reach a defence splitting pass from Poyet while Carr and Ziege were finding space to exploit down the channels. 

A fabulous jinking run by James Harper almost resulted in a goal on the ten minute mark but after beating two defenders and the keeper he overran the ball for a goal kick. As both teams settled into an exciting pattern of attack and counter attack, Royals seemed to be holding their own but Spurs' attacks grew more and more dangerous; Whitehead was forced into the first of several great saves as Poyet unleashed a fizzing drive down to the keeper's left before Viveash made a brilliant block on Rebrov as the Ukranian international pulled the trigger. No surprise then on 25 minutes when Tottenham scored: the ball broke to Ferdinand in midfield and as the Reading defence backtracked, the former QPR striker stormed toward goal, drew the defence and slid a delightful pass to the far post where an unmarked Gustavo Poyet sidefooted home. 

Reading's best chance of the game came just five minutes later, when Graeme Murty dropped a deep cross on to the head of Smith who nodded wide of Sullivan's left post. Tottenham continued to threaten as Anderton, operating in a deep central role, forced another top class save from Whitehead with a dipping long range free kick, and the big keeper was called into action again seconds before the close of the first half, reacting superbly to block a point-blank drive from Ferdinand. Spurs finished the half the stronger, but Reading had enjoyed a fair amount of possession and shown plenty of industry and creativity, notably through ex-Gunner Harper and home debutant Smith.

While the Spurs personnel remained the same for the second period, the visitors controlled the game far more effectively from the start. Reading were finding it increasingly difficult to win and keep possession and Spurs' passing took on a new slickness. It was the Royals, though, who carved out the first chance as Butler played Rougier through and the Trinidadian was scythed down by Gary Doherty on the edge of the box. Graeme Murty, attempting to stake a claim as official free-kick taker after the departure of Super Daz, stepped up and blasted the ball high and wide.

Steve Carr was seeing far more of the ball and turning Robinson and Viveash inside out with a mesmerising display of balance and close control. The Ireland international was denied a deserved goal just before the hour mark when he saw his shot from the edge of the area deflected by the Reading defence and palmed away by the outstretched palm of Whitehead, who produced the save of the match to change direction in mid air after being wrongfooted by the diverted flight of the ball. Reading's keeper was called upon several more times as Spurs ran riot down the wings before, with twenty minutes to go, Reading reverted to a flat back four and began introducing substitutes, Gamble and Igoe replacing Parky and Viveash.

Still Spurs, particularly Ferdinand and Poyet, continued testing the resilience of the Royals back line. Despite forcing a couple of corners, Reading attacks became fewer and farther between, and once Rougier and Butler had been replaced by Henderson and young Andre Fashanu, it seemed unlikely that Royals would find a way back into the match. This fear was confirmed when Henderson, with a rare sight of goal 25 yards out, almost launched the ball on to the A33 relief road.

Tottenham put a fair complexion on the result with a neat goal just before the final whistle. Ziege, who had improved as the game progressed, broke forward on the counter attack and slipped the ball into Rebrov's angled run. Faced only by a retreating Viveash, the Ukranian cut inside expertly and drove an unsaveable shot in off Whitehead's far left post.

Plus points were an energetic and skilful performance by Harper, a solid debut by Smith and good work by Murty and Robinson down the flanks. The jury is still out on the 3 man defence but it did work effectively for long periods of the game and will add useful flexibility to Pardew's tactical armoury. Of the Premiership sides who have visited the Madejski over the past few summers (Saints, Charlton & Newcastle), Spurs were by far the most impressive and it's encouraging for the new season that Reading matched them for long periods of an entertaining match.

Post Match Opinions
On the Spurs match. You're right to mention Carr, I thought he was a constant threat too, but didn't see him mentioned in any other reports - main reason why Robinson had such a torrid time. Why was Carr constantly booed by the Spurs fans?
One point of fact - didn't Shorey also come on for Robbo very late on? (announced as Forster at the time)

-- Ian
Got an Opinion?
Comment on this, or any Royals match - email
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages!

HNA? Home Page
Copyright Hob Nob Anyone? © 1994-2001
The Original Reading Football Club Internet Site