MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

Reading: Hughes (74 mins).
Nottingham Forest:
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 21,612

DIVISION ONE  18 Apr 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
3 Sheff Utd 41 73 +20
4 READING 42 73 +15
5 Nottm F 43 69 +30
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Mackie (Newman 29), Williams, Chadwick (Salako 84), Brown, Hughes, Harper, Little (Henderson 45), Forster. Subs not used: Ashdown, Cureton.
Nottingham Forest:
Ward, Louis-Jean, Brennan, Dawson, Thompson, Bopp, Scimeca, Reid, Jess (Johnson 76), Harewood, Huckerby (Lester 85). Subs not used: Roche, Walker, Doig.
Reading: Mackie, Shorey.
Nottingham Forest:
Referee: Clive Penton (Woodindean)

This was a memorable evening for Royals fans. Not only did Reading take three points which virtually assures them of a play-off place against a very good side, but they took them with an outstanding performance. The whole team, individually and collectively, played really well. Pardew further enhanced his growing reputation as a good manager making substitutions and tactical changes to swing the balance of play back in Reading's favour. In contrast to Tuesday the crowd were superb throughout, responding their team's efforts, and lifting them when they needed encouragement. I can't remember such a good atmosphere in the stadium. The roar at the kick off was almost intimidating! I'm sure the fans played a part in tonight's win.

Before the game I would have been more than happy with a draw, and the Forest performance in the first half demonstrated why they are serious contenders for a place in the Premiership. They moved the ball well in midfield and have direct and dangerous forwards. Pardew, by including Mackie, was clearly anticipating facing Harewood, Huckerby and Johnson. I felt this had the effect of psychologically surrendering the initiative before a ball had been kicked. After half an hour he began to put it right by replacing Mackie with Newman, a decision which I am sure was helped when Mackie managed to get his name in the book for a clumsy challenge. Newman was a much more positive choice. Mackie didn't really know where he should be defensively and Newman clearly had more to offer with his passing ability.

Reading matched their opponents for the opening fifteen minutes but Forest gradually took control of the game and created three clear chances but were denied by the post and two very good saves from Hahnemann. He has dropped some clangers recently but tonight he was able to do what he does best - he stopped shots well by being brave and staying on his feet.

Pardew made another crucial and bold change at half time by switching to 4-4-2, bringing on Henderson for Little and giving Reading more attacking options. It worked a treat! Henderson looking a much more accomplished player these days was a real handful in the air, held the ball up well and laid it off accurately. There was a significant change of attitude in the second half as the Royals decided to take the initiative and pressurise the visitors. The back four played an outstanding role in the tactical change. As Reading pressed forward the defence was frequently exposed to Forest counter attacks. They had to work hard as a unit to deny them scoring opportunities which they did with great success through intelligent covering and always making the correct choices about when to stand off and when to go in and win the ball. Brown in particular was outstanding. As Pardew pointed out, it was no mean feat to keep a clean sheet against this Forest side.

The winning goal was a simple but well taken goal. A good ball whipped in from the right by Murty met by Hughes well timed run and perfectly executed header. It was a goal that the Royals deserved for their second half performance and their positive attitude. Even some poor and inconsistent refereeing could not deny them the three points. A clear hand ball was missed although it was on the referee's blind side and Forster was clearly obstructed in the area and was worthy of at least an indirect free kick. But lets not dwell on that - it happens all the time!

What really matters, apart from taking three points, was the performance. Reading are far from favourites to go up, but looking at this evening's performance, we are capable of beating any of the teams likely to be competing for promotion. I get the feeling there are going to be some cracking games before the season ends! An interesting observation from Brian Little on Sky at half time. "You don't want to be losing games at this stage of the season". So tell me Brian, at what stage of the season would you be wanting to lose them?
Report by John Wells

