MATCH REPORT: 2006/2007 Season

14 April 2007: FA PREMIER LEAGUE
Reading: Hunt (15 mins).
Fulham: -
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 24,082

Pos Team P Pts GD
7 Portsmouth 34 49 +5
8 READING 34 48 +4
9 Tottenham 32 48 -1
Reading: Hahnemann, De la Cruz, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Ki-Hyeon (Oster 70), Gunnarsson, Harper, Hunt, Kitson (Long 70), Doyle. Subs Not Used: Federici, Halford, Duberry.
Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior, Pearce (Knight 25), Bocanegra, Queudrue, Routledge, Diop, Brown, Davies (Dempsey 68), Helguson (Montella 71), McBride. Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Radzinski.
Reading: Hunt, Shorey.
Fulham: Helguson.
Ref: L Mason (Lancashire).
Stephen Hunt once again demonstrated how valuable he is to Reading with his industry and energy. He must have covered more ground than any player on the field and popped up in the right place to meet Kevin Doyle's cross to score the only goal of the game in the fifteenth minute. Reading's first half performance deservedly game them a half time lead, but as Fulham's confidence grew in the second half the Royals began to look a bit ragged and could have easily dropped a point.

It had been a busy week behind the scenes with Lita receiving a three match ban, mainly due to El Karkouri's histrionics, and Steve Coppell announcing Sidwell's imminent departure. As result both were missing from the squad for the game. It seems to be a forgone conclusion that Sidwell will move on to better things, but I 'm not so sure. A bigger pay packet maybe, but regular first team football in a team higher placed than Reading may prove harder to come by. Having said that Fulham's Diop had a significant impact on the game in the second half today Sidwell's presence in midfield would certainly have kept him quiet.

Reading started brightly and dominated possession for most of the half. Seol Ki-Hyeon produced some good crosses and Hunt and Doyle were very lively. Early pressure produced a chance for Doyle who had more time and space that he expected and snatched at a chance when he turned quickly and poked the ball wide from close range. At the other end Hahnemann had to be alert to gather as Reading made a hash of clearing a corner. A minute later Soel found Gunnarsson with a superb pass but the quality of his shot failed to match the superb timing of his run and Niemei was able to block with his legs. Pearce should have put Fulham ahead with probably the best chance of the game when leant back and blasted over from a couple of yards out. It was a not be his day as he limped off midway through the first half. The only goal of the game was created by Doyle's good ball to the near post which Hunt met perfectly to turn past Neimi. A minute later an equally good ball cut back by Doyle was poked harmlessly at the Fulham 'keeper by Kitson. Gunnarsson almost increased Reading's lead with a powerful strike which the busy Niemi somehow managed to push over the bar. Fulham were defending far too deep and Reading were taking full advantage. Just before half time however Fulham had a goal disallowed for offside and had a long range effort which landed on the roof of the net.

Fulham had a better second half and their direct and determined approach combined with some sloppy play from Reading hinted that an equaliser was on the way. Diop was dominating the centre of the field for Fulham. Kitson had an ineffective game and was replaced by Long, and Oster came on for Seol to stake his claim for place in the team for next season. Neither change produced the desired effect of boosting Reading's chances of sealing the points. Doyle set up Oster with a good chance which he completely and embarrassingly miscued, and Long in his eagerness to impress lashed a shot over from the edge of the box with others well placed to received a telling pass. If crucial points had been at stake it would have been a very anxious end to the game. Doyle powered home a header which was disallowed near the end and Brown clipped the bar right at end of normal time. It was the sort of game Reading were winning comfortably earlier in the season but with safety assured, and European football only a faint hope, there was little to play for. It has been a fantastic season and it is a time for players and fans to enjoy the remaining fixtures and look forward to at least another year of high quality football.

Poor game from two poor sides on the day but onwards we march with another three points that looks like we should finish with an amazing top ten finish. Not sure if we can all comprehend what an unbelievable achievement this is, arise Sir Steve. This game saw what RFC will be like after Steve Sidwell as it would appear he's played his last game in a Reading shirt. It's disappointing but he's seen his contract out played very well this season and goes for what it's worth, with my best wishes and hope he does well where ever he goes. He will be missed but he is replaceable though and we'll have to wait to see who comes in during the summer and others who are clearly needed to consolidate our Premiership status next season. Fulham probably deserved a point yesterday and we could have scored a few more but we held on and ground out the three points. Must mention the Icelandic combination of Gunnarsson and Ingy Ingimarsson who were both magnificent as they have been all season. What a tremendous pair of professionals they both are and a credit to their club and country. Both give 100%, never shirk a tackle, get up after strong challenges without any theatrics and play till they drop, Ingimarsson gets my vote for player of the season, I can't think of a more worthy winner.
Nick Newbury

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