(Half Time: 0-0)
Reading Scorers: -
Brighton Scorers: -
Date: 9 March 2002
Attendance: 22,009

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Mackie, Williams, Shorey, Igoe, Parkinson, Hughes, Salako (Tyson 85), Rougier (Henderson 66), Cureton. Subs not used: Ashdown, Viveash, Harper.

Brighton and Hove: Kuipers, Watson, Cullip, Morgan, Mayo, Lewis, Carpenter, Hart, Brooker, Zamora, Steele (Pethick 87). Subs not used: Oatway, Jones, Virgo, Webb.

Bookings: Hughes, Parkinson (Reading); Carpenter, Zamora (Brighton).
Referee: M L Dean (Wirral)

After fearing the worst when the ball hit the back of the Reading net deep in injury time, the draw seemed a reasonable result. Brighton winning this fixture would have seemed like a disaster with the championship race well into the final straight. The draw, Reading's third from three league games, keeps the Royals five points clear of second placed Brighton and Hove Albion. After dropping six points from three games the chasing pack have closed the gap, but this draw still leaves Reading with a massive advantage over the rest of the Division. It would have been a difference story if that dramatic late "goal" from the visitors had counted, but luckily for the Royals it was ruled out for a foul on Phil Whitehead, and so the game ended 0-0 and the points were shared. We had the referee to thank with the assistant referee's flag staying down. With this kind of luck we can win the league.

Reading welcomed back Adrian Williams in the centre of defence to pair up with John Mackie - and the Reading defence did very well throughout. Brighton have become known as a bit of a one man side with Zamora stealing all the headlines - but today they certainly weren't. Reading dealt with Zamora with relative ease. He rarely threatened, got caught off-side more than a few times, and generally looked like nothing special. The rest of the Brighton team combined did cause quite a threat and could have done a job on Reading during the second half when the game finally opened up. But Reading caused a bit of trouble in Brighton's defence as well - and the game could have gone either way when it developed into an end to end encounter.

The first half was largely forgettable. Neither side wanted to make a mistake and it was all just a case of getting rid of the ball whenever it was in your half. As a result Reading had two shots to Brighton's one and the away side had two corners to Reading's single one. There wasn't a huge amount of goalmouth action to get one of the Madejski Stadium's largest ever crowds, of just over 22,000, excited. Reading were being let down in the final third of the pitch when the final ball would fail to find it's target, however to our credit we were working very very hard. Parkinson picked up a yellow card for taking out Zamora, and Zamora earnt a yellow card himself for taking out Graeme Murty. In the second half Carpenter was lucky not to leave the pitch with a red card after sything down Phil Parkinson in the middle of the pitch, however it wasn't a dirty encounter overall, just a very tough game with neither side wanting to let the game slip.

During the second half Reading nearly took the lead after Henderson put pressure on the Brighton defence, forcing a header from the defender that needed an excellent save from the Brighton keeper. Down the other end Brighton looked to have pulled ahead when Phil Parkinson sent a header onto the crossbar with Whitehead beaten by his own defender. Jamie Cureton and John Salako both had chances to score, before Henderson met a cross with a decent header that wasn't far over the bar. Nathan Tyson looked impressive during a late appearance as substitute. He went on one lovely little run that showed the kind of potential he has, but his one header towards goal went the wrong direction.

Following report from John Wells
Although this match didn't produce much in the way of inspired football there was so much at stake it was never boring. Any neutrals in the ground might have thought otherwise. Before the game I could not see where the goals were coming from. I could not see how we could put enough pressure on the Brighton defence without the pace of Forster to create a goal. A draw was likely result, and in the end, probably a fair result although Reading had slightly more possession overall. Caution was the name of the game today as both sides were determined not to slip up. For the third game in a row we could have lost and could have won near the end. I was sure we had won it when Mayo, under extreme pressure from Henderson, almost beat Kuipers with a header. At the other end Parky did succeed in beating his own keeper but his effort hit the bar. Then in stoppage time I was sure Brighton had scored a legitimate goal but it was disallowed for a foul on Whitehead. So in the end it was not a bad day considering Stoke lost at Wycombe.

I thought Pardew's selection was absolutely right again. Rougier had to start with Fozzy not available, and Viveash would not have coped with Zamora's pace, so I was relieved to see Williams replace him. His substitutions were also correct and well timed. He was also right to 'unleash' Rougier for the whole game. He has not looked at his best since his suspension. Henderson provided much more of a threat when he came on. Reading have wide players capable of producing good crosses and Henderson is the only player strong enough in the air to convert them into goals. There were times when Rougier seemed reluctant to get into the box leaving a heavy burden on Cureton. In his short spell on the pitch Tyson made one promising run when his skill and pace took him past two Brighton defenders. I was pleased to see Cureton continuing to compete so well for the ball. I just wish he would time his runs better - he ruined several good moves in his haste to get past the last defender.

