(Half Time: 2-1)
Reading Scorers: Mackie (12 mins), Lever (OG, 44 mins), Salako (51 mins)
Bristol City Scorers: Amankwaah (34 mins), Thorpe (59 mins).
Date: 10 November 2001
Attendance: 14,060

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Viveash, Mackie, Shorey, Hughes (Igoe 71), Watson, N.Smith, Salako, Forster (Jones 84), Cureton (Henderson 84). Subs not used: Ashdown, A.Smith.

Bristol City: Stowell, Carey, Lever (Coles 63), Hill, Amankwaah (Goodridge 62), Doherty, Tinnion (Matthews 79), A.Brown, Bell, Thorpe, Peacock. Subs not used: Phillips, Burnell.
Jones (Reading); Doherty, Lever (Bristol City).
D J Gallagher (Banbury).

Reading are once again looking like strong candidates for promotion after this hard earned but deserved victory against a strong Bristol City side. It was fitting that the game was decided by Salako's superb strike, as all the other goals were the outcome of glaring defensive errors.

City were only a point behind the Royals before this game and must have felt confident about their chances today. They started cautiously operating with a five man midfield but found themselves a goal down after only twelve minutes. Salako noticed Mackie making a late run into the box and flighted his corner perfectly into in path. The centre back powered his header goalwards and somehow it squirmed past the keeper into the net. Reading had looked sharp from the start and the midfield had a very competitive edge with Watson and Neil Smith allowing very little to come through the middle. The whole team was closing down City players and making them hurry their passes. Cureton even won a ball in the air in the first minute! Following the pattern of recent games Reading produced several slick and incisive passing moves. Not everything was coming off but Reading were spotting the passing options and hitting them early and consequently always looked like they might break through.

City were also showing that they were capable playing some good stuff, and a very exciting game began to unfold. Thorpe blazed a couple of half chances over the bar before Reading provided them with the opportunity to equalise when Hughes and Murty collided allowing Bell to run free to cross for Amakwaah to finish. The pace of the game then slowed towards half time until Smith rattled the bar with a header from Forster's cross on forty minutes and then the Royals received an unexpected gift a minute before the interval when Lever headed past his own keeper from a Smith long throw. City then had the chance to equalise but Whitehead was quickly off his line to smother the ball when Thorpe broke free in front of goal.

The second half had me on the edge of my seat throughout. A great move allowed Hughes to drive in a low cross which eluded everyone except Salako at he far post who cracked the ball in from the tightest of angles. He clearly enjoyed the moment as much as the Royals fans. It was magnificent goal, but City were certainly not prepared to roll over and eight minutes later had reduced the deficit to one goal. Whitehead made a uncharacteristic error when he failed to come for a cross. His hesitation wrong-footed everyone except Thorpe who nipped in to glance the ball into the corner of the net. A well taken goal but it should have been prevented. Whitehead redeemed himself later with a fine save and by cutting out some very dangerous crosses that were being fired in from the City left.

City pressed forward looking for an equaliser and looked threatening. Murty in particular looked a bit exposed at times. Hughes went off and Igoe came on and appeared unable to adjust to the pace of the game. Pardew decided to kill the game off in the last ten minutes by taking off Forster and Cureton leaving only Henderson up front and adding Jones as the fifth man in midfield. It worked, although the closing stages were far from comfortable.

It was a performance that got the crowd going and gives a clear message that we are contenders for promotion. I get the feeling that Kevin Dillon is making his mark on this team. It is not just the results that are improving, the passing is looking much sharper throughout the squad. Again I was impressed with Watson and even more impressed with Salako. He was as fired up as anyone I've seen in a Reading shirt this season especially after his goal. If we could keep him for the rest of the season he could make the difference between going up or staying down. Many people have said Reading are not good enough for automatic promotion this season, but who else is? Stoke look strong, but I'm not sure that Brighton or Brentford are able to sustain their challenge all season any better that Reading. I just get the feeling it's going to be very close at the end of the season.
Report by John Wells.

Now we have discovered how to play at home. Play how you do when you are away from home!
This was a terrific match. I thought that Bristol City were a very good side coming forward with the ball. We, crucially, had certain things going for us. Firstly, we played as a unit. Secondly, we scored at the right times. Thirdly, we had the breaks which we haven't had in recent weeks. The starting eleven was a bit of a surprise. Williams failed a fitness test, Harper out so Smith had a rare start. I thought the combination of Smith and Watson worked well and gave the midfield a good balance. Mackie also did well adding some pace to the central pairing. It is a credit to the squad that people can come in and perform at the right level.

The first goal was always going to be important. Whilst Mackie's header was reasonable, I think the keeper would have expected to have saved it. Whether Hughes got a touch or not we did not really care. We were one up and had scored. Bristol continued to pass the ball well, although there was some fortune in their equaliser. Hughes and Murty both went for the same ball, collided, and left the winger with a good opportunity to cross which he did. I think by now we knew we were in for something special. Would our nerves get the better of us? Would we sit back as we have tended to do?

