NORTHAMPTON TOWN 0 READING 2 (Half Time: 0-0)
Cureton (52 mins), Butler (90 mins)
Northampton Scorers: -
3 November 2001
Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Viveash, Shorey, Hughes, Harper, Watson (N.Smith 78), Salako, Butler, Cureton (Henderson 84). Subs not used: Forster, Ashdown, A.Smith.
Town: Welch, Burgess, Sampson, Hope, Spedding, Marsh (Gabbiadini
65), Hunt, Frain, Hargreaves, Forrester, McGregor (Hunter 86). Subs
not used: Sollitt, Asamoah, Dempsey.
Well into stoppage time Neil Smith intercepted a loose pass on the halfway line and slid a perfectly weighted pass forward presenting Martin Butler with his third clear cut chance of the afternoon. This time he made no mistake slipping the ball calmly past the keeper. It made the three points that Reading fully deserved completely safe and will go a long way to restoring the confidence of the out of form striker.
Having not kept up with the news for the past couple of days I was slightly surprised to see Kevin Watson and John Salako trot out in Reading's colours. What a difference they made! The side was further strengthened by the inclusion of Nicky Storey at left back. From the opening minutes Reading took control of this game with an assurance that seemed to make the outcome inevitable.
The influence of Kevin Dillon was also evident from the start. Reading played the sort of passing game that all their fans have been longing for. Passes were exchanged crisply all over the field. The ball was being played in to Cureton and Butler on the floor, who consequently looked far more effective. On one occasion Shorey illustrated his confidence by holding the ball and directed Cureton to move in position to receive the pass and then delivered it accurately to his feet. Kevin Watson steadied the midfield with his presence. He won the ball cleanly and used it effectively. He was strong in the tackle and his touch was great. Salako oozed class throughout. He made it all look so easy. He controlled the ball and laid it off accurately under pressure. He tormented the Northampton defence with his runs down the left and through the centre of midfield.
Although Reading dominated the first half, chances were few and the game developed into a stalemate. The second half burst into life with Northampton producing two good strikes on goal in the opening minutes. When Reading deservedly took the lead they were helped by an appalling decision by the referee's assistant. There were two Reading players clearly in offside positions when the ball was played through to Salako. The former England international cut into the area and slid a perfect ball across the six yard box. Cureton calmly pushed the ball back across the goal and into the net. Football of the highest quality.
Northampton threw everything at Reading in the closing stages looking for the equaliser they didn't deserve. The defence had some nervous moments but generally held firm. Murty in particular deserves an mention for a brave header in front of his own goal which prevented a certain goal. He received a nasty blow to the head for his trouble but had clearly kept his eye on the ball. A fine example of his character and commitment.
So the roller coaster season continues. This was another fine away
performance, but this season's home form has been letting us down. It may
be tempting fate but this team had a look of promotion candidates. They
certainly looked as if they belonged in a higher division than their
opponents today. I'd settle for the same again on Tuesday at home and on
this showing we have every reason to feel optimistic.
Report by John Wells
Post Match Opinions
In many ways this game could be the turning point of the season. There
have obviously been some dramatic behind the scenes moves. We may never
learn the real truth behind them. Mad Dog has gone. He has been accused
of bullying, but what he did do for the fans was to bring a new energy
to the support and he was instrumental in improving the atmosphere at
the ground. If the players no longer responded to him then a change was
needed. It should be said that should happen only if we have not got a
band of prima donnas who winge when things don't go right for them!
The first half was entirely forgettable and the mid-afternoon sun
made the experience very soporific. Both sets of fans were very quiet
and it could have been mistaken for a county cricket match with polite
applause and pleasant chit-chat etc.. I was half expecting the stewards
to come around offering prawn sandwiches and Earl Grey tea at half time.
The second half was a lot better with Reading attacking the away end.
Cureton finished easily after a surging run from Salako for the first.
Then Butler finished them off with his first goal from open play after
a lot of pressure from the Cobblers towards the end. Martin Allen? Martin
Here we go again, another impressive away win. What will follow? A one all home draw with
Didn't go to the game on saturday. Spent time working out how this season
compares with last. (V.SAD)
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