(Half Time: 0-1)
Reading Scorers: Cureton (45 mins, 62 mins).
Port Vale Scorers: -
Date: 1 September 2001
Attendance: 5,196

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Whitbread, Robinson, Igoe, Harper, Parkinson, A Smith (Henderson 88), Rougier (Butler 60), Cureton (Hughes 74). Subs not used: Viveash, Ashdown.

Port Vale: Goodlad, Burton, Carragher, Ingram, Cummins, Dodd, O'Callaghan (Torpey 57), Brisco, Hardy, Brooker, McPhee. Subs: Delaney, Burgess, Gibson, Burns.
Brooker (Port Vale); Igoe, Robinson, Rougier, Williams (Reading).
M S Pike (Barrow-in-Furness)

It's hard to remember such a good start to the season from Reading - perhaps you have to go back to the famous thirteen in a row season. Reading's victory at Port Vale made it 10 points from four league games and 450 minutes without conceeding a goal, as the fantastic start to the season continued. The only game we've dropped points in was the visit to QPR - which we deserved to win and even scored the goal which should have made it 1-0 to the Royals until it was strangely ruled out. We're third in the table, but joint top on points, and we deserve to be top. Today's victory was against a Port Vale side that had won both of their previous home league matches and scored an amazing 8 goals in the process. There was never any indication that they'd be able to get anywhere close to scoring another four against Reading's unbeatable defence. It was another composed, solid team performance from Reading with nearly every player playing their part. Robinson had a decent game but Murty looked great in the defence that also included the solid Williams and Whitbread.

Up front Jamie Cureton made his first start of the season for the Royals - and put in a game to remember. Cureton so nearly scored a hattrick despite leaving the pitch to be replaced by Hughes with 15 minutes left to play. In his time on the pitch we stuck away two fantastic goals to seal the victory for the Royals. There was more good news for the Royals when Butler, who was expected to miss out totally on the game, made an appearance from the substitutes bench with thirty minutes still to play. Butler has clearly fully recovered from his injury that's kept him out of action all season until now. For fifteen minutes in the second half, when Reading had the game won, we were back to the goal machine combination of Butler and Cureton up front. Another reason to be posititve for the season ahead.

The game go off to a slow start with both sides failing to make any really clear chances. Harper hoofed one well over the bar from a free kick early on but the game produced few attempts to get a shot in. After a quiet start to the game Reading started to get more and more control of the game with some neat passing football, and eventually dominated the last stages of the first half. Murty was coming forward well and provided quite a few chances to the front men. Earlier in the game Cureton nearly managed to connect with a Murty cross. Port Vale had a few chances but failed to really get close enough to trouble Whitehead in the Reading goal, and the last ten minutes of the half Reading looked increasingly dangerous until they took the lead.

With five minutes left of the half Cureton got a decent shot in on target which was saved by the Port Vale keeper. Moments later Murty again nearly provided Cureton with a shooting chance but it was cut out by the defence. Reading stepped up the pace and Whitbread almost put Reading ahead with a header from an Igoe cross that was pushed over the bar by the goalkeeper. Right on half time Reading were ahead after Robinson put the ball through the middle of the Vale defence to find Jamie Cureton running through towards goal. Cureton collected the ball, took it just inside the area, and drove the ball deep into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Royals at half time.

Reading threatened to continue in the same spirit after the break with Cureton getting another early shot in, as Reading took most of the possession and looked very comfortable with the ball. Anthony Rougier, after a bright start to the game, seemed to fade away the longer the game went on and just couldn't keep up with Cureton's appetite to win the ball and get it into the back of the net. Rougier almost managed to improve his performance by putting the Royals two goals up just before the hour mark. Igoe set up Cureton who hit the crossbar with his shot, and the ball dropped nicely to Rougier who wasn't far from goal. Rougier's header somehow went wide of the post, and he'll be disappointed not to have stuck one home after the constant abuse from the fans of his old club, Port Vale.

Just after the hour Cureton made it two after heading home the ball from well inside the area after Igoe crossed the ball right across the face of goal. From that moment onwards the result was never in doubt. Adrian Williams almost got himself on the scoresheet with a header over the bar, and Smith worked himself into a dangerous position that could have led to a goal. Port Vale never looked likely and rarely threatened until the last ten minutes - when they did manage to break through the defence but Harper was on hand to scramble the ball clear. Moments later Vale almost stuck one in but the shot was just wide.

It was Reading that finished the game by nearly extending their lead after Hughes, who replaced two goal hero Cureton, failed to score after getting in a one-on-one with the Port Vale goalkeeper, but failed to stick it in. At full time it was the right result - another deserved victory for the Royals who look in danger of actually doing something this season. Jamie Cureton was inspirational, and with a fully fit strike force we could be set to back up our record of not letting any in with plenty of goals scored at the other end. Cardiff City should be very scared about coming to Reading next Saturday.

Following report from Neil Cole:
Reading’s excellent start to the season continued, as a win at Vale Park moved the Royals up to joint-top of the Second Division. Last year’s top scorer Jamie Cureton made his return from injury, and he marked his comeback with two goals in a superb performance. Perhaps he has realised he needs to work even harder this year with Nicky Forster also battling for a place up front, as Cureton looked even sharper and more determined than he did last season.