Just before halftime fortune smiled on us. Smith sent another long throw into the box and the ball was in the back of the net. Viveash put in the challenge, but it came off a Bristol head. A goal from a corner and a long throw in one match! Absolutely amazing given our aerial power and our previous record. We went in at 2 -1. It had been a good half, and thoroughly entertaining.

The third goal was the pick of the bunch. Forster had previously worked a good position down the right only to see his cross go too near to the keeper. Now it was Hughe's turn to be fed by another good ball from Murty. His cross found Salako coming in at a difficult angle and he slid the ball into the net. Terrific stuff.

To their credit Bristol kept playing their football. Bell was finding too much space down their right as he made himself the extra man. We kept working hard but had to concede the majority of possession to them. Thorpe eventually got their second. In truth had he been on the top of his game he would have scored more today. It was then a case of whether we would hold out or not. That we did was down to a world class save from Whitehead who flung himself across the goal to keep out what looked a certain equaliser. So what did we learn today? We saw some good passing and work rate. With Forster and Cureton up front we have to work hard as they are not going to hold the ball up. Their natural game is to turn and run at the opposition.

That makes it harder for the midfield. I thought that they all worked hard today. Cureton appears to be a better all round player now. He does chase more to put defenders under pressure. The midfield worked hard. Watson and Smith were a good combination. It seems a shame that we won't be able to keep him. As regards Salako, he is one who we should definitely try to keep.

We have continually had a problem at left side of midfield. Smith and Rougier both have qualities, but Salako is quality. His contributions to the last three games have been outstanding. Whilst we did not see so much of his silky skills today, we did see work rate and commitment and a good goal. He will also hold the ball and must be good for young Shorey. That brings us to the full backs. Outstanding. They have been brilliant in the last few games. Whilst Murty's distribution wasn't his best at the start of the game he stuck to it and worked his way into it. Both he and Shorey look to use the ball well and this encourages other members of the team to do that as well. This is where Watson has been important. He plays the simple ball well and he keeps it on the ground where football should be played, especially with the size of our team!

Finally a word for Bristol City. If I were a fan of theirs, I would have come away thinking that we deserved at least a point. They moved the ball well, and their passing was, if anything, better than ours. Football is about taking your chances and today we did that. The three points were ours today. Bristol will be there at the end of the season, and so should we be. Salako might be the key. I hope you are listening Mr. Chairman!
Report by Ken Chennells.

Post Match Opinions

At last, a match that was both exciting, and enjoyable. Thank God I don't have to take up playing golf on Saturdays after all. I am a little worried though, as the last time we all got positive on this site, the team went into free-fall. Let us make sure we don't get a repeat of that. Today we played good passing football against a good, well organised Danny Wilson team. We certainly matched them, and probably deserved our win. My only problem tonight is that being in exile, only 12 miles from Brighton, I will have to put up with more cooing over Bobby bloody Zamora in the pub, as Brighton have gone top. Bring on the mighty Welling.
-- Kevin, Worthing Royal

This was the most exciting game of the season so far, played at a pulsating pace between two strong sides! And Reading finally got the better of Bristol City, ending a run of dismal results against them. City looked as dangerous as ever - a far more accomplished side than Brentford, for example. They played good football and always looked capable of scoring, but Reading too played some attractive stuff and in the end I think our sheer work rate (and a bit of luck) made the difference. The improvement in the last couple of weeks seems to arise from finding some balance in the team - Salako has added quality and Watson control to a midfield that is imposing itself more and more in games. A special word today must go to John Mackie. The young lad gave a terrific performance at centre back and capped it with a goal (or an assist?). Following a difficult period things are starting to click - well done Alan and keep it up lads! Here's how I rated the team:
Whitehead - 7 Great save near the end, one or two flaps, but reliable as ever
Shorey - 7 This lad is very steady, has a cool head on young shoulders
Viveash - 8 Was a rock today - controlled defence superbly
Mackie - 9 Good comeback and was the pick of the defence
Murty - 7 Worked hard in defence and attack
Salako - 7 His control and experience are an asset, great finish too!
Smith - 6 Hit the crossbar, nothing flashy but steady
Watson - 7 Commanding performance, looked assured on the ball
Hughes - 6 Set up winner and did ok
Cureton - 7 Worked hard and linked up well with Forster
Forster - 8 Nicky's getting back to his best and terrorised them at times.

