MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

Reading: -
Watford: Shittu (60 mins), King (85 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 23,294

Pos Team P Pts GD
6 Bolton 37 55 -5
7 READING 37 54 +5
8 Portsmouth 37 53 +3
Reading: Hahnemann, Halford, Duberry, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Ki-Hyeon, Sidwell, Harper (Gunnarsson 79), Hunt (Oster 76), Lita, Kitson (Doyle 81). Subs Not Used: Federici, Bikey.
Watford: Foster, Doyley, Shittu, Avinel (Mariappa 46), Powell, Williamson, Bangura, Rinaldi (Mahon 10), Smith, King, Henderson (Hoskins 82). Subs Not Used: Lee, Priskin.
Reading: -
Watford: Avinel, Bangura.
Ref: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).
After an fantastic season, that has eclipsed all expectations, it was a shame that the home finale failed to deliver. The Royals were massive favourites to win - for probably the first time this season. After three straight league wins we were set up nicely to take another step towards European qualification. All of that was turned on its head as relegated, and bottom of the table, Watford ruined the party and took home a two goal victory. Reading will now have to travel to Blackburn next Sunday and finish the season with a win to stand a realistic chance of finishing in seventh position.

The season couldn't have been much better and this result was probably a good indication of that - this defeat was the first properly disappointing result. Sure we've had the odd poor result and got stuffed 0-4 at home by Arsenal - but this was the first game all season where the ground was half empty well before the final whistle. The players planned a lap of honour, richly deserved for the season long performance, but most found it hard to celebrate after Reading failed to turn up for the final home game of season. Perhaps for the first time this season both the team and the fans were complacent. Watford may be rooted to the bottom of the table but we've now failed to score against them in the last four league fixtures. This was always going to be a tough fixture but we didn't see the defeat coming.

However, the scoreline was misleading. Reading had a lot of the game and nearly all the chances, but it simply didn't work out. Add to that a couple of players having off days and our passing game breaking down far too often and it didn't look likely we were ever going to score. Man of the match was almost certainly Foster in the Watford goal who didn't do a thing wrong all afternoon. Watford played the perfect away performance - keeping Reading shut out with a masterful defensive performance and looking strong on the break when they managed to hit two second half goals to take the win.

It was promising enough early on as Reading started clearly on top. Early on we were passing the ball around nicely enough and getting forward to win a string of first half corners. But the corners weren't the best. One of Hunt's managed to orbit over everyone crowded in the area and out for a throw on the other side. It was going to be one of those afternoons. Leroy Lita was up to his usual tricks up front and was struggling to stay on his feet. Perhaps his constant going to ground under every challenge worked against him when he was clearly taken down for a penalty. The referee waved play on with every Reading fan on their feet screaming for the obvious. Leroy's strike partner, Dave Kitson, came closest to scoring for either team during the opening forty five minutes with an effort that hit the top of the crossbar with the Watford goalkeeper beaten. There were other bright signs for Reading with both Hunt and Halford going on mazy runs. Halford nearly went the full length of the pitch before laying the ball off - perhaps he should have been greedy and finished it with a shot.

After the bright start the game had started to drift with neither side making much of an impact. The ball was bouncing all around the place and Hunt particually suddenly found his passes finding only yellow shirts. We had to wait until the second half was underway before Watford at last managed their first serious shot of the afternoon. But it was still Reading that looked on top. Steve Sidwell, back in the side and probably playing his last game at the Madejski Stadium in a Reading shirt, had at least three efforts which he managed to put drastically wide of the post. It really wasn't coming together for Reading. Against the run of play Watford took the lead on the hour when a free-kick beat Reading's offside trap allowing Shittu to score. Watford small band of travelling fans went mental. Reading fans sat back in stunned silence. Seol was stunned into action as he whipped in the best couple of crosses of the game as Reading tried to find the equaliser. Seol suddenly looked pure class with some excellent movement down the wing - but again we couldn't convert the chances. He was denied by the keeper and Kitson blasted another chance wide as time began to run out.