The defence was very secure again today and then coped well with the threat of Zamora who had destroyed the Royals in the away game. Murty and Shorey are so comfortable in possession they take an awful lot of pressure of the team by holding the ball and using it well, and Mackie and Williams must be the best pair of centre backs in this division.

I thought we were slightly lacking in the centre of midfield today. Parky and Hughes worked hard and played a big part in containing Brighton but they both lack the ability to open up defences with a telling pass.

Three points from three games this week is not ideal, but games are running out for the chasing pack. Although we have some tough games coming up, we are very hard to beat these days, and that is what really counts at this stage of the season. I hope it is only the championship that is at stake when we visit Brentford on the last day of the season and not an automatic promotion place - my nerves would not take it!
John Wells

Post Match Opinions

In the days leading up to this game there has been a substantial amount of talk and hype about Bobby Zamora and what he has to offer. Yet today it has to be said that the Reading defence faired rather well to keep him quiet. One moment that will stick in quite a few people's minds was when Nicky Shorey was attempting to hack the ball up the left touchline but was under pressure from the big, lanky Zamora. Shorey absolutely milked it by showing great skill to dumbfound him, backheeling the ball to his right and then clearing to safety. But the Reading defender who showed the most consistency when dealing with Zamora was John Mackie without a doubt. He had him in his pocket for the full 90 minutes, never giving the former Bristol Rovers man a spare inch.
That said, Brighton still looked a threat. What I'm trying to say is that considering our back four foiled the visitors, they still looked good - and that says a lot about how good they really are. Lee Steele and Junior Lewis were constant menaces. More attention seemed to be diverted to Zamora in the centre, allowing the Seagulls to exploit the wide areas through Lewis and Steele.
Pardew was perhaps taking a bit of a risk bringing back Adie Williams straight into the starting line-up. Adie Viveash you see has played the last two games, and although we had conceded 4 goals, he coped pretty well. But, the manager presumably makes the right decisions, and Williams got to down to work where he left off; determined not to let Brighton through.
Where our defence fell down today was pushing the ball forward. Usually, Shorey links up well with Salako and the left and the same with Murty and Igoe on the right. But this afternoon, our full backs were happy to pile the ball forward without any creativity.
I doubt our back line will have to compete against a forward pairing as strong as Steele and Zamora until the end of the season. So to keep a clean sheet against them is a testimony to our solid defending.
-- Rory O'Sullivan

With Cambridge and Bournemouth missing late penalties and Parkie's own goal attempt crashing against the bar with all lost, are the gods trying to tell us something?
I was well chuffed with a point today in a game that was very tense and always going to be tight. Nobody could argue with the result which leaves us well in the driving seat with seven games to go. Bollocks to flowing football from now on, it's just results that matter which ever way they come. Once again Reading did not look like championship contenders, creating very little and putting Brighton under very little pressure. Mackie yet again performed with class and must be serious player of the season material while Ade Williams brought some calming influence into the defence and played very well. The rest of the players I thought were well average.
Rougier took over an hour to get his fat arse going and looked like he was a bloody statue most of the time... get rid. Poor Curo grafted on his own up front but got no decent service and little change from a solid Brighton defence. What the bloody hell has happened to Salako since he got a contract... bugger all that's what? The odd decent cross simply isn't good enough, get stuck in lad and finally while on the ol soap box, lofty Igoe seems to have totally lost it since his tantrum at Swindon. Get it sorted Pardew and co!
Could anybody tell me where the 3000 seats went as it was supposed to be a total sell out? How come there has to be a mile of empty seats between us and the opposition when the likes of Celtic and Rangers will have one row of seats cordoned off by stewards... this club defies belief at times.
Lets all hang on in there, good result today all said and done, three points at Chesterfield would be very nice, very nice indeed as would Butler and a fit Forster back for the last half dozen games. Keep going lads, the fat lady is warming up! URZ!