Yet the most encouraging improvement from last year appears to be the defence, who have now gone five games this season without conceding a goal. The centre-back partnership of Adrian Williams and Adrian Whitbread has been almost flawless so far this season, and Port Vale joined the list of clubs who have failed to get past them and threaten Phil Whitehead’s goal.

An injury to Nicky Forster meant Tony Rougier was given another chance up front, partnering the fit-again Cureton. Martin Butler made his return to the side, and was on the bench alongside Darius Henderson. Alan Pardew is going to have quite a dilemma when all five strikers are fit, as all of them have managed to impress in their performances so far this season. The rest of the side was unchanged from that which won a point at QPR last week, meaning Sammy Igoe kept Andy Hughes out of the side.

Port Vale made the better start, and the home side looked confident after winning all 3 of their previous home games this season. Reading struggled to win possession, and the first half saw Rougier, Igoe and Robinson all booked for fouls as they tried desperately to win the ball. However, Vale failed to create any openings despite this spell of pressure, and as they faded Reading became the more dominant side.

Rougier was working hard, and looked desperate to beat his former club. He set up one chance for Cureton which forced a good save out of Vale keeper Goodlad. The home side looked increasingly nervous as Reading won a couple of corners and began to look dangerous. The first goal came in injury time in the first half, as Cureton found a huge hole in the Vale defence, and had plenty of time to put the ball past Goodlad and fire the Royals into the lead.

The second half was dominated by Reading, and the game could have ended in a much bigger scoreline then the eventual 2-0. Cureton was causing plenty of problems for Vale, and he nearly got his second with a delightful chip from the edge of the area. However, the ball hit the bar, and Rougier could only manage to head the rebound wide of the post. The second goal did come, when a Sammy Igoe cross again found Cureton unmarked, and he had a simple header to double Reading’s lead.

The two goal lead was clearly going to be too much for a Vale side that hadn’t created one meaningful chance, so Reading were content to spend the rest of the game in a lower gear, passing the ball about without looking like scoring any more goals. Rougier was replaced by Butler, while Cureton was taken off for Andy Hughes.

Most of the Vale fans had left well before the final whistle, while the 500 or so travelling Reading fans stayed to cheer another great performance. This side looks better organised and much more confident than the one that went so close last year, and for once we seem to have both an exciting strike force and a solid defence. Port Vale were beaten very easily today, with a performance that should encourage every Reading fan that this could be our year.

Post Match Opinions

A very satisfactory trip to the Potteries coupled with the England win making this a perfect Saturday. Once Cureton had opened the scoring the result was never in doubt and it was good to see the team dominate and kill off the game in the second half, something that has not always been easy in the past. Good to see the Butler & Cureton combo back together - Rougier is far more effective out wide or on the bench coming on for the last 20 minutes if we need a spark! Igoe & Murty look good down the right and if Robinson & Smith can gel down the left the service to the front two should mean we're in for plenty of goals this season. Defence and Midfield are looking solid and we should go on to dominate this division this season - let's just hope that all those 'fans' who went to Cardiff actually get themselves to the Madjeski on a regular basis (and not just for the big games!).
-- Chieveley Royal

This was my first Reading match since watching Bristol City away last Christmas reason being I have been working aboard since then. However it presented me with a opportunity to see some positive growth in the team. I was impressed in the new signings especially Harper I will also include Murty in that since I had not seen much of him previously. I see in the team now an ability to perform as a unit previously we had some very good individuals but often not much communication between the midfield and defence/attackers etc, yesterday the midfield was for me sorted out, I was a fan of DC but maybe his game was difficult to include in the team Pardew was creating. Anyhow on to Port Vale - a couple of seasons a go we would have struggled here quite easily being dragged down however it was a comfortable trip in fact both me and the other who went with me were confident of the points from early on, not a practically great display of end to end stuff due to the quality of Vale but very solid Reading performance.
-- William

It was the first time I had taken the supporters club bus and the first time I had ventured to an away game further than Bristol or Oxford, and if this is how well we play when we go to Stoke in a few weeks time then I will walk if I can't get the coach! Reading were excellent at defending the spirited opening period from Port Vale, limiting them to a couple of half chances... and then occasionally breaking. As the half went on we looked increasingly dangerous and once again super Jamie scored an excellent goal. I don't know about anyone else but the second half wizzed by with some brilliant possesion football by Reading that, had we been a bit more clyinical, could have seen us win by a big margin than 2-0.
MOM has to be Cureton with the goals, but Williams, Igoe, Murty and Whitbread were equally as good!

-- Tim

I missed the Blackpool trip, but having travelled to both the QPR, and Port Vale matches, and thoroughly enjoyed them, I must say I had forgotten how fantastic it was to win away. Not only did we get good results, we were very unlucky not to take maximum points. Having been robbed at QPR, we showed patience and commitment at Vale that has been missing for some time. We started quietly, but built gradually, taking our chances at just the right times. Cureton's finishing was fantastic, but the shape of the team is what impresses me most. Solid at the back, creative in midfield, no prima donnas, and sharp up front. Considering the fact that the England match kicked off as most of us were hurtling back down the M6, I thought the travelling Royals did themselves proud. I can only imagine the Vale fans must have been preparing for England's glory. There were't many of them at Vale Park!
-- Kevin, Worthing Royal.

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