darren hall
What I love about football is that it never, ever, ceases to surprise me. Take the feeling before the game when hearing the team selection, on the back of the Preston result, comes hold the midfield, in a move akin to Kevin Keegan's masterstroke of playing Gareth Southgate in the same position in that ill-fated final Wembley game against Germany. With the game following a similar theme to the one against the Hun, King Alan (unlike Mr. Keegan) has the balls to realise his mistake, on comes Newman, we whether the storm until half time, then again more tactical genius as big Darius is on to give Fozzie some much needed help, some obvious words of wisdom and out come the real Reading to take the game by the throat and put us one foot over the Severn Bridge, well that's what it felt like anyway. This is a massive result, definitely more tenacity and sprit rather than the flair but that is what sets us apart from the other contenders, we can play it and/or mix it when we have to. Forest are a class side, but that's enough about them, I don't give a sh*t about other teams certainly at this time of the year and neither should we and I think all the other boys are thinking Reading are the team we want to avoid when the brown underpant experience that is the playoffs starts for real. On a night which called for big performances, we got one, from the man on the touchline, King Alan, my pint glass is raised, again, to you tonight, man of the match, no man of the season.....URZzzzzzzzz!!!
nick newbury
With ten minutes to go last, we're 1-0 nil up against Forest one of our big rivals, we're live on Sky, the stadium is packed with nearly 22, 000, the noise we are making is fantastic, we are playing great football and the play offs await. For a surreal moment I just looked all around me and took the moment in. By god this football club has come a long way from the old decrepit but loved Elm Park.
What a fantastic match and what a result. I really cannot praise the players and the manager enough.
I think it's fair to say Forest had the better of the first half by quite a bit, with Mackie surprisingly playing in midfield, we were clearly struggling to contain a very strong attacking Forest side. Poor Mackie was clearly a duck out of water and fair play to Pardew for changing it with the introduction of Rickaaaay Newman. The effect was immediate and like most I was more than happy to go in 0-0 at half time, and that was mainly due to a couple of outstanding saves for Yanky Doodle Dandy, who had a great game, plus a colossus showing from Ade Williams and Browny who made a couple of brilliant tackles.
With the second half I'd have bitten your arm off for a 0-0, but the super Royals immediately made their intentions clear and went on the attack and took the game to Forest with some fantastic football. Every one of them deserve great credit, Murty, Shorey, Hughesey, Forster and of course James Harper worked their bollocks off. Chadders never gave up and even the boy Henderson put himself about and caused Forest marshalled by the outstanding Dawson lots of problems.
The goal was totally deserved, great cross by Murty and a superb header by the enigmatic Hughsey as the Mad Stad went bonkers. Make no mistake this was a huge win and the play offs now await, I boldly predict we'll secure our place against Grimsby, not another banana skin please lord! Who knows what awaits anybody know a Gipsy Rose Lee?
Special night, special game, special times.... URRZZ.
telford royal
Are Reading the new Arsenal? "1-0, to the Reading" should be the new terrace chant after this season's ninth 1-0 victory. Great result Biscuitmen, well done lads. Expect to see Forest replaced by Ipswich in the play-off shake up and a Reading v Ipswich final at Cardiff.
tokyo royal
"Masterclass"...."scintillating"......"waltzed round"....words we utter,read and hear in the same sporting context as Woods, Tendulakar , Rivaldo , Pele and now the mighty RRzzzz. I hope that the Sunday papers in UK are talking with the same enthusiasm for another momentous performance as the BBC's website this morning. Well done boys and to the 17000+ who flocked to the Madhouse once more to witness Reading history being made. ,Can't tell you how jealous I am sitting here in Tokyo. See you in May at the payoffs.
thatcham royal
Wow, what a game. This was a game that really lived up to it's billing. 4th v 5th in the league, and it was tight. This was a night that was massive in so many ways. We finally saw a crowd that our league position merits. It was noisy to.
Most importantly we all saw a fantastic game.
The first half was excellent. Forest had an interesting midfield shape, Pardew had anticipated that and put Mackie between defence and midfield. It didn't work. His booking meant a rethink, and Pardew quickly replaced him with Newman. This was a turning point. Newman clicked immediately. His work stopped Harewood from exploiting space between Brown &Shorey, meant Harper could work further forward, and he played a lot of very good passes. He gave the ball away a few times, but he always won it back. Until then, we looked dangerous, but Forest looked more likely to score. At half time I think the score reflected the half. Even. 2nd half Forest came out a minute or so earlier than Reading. I don't know what was said during that time, but it worked. From the start, we were adventurous and attacked Forest relentlessly. The change in formation and Darius occupying the defence gave Forster more space. I have to wonder what was said to Hughes. Like so many recent games, his first half performance was ineffective.
2nd half he played like a new player. He was involved in everything and nobody deserved the goal more than him.
