MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

14 October 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Murray (54 mins), Sidwell (85 mins).
King (73 mins).
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 13,011

DIVISION ONE 14 Oct 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
9 Preston 12 19 +3
10 READING 12 18 +4
11 Nottm F 12 17 +3
Reading: Hahnemann; Newman, Brown, Williams, Shorey; Murray, Sidwell, Harper (Salako 77 mins), Hughes; Goater (Watson 88 mins) Forster. Subs not used: Mackie, Ashdown, Henderson.
J Brown; Nosworthy, Ashby, Hope, Cox; Hessenthaler, Saunders (Spiller 90 mins), Smith, Hills (Perpetuini 68 mins); Wallace (Sidibe 79 mins), King. Subs not used: Shaw, W Brown.
Reading: Sidwell, Williams.
Referee: C Penton.

Tonight's game was almost a carbon copy of the corresponding fixture last season. The score was the same. Gillingham again proved to be difficult to beat and probably deserved a point. The main difference this time was that Gillingham had a greater number of good scoring opportunities. The Royals were pretty awful for the first forty-five minutes but definitely started the second half more positively and confidently than they had in the first. Coppell modestly didn't wish to claim any responsibility for the victory, but some credit must go to the new manager for sending his team out in a better frame of mind after the interval.

Gillingham went at Reading from the start. Wallace hit the inside of the post within the first minute, and Williams had to tidy up behind Hahnemann to prevent the visitors from taking the lead on ten minutes. Between these two close shaves Goater had a chance to put Reading ahead but his feeble attempt was easily caught by Bartram. Forster was clattered from behind in the second minute, and for some reason the referee failed to see it as a foul. It seemed to put Fozzy off his game because he certainly put in one of his quieter performances tonight. For most of the opening fifteen minutes Reading could not get into the game as Gillingham were first to every ball and were moving the ball around quickly and keeping possession well. Reading on the other hand were careless with their passing and looked short of ideas when they got into their opponents half. Just before half time Harper and Newman got themselves in a real tangle on the halfway line and lost the ball. They must have been extremely relieved when King blasted the ball over from the resulting scoring opportunity. Poor though the performance had been I found it unforgivable that the home fans booed their team off. I have often felt frustrated by my team's performances but I have never felt inclined to boo them. Thankfully it sounded like a minority.

Reading started brightly in the second half with a sweeping move that put Hughes in a possession in the area but the cross came to nothing. Having enjoyed their best spell of the match so far Reading took the lead on fifty-four minutes when Murray carefully headed in a good deep cross from Shorey. For few minutes Reading looked as if they might add to the score and dominate the game but that didn't last for long. Minutes later Wallace had a chance which Hahnemann blocked although he didn't seem to know much about it. It was now a much more even game now and either side could have added to the score. Murray and Harper combined well to provide Forster with a chance which he dragged wide. Hahnemann gathered the ball superbly and sent Murray away with a great throw but he was unable to make the telling pass to Forster this time.

With just over a quarter of an hour left Hahnemann came out to meet the ball as King easily beat the offside trap. It did not look to be a good idea, and when there big 'keeper missed the ball King was left with a simple task of rolling the ball into the empty net. Hahnemann redeemed himself to certain extent by making a very good save from King with five minutes left. Salako was on in place of Harper and soon made space for shot which flew past the post. With a disappointing draw on the cards, Sidwell worked a quick one-two on the edge of the area with Goater and unbelievably found himself with a clear sight of goal. It was not the sweetest strike I've seen from him but it was good enough to find the bottom corner of the net and that was sufficient to win the game.