-- Nick Newbury

At the start of the game both teams would have settled for a point and that fact showed in their performances. The first half was eminently forgettable as fear controlled the actions of most of the players. It even controlled the crowd who seemed reluctant to commit themselves in a wholehearted manner because there was always that worry of what would happen if the other side scored.
The first 45 was almost totally devoid of goal mouth incidents. Both teams failed to establish a pattern of play that looked like really troubling the opposition. Zamora was feared mainly by his reputation rather than by his performance, though he was able to control the ball well. Junior Lewis also showed for the opposition that he was a useful performer, but of our offensive players, only Igoe started well. Roug looked a little lost. Everything he did was from a standing start, there was no sense of anticipation. The result was that we were unable to hold onto the ball for any length of time or to establish a real threat.
The second half was better but tension was still the dominant factor. Parkie was excellent throughout. He picked up his usual booking, but did not retaliate when subject to some rather hard tackling on himself. Hederson was brought on for Roug. and gave us more of a threat. They had half chances, a snap shot from Zamora, a few good long range efforts well dealt with by Whitehead. We probably had the best chance of the match when good work by Parkie and Hughes freed Cureton who put his shot across the goal. Had he taken it with his left it might have been better, but the chance was gone. What summed the game up was the fact that the nearest either side came to scoring was via an own goal. I think Parkie hit his own bar and one of their defenders brought out a good save from their keeper when under pressure from Henderson.
The last minutes were dramatic enough when Brighton had a goal disallowed, whether that was right or nor frankly I couldn't care, but the ref had a pretty good game so let's assume he got that one right as well. In the context of the season the result was OK, the match disappointing. Brighton showed that they were more than a one man team. They worked hard, closed us down but were not very creative. We missed Forster, we lacked subtlety. The defence was excellent. Williams came back as if he had not been away and Mackie showed how he has developed. The quality of crossing was poor, but then that is not the sort of ball that Cureton thrives on. He needs the half chance worked in the box, which is not what Igoe and Salako tend to produce.
We are still top of the league with a comfortable lead that may be reduced during the week. It is time to recharge the batteries and get ready for the final assault on the table. I though a draw was a fair result today and that we just shaded it in a points decision. Let's hope it is at least the same at the end of the season!

-- Ken C

I wasn't over impressed by the referee.
That all changed in injury time.
From the North Stand I couldn't see anything wrong with the goal. I'm certainly not complaining though. I suppose these games rarely live up to their potential. 1st v 2nd really should have produced some cracking football. In reality it was extremely dull. Neither team put together memorable moves. Both seemed to be more concerned about losing than winning. We missed Murty's ventures up the pitch. Shorey also stayed deep. We paid the price for keeping Brighton's forwards quiet yesterday, and showed what an important part our defence plays in our approach play. Yesterday was a very cagey, tactical affair, and Pardew & Taylor will both feel very satisfied with what they saw. Certainly with Stoke losing, you have to say it was the perfect result for both sides.
Chesterfield away will hopefully be the time to get back to attacking football and winning ways. We did look a bit tired yesterday, as we did against Bournemouth. Perhaps the season is beginning to take its toll on the players. We look like we need some fresh legs. For the time he was on the pitch, Tyson looked far better than Salako, who he replaced. Maybe he should play instead? Martin Butler's presence will soon be felt by our forwards (though I don't think they have been the problem) We need someone like Harper to show his potential and spark the midfield back in to life. I can't say I'm disappointed with the result. It was fair, neither side deserved the win.
Originally I thought 93 points would win the championship. Now I'm not so sure. I think as little as 87 points will get us up. I wouldn't like to say where we will pick up those points, but Brentford away, seems to get bigger every week!

-- Paul L, Thatcham Royal

This was probably a better result for the Royals than Brighton (especially with Stoke losing) as it means we're still clear at the top and one game nearer to promotion. Although Brentford are putting together a good run it's still in our hands. After the win at Wycombe I would have been very pleased with a 0-0 against Brighton however I was anticipating a bit more than 2 points from the games with Cambridge and Bournemouth.
We've definitely had our share of luck with the missed penalties and disallowed goal - so here's hoping 6 points from the next 2 games will see us closer to Division 1. Yesterday's game was pretty even stuff with both teams cancelling each other out - in fairness Brighton probably just shaded it on chances. It's easy to point the finger at the strikers for not scoring but the problem in my opinion is that too often our delivery of balls into the box is not good enough. This is a trend that has been evident over the past few seasons - we always seem to have plenty of possession but don't turn it into enough good chances. We rarely seem to get to the by-line and pull it back across goal - most of our crosses are floated in from deep meaning the opposition defence has time to attack the ball. Something to work on next season perhaps when we are in Division 1!