I felt we dominated them more than nine men Preston. It was some of the best Football I've seen from Reading. Our movement, passing, pace was in a different league to Forest. This was the first game I remember leaving the Mad Stad and nobody complained about anything. Even the penalty(s) we never got were forgotten. (in a way I'm glad as no-one could say that turned the game in our favour. We won because we were better)
Ultimately this was a night where everything that is good about Pardew and his team clicked. They all showed how they can adapt with many changes in personnel &formations throughout the game. Forest have amazing forward players, but on the night we only saw glimpses of them because we held onto the ball and snuffed them out with good defending, excellent goalkeeping and most of all continual pressure. That performance has convinced me to renew my season ticket early. We can go up!! Come on URZ's
worthing royal
I can only really echo the opinions of the other correspondents. It was a great night for the players, the fans, and indeed for the whole club. Forest are a class outfit, and they played some fantastic passing football. The Royals soaked that up, and kicked on to take a well deserved three points. The Reading back four were awesome. Adie gets better and better the older he gets. He was good when we last knocked on the Premiership door. He moved to Wolves after that. I think he is even better now, and I hope he has got his wanderlust out of his system. The match was brilliant live, and it was worth seeing the highlights on Sky. My only whinge rests with the Sky team. A few of us laughed before the game, that even if we won 5 nil, a Forest player would get man of the match. It wasn't five, but it was convincing. True to form though, Dawson got the champers. Can't wait for Monday. Bring on Pompey. I have a feeling Harry wont allow them to play as badly as they did at Ipswich. We could tie up our play off place at Fratton. Wouldn't that be good? URZZZ!
Hello all, I just like to make a comment about last nights match, good wasn't it.
If I could just reminisce 32 years ago, as a young lad,being taken to my first professional football match at Elm park, all the smells noises and general atmosphere, the land of the Steve Deaths, Wagstaff, Butler, Cummings, Friday& Freemans to name but a few- happy memories. Reading have come such a long way from those distant times, but if I could comment, even though I have only recently started to watch football again after many years travelling abroad with work and moving away from Reading. Where have all the songs gone to? Biscuitmen etc. If there was one thing that I remember vividly as a youngster was the new and hysterical lyrics we cherished, learn't them and sang them on Monday morning before assembly. It seems to me that what the Royals need is a good new section of songs. Any of you older ones come on lets show the young ones what we used to get upto. All the best, good luck you Royals
caversham royal
Was away for both Preston & Forest, but managed to see the latter on Sky. Although we were very lucky to go in at half time on level terms, a much improved 2nd half performance saw another crucial win. More importantly, Reading have now proved they are capable of beating all of the other teams in the play-off places and just outside. Good finish from Hughes who threatened to get a goal with his runs into the box in the game, and also good to see the defence tighten up in the 2nd half to restrict Forest's dangerous forward line much more than they did in the 1st. Brown I reckon did especially well to cope with Harewood, despite lacking his pace. All in all, Reading are holding their nerve at the moment much better than in the jittery run-in of last season. Let's hope they can keep it up and carry it over into the play-offs. COME ON.....
chippenham royal
I was one of the many who did'nt make it to the Preston game... there were some comments made on hob nob about Pardew and Madeski throwing in the towel due to poor turn-outs at this stage of the season, and basically for those of us that didn't make the effort then thats what the fans would deserve...ok, 14,000 was not great, but that sort of commentary is pathetic... look where Reading were to where we are now... look at the fan base we have moved to again from where it used to be... look at the Forest game, the support and the commitment on and off the pitch. Lets get things in perspective please.... hopefully we'll get into the play-offs and whatever happens this has been a fabulous season for RFC even if we don't progress. Performances like the one on friday night will surely encourage more casual fans (if i can use that term) to come and then stick with Reading but we are a team and club that are still evolving so before some us start throwing teddy out and questioning others commitment lets at least try keep and keep a balanced view!....U RRzzzzz.
gloucestershire pete
What a fantastic night of entertaining football! What's happened to all those whingers who carp on about Pardew's lack of tactical awareness? He played a blinder on Friday by making the necessary changes to turn the game around. I disagree about Chippenham Royal's comments about attendances. 14,000 is a poor crowd at this stage of the season and in the position Reading are in the league. However, we are nearly 2000 up on last season's average and games like Friday's will only encourage more to come and to stay. As for the playoffs - let's keep the momentum going. It feels like 1995 all over again (and the Forset game was reminiscent of the home game against Bolton at a similar stage) - let's keep winning and make it third time lucky!
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