MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

4 January 2003: FA CUP ROUND THREE
Reading: -
: -
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 5,987

FA CUP HIGHLIGHTS               
ROUND THREE - 4 Jan 03
Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea, Farnborough, Shrewsbury.
Oxford, Portsmouth, Everton.
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Mackie, Brown, Shorey, Igoe, Newman, Harper, Tyson (Salako 83), Butler (Henderson 89), Cureton (Forster 69). Subs not used: Watson, Hughes.
: Walker, Bazeley, Roper, Carbon, Aranalde, Wrack, O'Connor, Simpson, Corica (Matias 65), Junior (Zdrilic 66), Leitao. Subs not used: Ward, Hay, Martinez.
Reading: Newman.
: Leitao, Matias, Zdrilic.
Referee: K Hill (Royston)

Reading should be firm favourites to progress to round four of the FA Cup after playing out a goalless draw at the Bescot stadium. The draw means Walsall have to visit the Madejski in ten days time for the replay - just four days before they are due to visit in the league fixture. A draw might not have been the perfect result for the Royals with two games to catch up with already in the league - but it does mean we still have a chance to move on in the cup with home advantage giving us the edge and the possibility of a good draw in round four.

Pardew mostly stuck to the side that started in the abandoned fixture against Leicester City on New Years Day with Tyson and Igoe on the wings and Butler and Cureton paired up front. Nicky Forster made his return from injury and come on with just over twenty minutes to play for Cureton, who was clearly disappointed not to have completed the full ninety minutes. In defence Williams was missing with a knee injury that isn't expected to keep him out for more than just this game, and in his place came Mackie who had a solid game alongside Brown.

Just like the Leicester fixture, the pitch wasn't in the best condition and didn't lend itself to the best football. After the recent run of rain the pitch was only just about playable after passing a 10am pitch inspection for the game to go ahead, and right from kick-off it started cutting up early. It meant that the game wasn't ever going to see the best display of football but the Royals more than played their part in the fixture and made the most of the conditions to look the more likely side across the ninety minutes.

Reading probably should have been ahead by half time. Walsall enjoyed a bit of early pressure before Reading quickly settled down and created some solid chances. Ricky Newman forced the first save from the Walsall goalkeeper from an early free-kick. Martin Butler found the post with a shot and Jamie Cureton nearly volleyed home the rebound only to see his effort blocked on the line. Later in the half Jamie Cureton nearly gave the Royals the lead with an effort that saw the Walsall keeper make a great save, getting down to his right to push the ball wide. Nathan Tyson was having a good game down the wing and put in a couple of good crosses the test the defence and keeper. Later Walker, in goal for Walsall, was to be named man of the match by the home fans - perhaps an indication of the balance of play.

Down the other end Hahnemann was in excellent form as well. Not long before the half time break a defensive mistake saw Walsall clean through but Hahnemann read the situation well to come steaming out of his goal to chase down the ball. In the second half Reading created a few more chances to nearly snatch the win. Butler put in a decent header from an Igoe cross and Nicky Forster managed to get in a shot on target after coming off the bench to complete his return from injury. Despite Forster nearly scoring the goal to send Reading through, the home side nearly sneaked it at the end when Reading conceeded a free-kick which was driven against the crossbar. A Walsall goal wouldn't have been a fair reflection of the game however, and Reading should look forward to finishing the fixture off in the replay at the Madejski Stadium.