-- Brummie Royal

Some negative points:-
We didn't win.
Again we looked a bit lightweight against a big, strong side.
Not saying Rouge wasn't up for it but his body language suggested he didn't want to be there and must have encouraged the Brighton defence to swarm all over him every time he got near the ball. This was unfortunate as there were about 22,000 people in the crowd who would have given just about anything to have had the chance to be on the pitch playing rather than shouting from the seats.
Some positive points:-
We didn't lose and Stoke did.
Brighton, regrettably, look a pretty good side with Lewis and Carpenter giving them power and a degree of dirtiness in midfield, so not being overrun by them must be a plus. Can't recall what they were like at the Withdean - I've blotted that night from my memory.
Mackie and Williams kept the mighty Zamora down to a couple of half-chances and made him look relatively ordinary.
Sammy obviously wants a new contract.
Rouge has got to score someday - maybe he'll get the goal that takes us up.
Nobody threw any pies.
Never seen us win at Chesterfield so I'll be the one facing the wrong way, praying loudly.

-- Hook Royal No 6.

A great crowd and atmosphere. The crowd were really up for it but were the players? The game developed into a midfield stalemate with neither side wanting to lose. I think Mackie and Williams were again outstanding and totally snuffed out the threat of the much hyped Zamora - Totenham scouts if you were at the game forget it and look elsewhere. Cureton tried hard but with little support from Rougier and I was pleased when he was taken off as he really didn't do a lot, didn't look particularly interested and yet again did not have a shot or header on goal. We need a lift after three draws and with the transfer deadline looming a couple of new faces for the final promotion psuh would not come amiss. Parky looked tired yesterday, so the acquisition of Watson would be a welcome boost to the side. A draw against Brighton was not a disaster but looking at the tough run in compared with some of our rivals, three points at Chesterfield is a must.
-- Mike S, Tilehurst

I thought a draw was just about right but was amazed how a team leading the division with a nice little points buffer looked so scared of the away side. Reading's obsession with watching Zamora blunted their own attacking ambitions,but I suppose that is the best compliment you can pay a player.One real save made by the away goalie does not show to me a side who really believed they could win yesterday. After the mauling at Withdean perhaps that was understandable.
-- Sid Seacombe

Just a few thoughts now that, on Sunday lunchtime, my heart is no longer in my mouth after that late Seagulls effort. Brighton were a very strong side - we have to recognise that. Especially in the closing 15 minutes they looked really dangerous. But the first 20 minutes of the second half showed how we can hold our own against anyone. A pity, however, that we didn't look sharper up front. Cureton + Rougier doesn't quite seem to click and I think it should be Fozzy plus one other: it's heartening that he should be available again next weekend. Watch out Chesterfield! Two other things. First, why does Curo continually get caught offside? Brighton did play the offside trap quite well, but he needs to concentrate on this as a lot of potentially good breaks went begging because the linesman's flag was up. Secondly, Mackie was outstanding. He has come on in leaps and bounds and is already my choice for player of the season. Especially when partnering Adie at the back, he looks rock solid. (To be fair, similar things can also be said for Shorey, another surprise package. What a good pair of attacking full backs he and Murty are. Also, Igoe was outstanding in midfield too but he does occasionally get a bit petulant, which he will need to watch if he's not going to keep on picking up silly yellow cards.) 7 games to go - URZ...!
-- Kris, Muswell Hill, London

The game is now water under the bridge with all the comments from the press and Pards firmly in our minds. Can we get a comment on the Clubs rather odd statement that all the tickets were sold for the Brighton game. The official capacity for the stadium is 24,200. Take away 22,009 that attended the game and you are left with 2,191 empty seats. Lets allow 1,000 seats for stewards and the fact that the Brighton fans are vandals and would act violently, and you are left with 1,191 empty seats. Lets be really stupid are sell the seats for 12 each and the club would make an extra 14,292 for the game, let alone a few pints at the bar and a programme. I thought "bums on seats" were essential to run a successful football club. If we get to Division 1 and the club continue the same logic to a full house, the club stand to lose over 300,000 per season. On a final note, were as reported, all the seats sold? or were their 1,191 supporters who lost out on seeing the game?
-- David from Devon

Reading looked very nervy, certainly in the first half... and that communicated itself to the crowd... nothing really got going on and off the pitch. Plus point of the first half - our defence. Negative, Mr Rougier... one period of play in that first half summed up his performance. Reading were breaking with Cureton...yes an attack... he was surrounded by 3/4 Brighton players... our midfield were all trying manfully to keep in touch with Jamie... where was "the Rouge"?.... literally jogging back up the pitch, no where near the action and more depressingly looking like it did'nt really matter. What is wrong with the guy? Huddersfield away he worked his socks off and caused loads of problems. Perhaps Pardew can shed some light on this blokes attitude, though he's not the only one.
Second half, plus point, defence again, and in particular John Mackie - great performance, nice bit of work from Tyson when he came on, and things started to happen more down the right. Disagree with one of the comments made ref Igoe... thought he worked hard and was more effective than any of the other midfielders... oh and final plus the referee. I thought it was a goal and we got out of jail! Negatives... wont go on about Rougier... no, its Salako this time... sort yourself out mate....no apparent commitment, no graft. A lot of people are commenting on his performaces since getting the contract. These observations are hard to dismiss based on a totally crap game on Sat by JS. Again maybe Pardew can enlighten?
To conclude, Reading still looking ok-ish, 3 draws, we need a win, to keep the fires burning. We need Foster back. We all need to keep the faith and certain players need to look at their performances big time!

