(Half Time: 0-0)
Reading Scorers: Hughes, Forster.
Aldershot Scorers:
Date: 14 July 2001

Reading: Ashdown, Casper, Mackie, Hunter, Shorey, Gamble, Smith, Thornley, Henderson, Forster, Hughes.
Subs used: S.Williams, O'Hara, Allaway.
Click here for match pictures

The summer break is over! The new season got kicked off today with the Reading squad splitting into two teams to travel to Aldershot Town and Maidenhead United to play at the same time. The Aldershot game took top billing with the chance to renew our rivalry with Aldershot town, but the stronger team probably ended up travelling to Maidenhead. The side at Aldershot had plenty of interest though for a decent away following at Aldershot's Recreation ground.

Trialist Ben Thornley and new signing Andy Hughes were always going to draw the most attention - one player was set to make a good impression, one wasn't. Thankfully new signing Andy Hughes made a great impression after scoring the first and setting up the second, and he looked good throughout in a match that was never really played at full pace. On the other hand Ben Thornley won't be getting a contract at Reading on this performance. The ex-Manchester United and Huddersfield player never really got going and was guilty of putting shots well into orbit when he should have found the target, and failing to beat players when he really should have done better. If Thornley fails against a non-league side like Aldershot when he should be out to impress then surely he has no future at Reading. On the basis of one game though I should reserve full judgement for now.

Reading had almost all of the first part of the match, and were happy to stroke the ball around the park and let Aldershot defend. And that continued as the pattern of the first half. However, Reading's play created few chances despite the possession - and the ones we did have seemed to be from quite a distance outside the box. Thornley blasted more than one far away from the target, and Henderson joined in the fun hoofing the ball anywhere but towards the goal. In the second half Henderson found himself with a couple of chances - but seriously lacked pace to get near the ball when he should have done. I can't see Henderson featuring this season, he's quite simply not a patch on the rest of our strike force and fails to redeem himself enough with effort. Ashdown, Reading's second choice keeper for this season, didn't have a chance to show anything in the first half with Aldershot rarely getting out of their half and never getting in a real shot on target. Having said that the Aldershot keeper didn't need to make a save all first half either.

A small group of Reading and Aldershot fans tried to get a bit of atmosphere going behind the goal - but it all degenerated into a rather pathetic battle seperated by two huge fences. The throwing of bottles that followed was never serious, but made both the small groups look pretty pathetic. Climbing up fences and gesturing to opposition fans during a pre-season friendly is at best laughable. At the start of the second half the police arrived and backed up the two stewards that were wondering what to do - an arrest was made of an Aldershot fan. An arrest in a pre-season friendly!

Luckily the second half provided a few goals and everything seemed pleasant again with the sun shinning down on Reading's first kick around of the pre-season. It wasn't much more than a kick around, but it was great to see the Royals taking the lead after the break. The ball was crossed from far out on the left by Smith and floated nicely towards the far post with Hughes dashing into the area. Hughes beat the defender and put a nice header firmly into the back of the net past the keeper. A goal on his Reading debut. Not longer after that it was 2-0 when Hughes broke deep in the area from the right. Hughes thumped the ball into the box - with such power it might have even been a mis-kicked shot. It bounced off Henderson in the middle, and found Forster with plenty of time having lost his marker to stick it home. With Reading 2-0 up the game went all quiet again with a couple of stoppages and a few substitutions.

Aldershot pulled one back later on after Ashdown came for a ball and failed to claim it, leaving the empty net to stick the ball into. Aldershot even threatened to equalise but Ashdown prevented another with a great tackle inside the box and collected the ball afterwards. Ashdown will be disappointed by the goal, but otherwise looked confident enough. Scott Williams (a small version of Matt Robinson) injected a bit of a pace into the game with plenty of determined running after coming on from the bench - he looks like he has plenty of potential.

With Reading short on full backs Nicky Shorey will be pleased to have contributed well to the game after starting alongside Casper, Mackie and Hunter in the Reading defence. Shorey put in some excellent challenges to win the ball cleanly, but also looked pacey enough and good going forward. A valuable asset to the squad and a player that looks set to feature strongly as the season progresses. Barry Hunter was his usual self in the centre of defence. He might not be the best central defender in the world, and he's obviously a complete hoofer, but it's impossible not to like him somehow. Chris Casper had a quiet game as the other full back and never really stretched himself - but at least he's working his way back into action.

So a typical pre-season friendly - but it's still good to get the victory to start the pre-season campaign off. Some good stuff on display - and if this was the weaker half of the Reading team then it just shows we have a very very strong squad for next season.

Meanwhile, the other match of the day saw the Royals draw 0-0 at Maidenhead.

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Pictures From The Game

New signing Ben Thornley failed to impress - or beat his marker  Thornley wonders if he's done enough for a contract  Nicky Shorey put in a decent performance at full back  Scott Williams, (or mini me), never stopped running  And Williams looked good on the ball too 
Declan O'Hara also worked hard  Mackie kept Aldershot at bay  Barry Hunter will find it hard to get in the team this season - but he's a top bloke  There's few better than Barry Hunter at winning high balls 
New signing Andy Hughes troublesd the Aldershot defence  Andy Hughes puts the ball into the middle  Gamble looked comfortable  Forster fires in a cross 
Nicky Forster battles for possession  Ashdown did fine in the Reading goal - despite a mistake for the goal  Reading clear a second half Aldershot attack

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