MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

3 January 2004: FA CUP ROUND THREE
Reading: Goater (7 mins) Jackson (13 mins OG), Davis (37 mins OG).
O'Neil (9 mins), Fuller (32 mins, 45 mins).
Half Time: 3-3
Attendance: 9,428

13 January 2004
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Brown, Shorey (Salako 65), Murray, Newman, Sidwell, Harper, Savage (Morgan 57), Goater. Subs not used: Young, Ingimarsson, Watson.
Gould, Alexander, Davis, Lucketti, Jackson, Lewis, McKenna, O'Neil, Keane, Healy, Fuller (Abbott 83). Subs not used: Lonergan, Etuhu, Mears, Cartwright.
Reading: Brown.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear)

Well, that was interesting! For once, an open and enjoyable match with plenty of goals (by us too, not just the opposition!) - hurrah for the cup! We started in a 4-4-2 again, replacing Hughes with Murray and Forster with Savage. Otherwise, it was as you were at the start of the Walsall match. Reading got off to an excellent start, with a cracking goal from Goater after just 7 minutes. From a free kick to the left of the box, Scott Murray delivered a beautiful cross and Goater was there to head the ball into the net off the underside of the bar. The lead only lasted a few minutes, though, and Preston equalised with the first of three deflected goals; a hard shot from 25 yards out took a nasty deflection off a defender and left Hahnemann with no chance. Reading's response was to retake the lead almost immediately, with another dodgy goal. This time, Murty broke down the right and crossed into the box, only for a defender to mis-hit it past his own keeper.

Phew, finally a few minutes to catch our breath! In fact, something like twenty minutes without any goals being scored! Despite that, both teams were still defending like the keystone cops, and so it wasn't a great surprise when Preston equalised for a second time. Once again, a deflection played a part in the goal, Steve Brown (I think) only half blocking the cross, so that the ball looped up over Marcus' head and presented Fuller with an easy header. Once again, Reading broke down the right, and this time it was a cross/shot by Scott Murray that was deflected into the net by a defender. Preston hit the post and forced a point-blank save from Marcus, so it wasn't really a surprise when they again equalised at the end of the half. Once again, Reading failed to effectively clear their lines, and Fuller was able to head home from about a yard out, despite the attentions of Marcus and the defence. A poor goal to concede, from a defensive perspective; but then, so were all the goals conceded today!

The second-half was also a bit frenetic, but goal-less. Reading had a goal-bound header from a corner clawed away from the net by the keeper, whilst both teams had other good chances to score. Reading switched to a 3-5-2 formation at half-time, presumably because Coppell had decided that if the players weren't going to try to defend anyway, then they may as well not hang around at the back! Not surprising therefore that Shorey soon made way to Salako, whilst the ineffective Savage was replaced by Dean Morgan.

To be honest, I wasn't overwhelmed by any of the three strikers on show today. Goater scored a great goal, but otherwise seemed one step behind the play; let's hope that this is just a temporary lack of match fitness. To be fair to Savage, he did win a fair few high balls, but he failed to do much with them. It also takes him so long to actually get his legs moving that the ball is well gone by the time he manages to run anywhere. Morgan had the least time of the three, and so it's perhaps unfair to judge him too harshly. He did show some very nice touches on the ball, and got in behind the defence a couple of times. He also could have won the game 3 minutes into injury time, when he used a series of step overs to leave a couple of defenders in his wake, but his shot from the edge of the six yard box was well saved by the keeper. On the flip side, Morgan had also used some nice footwork to turn a defender in the box, and could have used the space so earned to square the ball for an unmarked Sidwell. Instead, he chose to perform a Fosbury Flop in search of a penalty (when frankly I'm not even convinced that there was any contact), and the chance passed. Indeed, I think he was probably lucky not to be booked.

On the whole, we should be happy with the result. Preston certainly had the better of the second half, and probably therefore the match as a whole. We played some nice, clam tidy football at times, but the defending is still awful. Given that this was our forte last season, and also that we were playing probably our first choice back four, this has to be a concern for Coppell. Hopefully Goater will improve with a couple of games more match practice; such a pity that Owusu is cup-tied. If I was Coppell, I'd stop trying to persevere with Savage, as I've personally still not seen enough to justify his place in the team. Anyway, a very enjoyable way to spend a bloody cold afternoon - first time in a while that I've felt like that!
Report by Alex Craven


Nice to know we can still score 3, even with a little help. Still conceded 3 though, although at least one was a bit unlucky to say the least. And well done Goater for an excellent header. May there be more of the same to follow. And many more games where we start with TWO strikers up front. COME ON......
Caversham Royal

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