-- Rob, Staines Royal

OK. Hands up, I have written some pretty negative & damning reports on the season so far.
After the Wrexham game (4th in the table but playing like donkeys) I started to reflect on the season so far & the Division overall.
My conclusions are:

There is no stand out team this year. Since we came down we have been lucky/unlucky that we shared the division with some good sides.
Man City, Fulham, Millwall. They are all gone. They were clearly too good for the division and rightly went up.
While they were here, they raised the standard of football. They made the division look better than it was. The good sides, Reading, Stoke, Bristol City, Wigan etc had a real target to chase. That made us play better.
The remaining teams had us in their sights. That made them play better.
This year Reading was supposed to be the standard bearer. The opposition expected this, the fans certainly expected this.
It's a pretty hefty expectation. I also think it's unrealistic. I think we need to do a job. Forget silky samba football. As much as I want to be entertained, I want three points per game and promotion more. Who wants another season of playing well and being "unlucky"
Rotherham made their season based on getting the right result. Nobody would claim they were pretty.
Brentford are top of the table with the same game plan.
We have some great flair players. This division just doesn't suit them. I think the performances against Tottenham, West Ham & Villa all prove the players are in the wrong division.
How many times have we criticised pretty football performances after we got beaten by your typical rough & tumble 2nd division team?
It's tough, but I think as fans we have to decide what we want more. Do we want to see promotion, or do we want to see fluid pass and move football game after game?
The fact is, the bulk of the teams in this division will not let you pass them off the pitch. Once we accept promotion at any cost is what we want, we must get behind the players, and Pardew, and support whatever gets
thrown our way.
Surely nothing can be worse than the alternative. Another season outside Division 1?
That said, what a fantastic result today!
If I had to pick a man of the match, I would pick Forster. His work rate, tackling, link up play was all first class. But they all played well. And fair play to City. They came to make a game of it, not to spoil things.
Now if we can only keep Watson and Salako....

-- Paul, Thatcham Royal

Make no mistake - this was a massive result for us. Over the last two seasons Bristol City have comprehensively beaten us four times; add to that our tendency to crash in big home games, and I think I could be excused for saying after the Brentford defeat (only two weeks ago) that you could bet your house that we'd lose to City. Then consider just how utterly awful we were in the Swindon game - shapeless, toothless, purposeless. A place in the playoffs seemed hardly likely then. So our recent revival has been remarkable - we've scored seven in our last three games, and are playing with belief and determination. The scoreline flattered City, if anything. Well done to Pards, who's borne all the criticism with fortitude, to Kevin Dillon, who seems to be having a positive influence (not a surprise, in my view), and to the players. There's a long way to go, we could still get a lot better, but we have a team again. Halleluia!
-- Peter Jones

Pardew out! Well not for a while anyhow .
As one who questioned his position after the Swindon debacle, I'm humble enough to give credit where it's due and say well done to him and the players. Nobody can complain with six wins out of seven which has put us back in the hunt for that precious automatic promotion place .If we had got rid of him, nobody could have done any better than the recent return of form. I think we all know, and probably Pardew too, that we're still now where near what is required as a club to get out of this poxy league. The team is so lacking still in the midfield that it will prove to be our downfall unless we get that midfield general that anybody with a pea as a brain can see is what we are missing.
How many yesterday, after City got their second goal with half an hour to go, thought bollocks... here we go, yet somehow we managed to hang on against what I thought to be a good Bristol City side. They looked so more dangerous that us going forward and somehow seemed to find acres of space yet we hung on for a great win. To win in front of the packed away end was indeed deep joy and to hear the noise from the East Stand was also very uplifting and must have helped the players.
I thought Smudger Smith had a great game, almost captain like, and young Mackie also had a great game for a youngster. I remember seeing his debut at Bury last year and saying he going to be a very good player, I've not changed my mind. Salako is starting to look class and must be signed if affordable and would only benefit like the other strikers from decent service. So, well chuffed today, great to see a cracking game for a change and deep joy to see all those west country wurzals leaving early for a change to the chimes of cheerio, cheerio... cheerio!

-- Nick Newbury

Entertainment! That's the word. For once a match you didn't want to take your eyes off with both sides committed to attack. The last ten minutes were riveting (how could people leave before the end?) with a final score of 3-3 or 4-2 equally likely. The midfield were more dominant than in the past forcing City to pass continually outside the danger area trying to find a way through - a coincidence that Harper wasn't even on the bench? Super save from Whitehead, unlucky hit against the cross bar from Smith evened out the numerous near misses. Those top three still look a long way off but if we can keep this up we may just catch them.
-- Dave

Yesterday the team was fantastic in all departments. Neil Smith once again proved himself to be an excellent midfielder, who still offers plenty to the club. Viveash ( why was he ever dropped? ) and Mackie were solid at the back and the latter player, I feel, has been under rated. Once again Shorey gave a good account of himself and has a lot of potential, Murty was excellent and I think he's been Reading's most consistent player throughout the season. Salako has added that extra bit of flair to our midfield and a few more like him would see us get out of this division. Forster ran his socks off (and added real pace up front, playing more responsibly by bringing in other team members) and Cureton had an added spark going to win balls he normally wouldn't bother with.
The only thing that was disappointing, was the way Bell set up both City's goals when he was a threat of which we were well aware before the game.
Overall, it was an excellent performance, we played the ball to feet which was good to see and for once this season it was also good to see the away supporters go away quietly! The season hadn't been going well but action has been taken (although I still think we need a playmaker in the middle) and maybe those people who were calling for Pardew's head won't be doing this quite so loudly now.