I was delighted about the result and pleased that Steve Coppell is off to a winning start. I'm impressed with his comments so far and he is clearly an intelligent manager. Things will change under his management, but as all good mangers know, change is a process not an event. It will take a while for him to get to know his players and get his ideas across. Patience may well be required from the fans.
Report by John Wells


How on earth did we win this game? For the first hour Coppell must have thought what the bloody hell have I taken on here, we were truly dreadful. The passing shambolic and the running off the ball non existent. Shorey, Hughes, Goater, Harper and even Murray were simply not at the races. God knows what's happened to Shorey, he's on another planet at the moment and surely should be dropped to get his game back together, he will be back but maybe it will be following you know who to West Ham? Following Murray's goal a comedy of errors followed with Goater falling on his arse losing the ball and then Yankee Doodle Dandy making a complete arse of himself with a changer that will later appear of goal keeping gaffes. Then blow me, just as Gillingham looked liked getting the winning goal, up pops Siddy to hit a weak shot that bounced three times and ended up creeping in the net, amazing. Coppell would have taken stock, he will do for the next couple of games before making changes, and changes no doubt he will make. Maybe he's a lucky manager, poor Gillingham really must have felt mugged, they really did deserve something out of the game, but hey ho, it happens. Tonight we had the luck, we'll need a lot more on Saturday against Preston.
Nick Newbury

A good result in that it was very important to get a win tonight after the poor run we've been on. Not particularly impressed with the performance though. There's still room for much improvement before Saturday. I thought Goater did well though again tonight & deserves a goal for his last 2 performances, Forster though was very poor & deserves a kick up the arse. The main weak link was the midfield again; too many casual passes, getting caught in possession, and HUGE gaps left that Gillingham were more than happy to run into. It needs someone who can bring composure & a sense of nouse & the only one who does that is Watson. Out of Sidwell & Harper (who both did well & poorly in equal measure tonight) I would drop Harper in favour of Watson as Sidwell is a better tackler when on form & showed again tonight that he's capable of popping up with a goal, even when having a pretty average night. I'd also single out Newman for a much improved performance tonight, not looking the liability he did against Bradford. Having Brown & Williams playing together again made a difference too. But overall as a team should have been better, & we were more than a little fortunate to come away with 3 points. Time for Coppell to start to exert some influence & put his stamp on the team. Room/need for improvement. COME ON....
Caversham Royal

Didn't make this game so had to endure updates over the net. Don't you just hate those updates when they keep saying 'Gillingham just shading it - key player Marlon King'. Sounds like the performance was ragged first half & dogged second. Still I guess its the result & 3 points that counts in the end. Lets hope Coppell has learnt loads and will tweak things to get the formula right a.s.a.p. URRRZZZZ
Merv, Wimbledon Royal

How did we win??? Gillingham were better in every department (bar the goalkeeper) The first half was probably the worst for 4 years. No closing, no tackling, no running, no commitment, no team play. We were so one dimensional. I seriously considered going down the pub to watch the Sky game. I just couldn't see us getting anything. The second half was better, though it's all relative. What is going on with the players? For most of last night we looked like relegation fodder. I have to say I'm massively relieved (and perplexed) to have got 3 points. Look at poor Gillingham. Close to the bottom and mugged after dominating the game. Thank God we are not down there, cos the luck really does go against you. Who knows if we got a good manager, we definitely got a lucky one Come on URZ's (phew)
Paul, Thatcham Royal

A very poor performance yet again. The only difference this time, is that we got the three points. Gillingham will feel aggrieved, but that hardly matters, when Coppell desperately needed to get things going with a win. Some of the pressure is off. Three home games to start was either going to be a Godsend, or a poison chalice, depending on the results. I think the nerves will be a little more settled after last night. We were awful though for long periods of the match. I firmly believe our biggest problem at the moment is that we lack a play maker. Harper is simply not good enough. Sidwell is a ball winner in a young Parky mode, but going back to Parky’s magical years, even he needed to slip the ball to Osborn to set moves up. Harper is slow, plays very negatively, and seems incapable of providing the telling pass that makes the difference. It is no wonder Fozzy had to play as a lone striker last season. He had to win the ball first, before creating his chances. Goater will never look the player he is capable of being, if we don’t provide him with quality passes into scoring areas. On the face of it, I think Coppell will achieve the desired result, and we will consolidate this season. If not, I notice a certain fat Scotsman is available again, following an ‘amicable’ parting of the ways in south London! Only joking, although how fickle is the game when Millwall sack their manager for only being 8th in the first division in October! URRRZZZ!
Kevin, Worthing Royal

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