With five minutes left on the clock Watford sealed the victory. The ball was crossed from the left, Hahnemann failed to hold it and it was a simple finish in the middle for Watford's King. The Watford fans went even more mental. The Reading fans made for the exits. Reading knew they were beaten and, although we never give up, we offered little for the last five minutes as Watford skillfully played out time. This was a rare home defeat against lower table opposition. We've been spoilt for years and forgot what it feels like.

The final home fixture of a magnificent season turned out to be a huge anti-climax for the Royals. Facing the weakest opponents in the Premiership, and a place in Europe there for the taking, Reading produced a second half performance which must rank as their worst of the season. Before the kick off Reading received the Premiership Reserve League Championship trophy. It was a poor reflection on the attitude of the Watford fans that they could not even acknowledge the achievement with a polite round of applause. The attitude of the fans was later replicated by their team as they indulged in some pathetic time-wasting tactics for most of the second half.

It took Reading a while to get started and Watford certainly did not give the impression of wanting to take them on so it was a fairly quiet opening ten minutes. Lita sent in a looping header from Seol's cross and a minute later he was brought down by Avinel when he was clean through. Had it been in a more central position a red card would have surely been given instead of a yellow. On eighteen minutes Lita did get through but this time a heavy first touch cost him a good chance to open the scoring. Two minutes later he was brought down inside the box right under referee Gallagher's nose but nothing was given. Reading pressure was mounting and Shorey's free kick was deflected just over the bar. Halford produced a great run carrying the ball to the edge of the area before laying it off, and had Lita or Kitson been a bit sharper they might have found themselves in with a good chance. On the thirty second minute a flowing move culminated with a cross form Shorey which Kitson headed against the bar with Foster well beaten. Half time came with no hint of the disastrous second half that was to follow.

Foster's handling and positioning had been exceptional throughout and Lita tested him soon after the interval with a sharp turn and shot which the Watford 'keeper did well to keep out. Having looked unlikely to score suddenly Watford had two chances from a rare attack. The warning was not heeded and Shittu put Watford ahead against the run of play with Reading appealing for offside which looked at the time to be a reasonable claim. Even then Reading seemed unable to shake themselves out of their untypical lethargy. Their play lacked pace or ambition. Long hopeful passes from the back, squandered possession in midfield, and a succession of wasted corners, especially from Hunt, gave Watford an easy ride. The final blow when Watford were allowed to cross too easily from the left and Hahnemann allowed King to nod home from close range. Doyle was brought on too late to make any impact. Kitson's performance had raised questions about his effectiveness as a Premiership striker, and his hasty disappearance down the tunnel raised questions about his temperament. He has yet to prove himself at this level and he needs to look a bit sharper if he wants to keep his place ahead of Lita and Doyle next season.

So as time ran out a good chance of finishing in the top seven slipped away, and if we are to believe what he has been saying recently Steve Coppell will not be all that bothered. I can't say I share his views on that, but far be it for me to question the judgement of a man who has managed our team so remarkably well this season.

What a shame that come the last home game Reading conspired to produce their most inept disappointing performance at the season and just to rub salt in the wounds it had to be against a woeful doomed Watford team who sit smack bang bottom of the Premiership. The fact a ticket to Europe was there to be picked up after the game in what should have been a routine home win was Reading FC personified but with other results going this way and that, we still have a chance with a win next week at Blackburn, but it's now a long shot. Thought Halford had a good game and though raw clearly showed signs that the lad has great promise and his future bodes well. Not a lot to be said about the rest of his team-mates who were all below par. I did think it was hugely disappointing that half the supporters couldn't be bothered to stay behind for five minutes after the game and give the players along with Sir Steve a great ovation as they took a lap of honour, for the quite unbelievable achievements this season. I guess that's everybody's right to applaud the team or go early but I thought it very shallow. I can assure the team a huge send off win or lose next week at Blackburn where thousands of us will make the trip to salute the greatest football team in Reading FC's long history and bring down the curtain on an amazing season. Name one person who predicted we'll finish in the top ten this season? That deserves a standing ovation.
Nick Newbury

After all the fine achievements of this season, what a shame we had to witness such an inept performance & damp squib of an occasion to finish things off. The fans deserved better. The team have at least one more chance to put things right against Blackburn.
Coppell's 'European Dream'

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