MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

6 December 2006: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Harper (37 mins, 42 mins).
Newcastle: Sibierski (23 mins), Martins (57 mins, pen), Emre (84 mins).
Half Time: 1-2
Attendance: 48,182

Pos Team P Pts GD
5 Liverpool 16 25 +4
6 READING 16 25 -2
7 Everton 16 24 +5
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty (Bikey 90), Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Oster, Sidwell, Harper, Hunt (Little 36), Doyle (Lita 81), Ki-Hyeon. Subs Not Used: Federici, Gunnarsson.
Newcastle: Given, Solano, Taylor, Ramage, Babayaro, Milner, Butt, Emre, N'Zogbia, Sibierski, Martins (Rossi 89). Subs Not Used: Srnicek, Luque, Huntington, Pattison.
Reading: Murty.
Newcastle: Solano.
Ref: R Styles.
Reading missed out on the chance to take third spot in the Premiership table as Newcastle United bought a run of four straight wins to an end. The game turned on a controversial penalty awarded to the home side ten minutes into the second half, when Reading were a goal ahead and looking the most likely side to go on and win. In an entertaining fixture, Newcastle looked to have got off to the better start after a couple of decent early chances saw Hahnemann called into early action to make some saves. They could have moved ahead when a close range effort should have found the target but was volleyed over the Reading crossbar. Half way through the first half Newcastle took the lead when a cross from the right was headed past Hahnemann in the Reading goal.

John Oster had retained his place in the starting eleven after his excellent performance last weekend, but there was more injury worries for Reading when Hunt was forced to leave the pitch with ten minutes of the first half remaining. Glen Little appeared off the bench as Reading enjoyed their best spell of the game. The equaliser came after Oster did well to break down the left and cross to Harper. Harper's low effort took a defelction and found its way into the back of the net. Just a few minutes later and Harper was on the scoresheet again to put Reading ahead at the half time break. Little made the most of a defensive mistake to get a shot in and the loose ball came out to Harper on the edge of the area who drove the ball into the corner of the net. It was an excellent goal that put Reading firmly in control of the game.

After the break Reading continued on top and looked firm favourites to complete a fifth straight victory, until the referee awarded a dodgy penalty after a player went down in the area with Sonko in medium proximity. Sonko was judged to have made contact with the player and despite the fact it clearly wasn't the case the resulting penalty was scored, with a low effort that Hahnemann failed to stop. All of a sudden the home crowd started making some noise, and with the game level again Newcastle were very much back in it against the run of play. A few minutes later and it looked like they had taken the lead - only for the goal to be ruled out for offside when it probably wasn't. That might have evened things up but the penalty had turned the game and Newcastle were on the ascendancy. We'd have settled for a point at that stage but with six minutes to go Newcastle won it with an impressive long range effort. Kevin Doyle had already limped off with nine minutes left to play and Murty followed him with a foot injury right at the end, as the night ended on a sour night for the Royals.

From the Alpine heights of the Milburn Stand the lights of Newcastle spread into the distance. You feel that with one almighty heave you could dive over the stand on the other side of the pitch and into the Tyne. Walking from the town centre to the ground it seems as if the whole of the city is coming out to watch their team play. Few other places generate such unity and passion. Every goal is greeted like an FA Cup winner, the home fans twirling their traditional black and white scarves around their heads like their predecessors would’ve done with rattles. You could even buy a black and white Santa hat. What a sizzling atmosphere. Nights like these are what being in the Premiership is all about. All this – and a bird needing to be removed from the pitch after 10 minutes too. We lost – but honourably so, playing some attractive football and giving 100 per cent. All that was lacking was some creativity up front. I can barely remember a clear cut chance for Reading in the second half. Newcastle made more chances and, to be fair, just about deserved to win. Their winner from Emre was an absolute peach. So no third place then, and the chant of “We are Champions League, I said ah-we are Champions League” remains rehearsed but unsung but at least, on this plucky performance, we can be as confident as staying in the Premiership this Christmas as we were being promoted to it last Christmas. Full credit, incidentally, to the Reading fans who out-sang the Geordies in the first half. Pity I couldn’t be among them but I couldn’t get tickets for the away corner. I felt obliged to stand-up along with my neighbours when Newcastle scored but kept my hands in my pockets, I promise. I received texts from my friend in Sweden as furtively as a spy getting instructions behind enemy lines. A final note: the programme included some pics of when the sides last met – in FA and League Cup ties in 1990. Beside a pic of Trevor Senior was a shot of Mark McGhee netting for Newcastle at good old Elm Park. How times have changed.
Paul Kirkwood, Green Hammerton, North Yorkshire.

I am a Newcastle fan and went to the game nervously unoptimistic last night more to with our lack of fit players than anything else but I was aware of the start Reading had made and how well they had played in recent games which all added to the tension. Reading didnt let themselves down either with a solid performance and a will to win that lent itself to a very open game great for neutrals and teams up in the top six but when you are where we are it's just too much take. Your fans were the best to have been here this season in terms of numbers and it's a credit to your support that so many made a mid week trip in December, a good vocal show as well in what was a good atmosphere at SJP. All the best for the rest of the season.
Col, Long suffering Mag.

So off I set again to the other side of the world to watch the mighty Royals take on the Geordie boys. And what a game. Newcastle look fantastic going forward but are so nervous at the back that I'm amazed every game at SJP isn't a 4-4 draw. Newcastle deserved it over 90 mins although Martins crumbled far too easily for the pen but how well we played either side of half time. Pleased for Harper who appears to be the press' bridesmaid "Isn't Sid good etc". We did look better with Little and Ostler as wingers although poor old Glen's lack of pace does limit his ability to get up and down the pitch at speed. Like Paul Kirkwood I sat amongst the home fans in the East Stand and the noise from our fans was amazing for a midweek game on Tyneside. Their fans were as nervous as the defence but when they get going they can certainly generate some noise as proved when Emre banged in the winner. My Newcastle supporting son was happy at home but I wasn't too upset - we'd played our part. Let's take it out at Vicarage Rd on Saturday.
Worzel, West Sussex Biscuit

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