-- Nigel, Chippenham Royal.

Thank god we did not lose. After all the anticipation it had draw written all over it. As all above have said we missed Forster. At Wycombe we had great movement from the front players and the wingers. I sat in with the Wycombe and after the match all the old gits behined me were saying we were the best side they had seen there in years. What was the difference, well 2 draws on the spin, not wanting to lose and Rougier. I have had numerous people have a go at me for moaning about him at the match, but apart from the Oxford game last season I have never really seen him play well. Thank God Butts is on his way back we have done well without him obviously but his hold up play could make al the difference for the final run in. I summary I think we can be happy with a draw, stick Rouge in the reserves and lets get back to playing the game like we know we can.
-- Mark N, London Royal

I was in the box the other week for the Stoke game. After the match John Madjeski did his obligaratory "we need 16,000 a week to break even" speach. Well John, I've got a top tip which will make you some extra cash. Try to sell tickets when they are demanded, for christ sake. I knew several people who couldn't get tickets because it had 'sold out' yet the attendance was only 22,009.
What is going on!
Meanwhile the game never reached its potential with both sides scared of losing, but if I am honest I think Brighton just about edged it. I thought Cureton worked hard throughout without much support from the dreadful Rougier, and Mackie was outstanding again.Overall we can't be to unhappy with a point as we still hold the advantage, but I think it is going to go the distance now. The return of Butler & Forster to help out Cureton, might just give us the final push we need.

-- Bob Lethaby

I came away from Saturday's game feeling disappointed but not despondent. It wasn't a very good game with both sides cancelling each other out. I couldn't believe how much we missed Forster. Clearly his pace makes teams play differently and opens up the game for our other players. To me, the game was also crying out for a midfield playmaker AND Martin Butler! It is great news to hear he will play a reserve match this week. If we do get promotion Pards will have to take a long look at our squad because we need more for Div1.
Talking of Div1, he said nervously, what are our chances? I would honestly say only 50-50 at this stage. I've said before Pards comments really worry me. He again said after this game that he was 'happy with a point'. I remember him saying after the 2-2 home draw with Walsall last year that 'the point may well be very valuable'. By the following saturday we were in the play-offs. Pardew should have looked to bury the threat of anyone catching us. As it is now after drawing the last 3 not only can Brighton catch us but so can Stoke,Brentford and at a push Bristol City too. He also said we need 3 or 4 wins, in my opinion we have to win all three home games and get 1 win away, 2 draws and we can afford 1 defeat. A win at Chesterfield is our best bet and again puts pressure on the pack. Anything less than this and we could see Brighton overtake us and Brentford or Stoke be within 1,2 or 3 points of us. It is time for this team to stand up and be counted, nerves will play a part but they must have courage and conviction and not go in to the last 2 games needing 4 points!

-- A very nervous Crowthorne Royal.
NB - Watched Tenacity, Spirit, Flair video of our season on Sunday. We've got a better team this year and the encouraging thing was how good Butler looked!

Yeah it was always going to be nervy, neither side wanted to lose, but we are TOP OF THE LEAGUE, five points clear and at home so why did their keeper have so little to do?
At this stage of the season results are all that matter but 3 points from 9 in the last week is a poor return from a side who should really be champions by Easter. We afforded them far too much respect, yes BZ is a dangerous player but so to is Curo and Brighton just forced him out of the game. Again I think Pardew showed a little tactical naivety, as against a well organised side who got 10 men behind the ball as soon as they lost possession the game was crying out for some midfield creativity or that one defence splitting pass yet Harper remained nailed to the bench, all this as "The Rouge" was just "The Reclusive" and Salako stood on the touchline reading the small print in his contact for most of the time. Every forward excursion was without any real strategy and with little options other than JC who looked an isolated figure but still our most likely player but none of the midfield ever got beyond him or rarely up with him in support.
As has already been said let's forget the last week, look at the table, we are still top and five points clear, any other team in the league would gladly swap places with us and let's start to scare ten shades on sh*te out of the opposition again from now until the end of the season. URZ!

-- Darren H
PS Thanks ref.

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