ken c
We were the better team but we did not win the match. That is a basic summary of the events at a strangely quiet Bescot Stadium. Quiet because they have opened the next tier of their stand and don't have enough people to fill it! Our lowest home crowd of the season is 1500 higher than Walsall's biggest and the difference in that was reflected on the pitch in term of quality of the play.
In the end it was probably the pitch that decided it. It made it hard to play neat constructive football, but what we saw today will have added more ammunition to those who favour us playing with a lone striker especially when we are on our travels.
We started brightly. Mackie came in for the injured Williams and it was interesting to contrast their performances. Mackie showed that he was up for it. He is aggressive but lacks the composure which can only be gained from playing as long as Williams has. Too many free kicks were given away, but against that some fine tackling was there for all to see. Whilst Walsall displayed a couple of good breaks and showed why they have scored 13 goals more than we have in the league, they also showed why they have let in 23 more. So why did we not capitalise on the numerous chances that we had? Those of us who were at the league fixture earlier in the year, did not see as entertaining a game as we saw today. What we saw was a resolute defence that was able to break swiftly and create clear cut opportunities that we were able to finish. Today we created a series of half chances that we did not convert. Their goalie played well and was named man of the match. They also hit the bar in the last few minutes as a result of a needless free kick.
A draw away from home is always seen as a good result. Reading fans know that we are as good away from the Mad Stad as we are at it and therefore we expect the same. Most would have accepted a draw before the game, except that we will get a bit fed up of Walsall over the next few weeks. In truth we should have won it. Cureton will take most of the blame for us not winning it, but he should also take the plaudits for being the player who is willing to have strikes on goal. Please someone tell James Harper, who had a pretty good game today, that he won't score if he is not prepared to take on the responsibility of shooting. We don't mind if he misses, just have a go!
Most of the players today had their moments. The pick for me was when Murty hit a wonderful crossfield pass to Tyson with his left foot which presented Butler with half a chance which nearly brought the goal that we deserved.
At least we are in the hat and have some extra revenue from the replay, but we are now better than Walsall and should be beating them. That is not a criticism, but simply a statement of where we are now in terms of the development of R.F.C.
worthing royal
Solid performance, if a little lacking in the final third. I really thought Butts would rise to the constant abuse given by the Walsall fans, and grab a winner. It wasn't to be, and it makes me wonder where his next goal will come from. When we signed him from Cambridge he was prolific. 30 goals in his first season. It is difficult to work out what has gone wrong. The step up in class to Div 1 is surely not the only reason. I don't think he responds well to being the target for the long ball game, and perhaps he may even benefit from a strike partnership with Darius Henderson. It may take some of the pressure off the need to win the ball, and let him concentrate on his finishing. I don't pretend to have the answer, but it might be worth a try if we are not going to strengthen the attack in the transfer market.
Defensively, our results speak for themselves. We are the most economical team in the division by far, but in front of goal we have only the bottom two behind us in goals scored. Curo keeps trying, and gets the hump when he is substituted. He must surely understand that if it isnt working, we must try something else. Trouble was, when Fozzy came on, we didn't look any more likely to score. In the hat for the fourth round though, so no real complaints.
If anyone had suggested at the start of the season that Reading would be in a play-off spot in January, and still in the cup for the fourth round draw, I would probably have suggested certification. URZZZ.
nick newbury
Great gritty performance by the sound of it on Radio Berkshire today, worth listening to just for Mickey Gooding's comments, wheye eye lad! Means we're in the draw on Monday of course and someone like Woolwich Arsenal at home would be good! Well played today lads, considering they were playing on a ploughed field the boys done good!
kaz wells
A good match in a great atmosphere, pity we couldn't get the ball in the net. Not the best pitch condition to play in though, still at least we came away with a point. I had a great day out on Saturday at the Bescot, what a lovely bunch of people they have working there. I always enjoy away matches the atmosphere was great on Saturday, the Walsall people have always been the most friendly in my experience. Everyone was very helpful and cheery from the program sellers to the staff in the bar at the Saddlers Club. So nice to be able to eat and drink with the home fans, decent beer and food at good prices. I wonder what they think when they come to us? It would be great to offer them the same sort of hospitality and prices!
y24 east
Reading played really well in the first half of the game and really had enough chances to have wrapped it up by half time. The harsh truth of this game (and many others this season) is that our finishing is not clinical enough. That said I sat in the Walsall family stand today, (took the kids and Father-in-Law, Saved myself 18 in the process (RFC please Note)! and the feeling amongst all the Sad Saddlers was that Reading thoroughly deserved to win and they were as surprised as anyone when we failed to capitalise on our territorial domination. There's been praise for Mackie's performance and generally I'd be in agreement, however as I mentioned in my posting after the Sheff Utd game he really doesn't need to get involved in off the ball incidents. His indiscretion on Saturday led to the 92 minute free kick on the edge of our box from which they hit the bar and so nearly destroyed all the hard work we had put in all afternoon. Butler had a good game as did Graeme Murty and Ricky Newman seemed to revel in the responsibility of captaining the team, but my man of the match was young Nathan 'Mike' Tyson who ran his full back ragged all afternoon and with a bit more luck could have been our matchwinner. As usual the ref was Crap!
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