-- Chris A (ballboy)

That is what football is all about. I left the ground with a croaky voice and a sense of fulfilment. Football is entertainment for the crowd and I thought that Reading had forgotten that a few weeks ago. After yesterdays great 3-2 win over a strong Bristol City side, I know that there is not a fan out there that did not get value for money. Every player worked hard and it was great to see them chasing after everything. What a difference it made.
My old man told me when I was very young that you never know what a game is going to be like until you go. Yesterday it was the first time that I went to watch Reading on my own. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and would do it again.
One final point is that what a difference the crowd make when they get behind the players and make noise for them. Lets hope that for the rest of the season the fans can do that.
Come on URZ!

-- Angus Brydon

This was an excellent, hard fought victory against a very good and determined Bristol side. Reading proved they can pass the ball around without a big target man and it was pleasing to see Mackie and Neil Smith play so competently. Wasn't it nice not to see the ball pumped aimlessly in the air from the back to Cureton and Forster - no coincidence that Williams wasn't playing!
The loan players are proving to be valuable and astute 'signings' but it doesn't appear that either will be staying full time unless Madjeski can stump up more mony for their wages or we can release someone such as Rougier. I thought Nicky Shorey was 'man of Match' and he seems to have an old experienced head on young shoulders. He uses the ball well, closes down players and his distribution is good as well as his positional play. certainly deserves a run in place of Robinson. Don't know what the 'score' was with Harper, but the midfield played well both supporting the defence and attack. We handled Mickey Bell pretty well but he still looked a dangerous player and would have been a good signing for royals if we could have got him last year. The team is certainly playing with much more confidence since the 'sacking' of Mad Dog. Although obviously a good motivator there is only so much 'bawling' and shouting a player can take, so perhaps Kevin Dillon's more laid back approach is the answer. All in all, an excellent match which Reading thoroughly deserved to win and not 'lucky' as described on a certain local Radio station. Finally, it looks like the season is beginning - long may it continue!

-- Mike S, Tilehurst

Vast improvement. This was a key home fixture. Not a bunch of North Wales no-hopers who we struggled against mid-week. We can expect Bristol City to be one of the major contenders for the division this year. Suddenly we've got a midfield again, Harper did not play, and we win! I rest my case!
-- Kirk - London Royals

I couldn't go yesterday because of other comittments, perhaps I should stay away as the reports above more than hint that this poor twat missed a corker. On another note, there is speculation in the press that Allen is still employed by the club, as some directors want him to stay. John Madjeski, can you hear us, get back in the country, pay Allen his wages, and tell him to clear off!
-- Bob Lethaby

Great game, and lots of noise from the East Stand. Credit to Bristol City for playing some nice football, and both teams for providing excellent entertainment. I asked my Wife who she thought was man of the match on the way home, Salako!... hard to disagree with that especially after a class finish... tremendous stuff. My stand-out player, however, had to be Neil Smith. I thought that Smith (along with Watson) worked his socks off in midfield from beginning to end, and gave us some much needed steel and resolve, sound decision from Pards to drop Harper. I understand those people that rate him, and yes he is young, but on too many occasions we have been overrun in midfield and against a team like Bristol City that was the last thing we could afford to happen! Very happy this week-end... what will happen if or when Watson/Salako leave?
-- Nigel, Chippenham Royal.

What a cracking game. Nothing to add really except to say that I had a close up view of Salako's goal, and it was superb, the best I've seen for a long time. Salako's work-rate was fantastic, and effective, and he was still running round the pitch after the final whistle, lapping up the applause. Have I heard his age right should it be 23, not 32? He is the fittest player I have ever seen at Madejski. I too thought that Mackie was excellent. His style is quite different from the other central defenders, and it's a distinct change for a ball to be cleared out along the ground. Whitehead seemed to have learnt from the Brentford game, and threw the ball out to the wings at least as many times as he hoofed it into City half. Like Adrian I went on my own for the first time for months. It seemed to be a match which could not be missed, even if most of my family thought otherwise.I am extremely glad I did, even though my lunchtime refreshment spot, the Hope Tap, was surrounded by 200 coppers and packed out with strange loud characters with worzel accents. URZZZZZ!
-- Stuart, Basingstoke

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