(Half Time: 2-0)
Reading Scorers: Forster (20 mins, 22 mins, 51 mins).
Blackpool Scorers: -
Date: 19 January 2002
Attendance: 13,732

Reading: Roberts, Murty, Williams, Mackie, Shorey, Igoe, Hughes, Parkinson (Gamble 83), Salako, Rougier (Henderson 73), Forster (Cureton 57). Subs not used: Ashdown, Alex Smith.

Blackpool: Barnes, Coid, Reid (Hughes 55), Marshall, Jaszczun (Day 27), Bullock, Collins, Wellens, Hills, Fenton (O'Kane 62), Walker. Subs not used: Pullen, Milligan.

Bookings: Mackie (Reading); Collins, Marshall (Blackpool).
Referee: M Warren (Walsall)

Five consecutive wins, nine goals scored, none conceded and four points clear at the top of the division. Even the season ticket holder who has been sitting near me shouting abuse at Alan Pardew all season was quiet today! It doesn't seem that long ago when I found myself studying the league table trying to work out which teams we could expect to drop points to give us a chance to get near to the automatic promotion places. It must have given the manager considerable satisfaction today to be able to take off his leading scorer with half an hour to go in order to save him for a really big game on Tuesday night knowing that the game was already won.

This was Nicky Forster's day. His hat-trick consisted of three very different goals demonstrating why he poses such a threat to opposing defences. On twenty minutes he met a Sammy Igoe cross perfectly with his head and sent the ball powerfully downwards into the corner of the net. A minute later he chased a long ball which did not appear to present much of a problem for the defence, but his persistence was rewarded when his presence created sufficient panic to cause the Blackpool 'keeper to collide with his centre back leaving him with a simple tap in. He saved his best for last. Five minutes after half time he spun past Reid and accelerated away from the rest of the defence before driving the ball unerringly into the far corner of the net from the right side of the penalty area. You will not see a much better goal at any level of football.

Reading exerted a lot of pressure early in the game against a Blackpool side which looked as if it was waiting to be beaten. I found the lack of commitment surprising for a team managed by Steve McMahon. Reading were first to the ball all over the field. Even Sammy Igoe was winning the ball in midfield! I can only remember two attempts on goal from the away side. A free kick from about thirty yards which fizzed past the post and a header which went just wide close to half time (which served as a timely reminder that two-nil is not a comfortable lead).

Salako was constantly looking to drift inside to get more involved and take up scoring positions leaving space for Shorey to attack down the left side. Rougier, clearly desperate for a goal, thoroughly deserved one today. In a two minute spell around the half hour mark he struck a volley cleanly, which flew over the bar, and then twisted and turned before curling in a shot which rattled the bar. Overall the quality of the passing and crossing was good throughout the team. There was a lot of movement and invention shown today which is indicative of the growing confidence. It would be nice however to see a more ruthless finish when we outnumber the opposition on the break. Too often passes are delayed or not spotted when a simple direct approach would create clear scoring opportunities. At the moment we are creating so many it doesn't really matter. Timing of passes seems to catch Cureton out more than most. I'm sure he would appreciate an earlier ball, but he does need to have a look before he sets off, he was caught offside far too easily. Perhaps this was due to eagerness to get back in the team? Nevertheless he has looked sharp in his brief appearances recently and always looks likely to score.

After the third goal it was clearly all over and the game became quite open. Reading could, and perhaps should, have at least doubled their lead. Rougier looked progressively less likely to score, Henderson wasted a couple of decent chances and Cureton produced a couple of good attempts and looked a little disappointed as he walked off today. He needs to be patient - I am sure he will have a crucial role to play between now and the end of the season. The final phase of the game gave Roberts the opportunity to demonstrate that he is a competent and confident 'keeper and I'm pleased that we have got his services for the Wigan game bearing in mind they rattled six goals past Stoke before Christmas.

In his post match interview, Steve McMahon spent more time praising Reading and talking up our promotion chances than dwelling on his own team's poor performance, which was nice to hear. I can't get up to Wigan but I don't intend to miss many more games before the end of the season. With more players coming back from injury competition for places will be getting keener which is also good news. I should imagine they are all dying to get out there and do their stuff again on Tuesday. They will need to be at their best. Next to Stoke away, this could be the toughest game of the season.

Report by John Wells

Post Match Opinions

For 20 minutes this looked a little worrying. Blackpool clearly had not come to put 10 men behind the ball and wanted to play football. A couple of fair efforts on goal, both off target, matched our efforts. Uh-oh, I thought. One of those matches I have seen so often - a real chance to consolidate at the top against an ordinary side and we mess it up. And then the lads upped a gear and the match was alight. Service from midfield? I lost count of the sheer number of balls into dangerous areas from left, right and centre. Disappointing defence? 5th clean sheet on the trot. Finishing - OK not perfect but give me a match every time where you have about 20 chances and score from 3. Forster got his just desserts but how we all desperately wanted Rougier to score. Still, when you repeatedly tear a facing defence into shreds, win countless balls in midfield, play devastating layoffs I'm not complaining. Mackie is a revelation. And for once everyone else is crumbling not us. Can you imagine the reaction at Stoke, Bristol, Brighton, Brentford, QPR, Wigan - bloody Reading won again. Lubbly jubbly.
-- David Hunt

Last 5 games - 5 wins, 5 clean sheets, 15 points, and clear at the top. Yes I am talking about Reading!
A truly excellent performance today. I would have liked us to have gone for the jugular after we went three up, but what the hell. The defence is really starting to look good. The back four are playing brilliantly together. Any players coming back from injury will have a long wait on the bench. Midfield gelled well. Blackpool allowed them to play a little by opening brightly, but once we established some seniority, the confidence flowed, and we started to look like championship contenders. Wigan on Tuesday is massive. Well done Pards for resting Fozzy after he completed his hat trick. The diminutive little 'greedy bastard' as he is stupidly referred to is the key to our hopes. Rouge held the ball up, ran his heart out, tackled, and fell over a few times. He, together with the whole Reading crowd will explode when he does find the back of the net. If only all Saturdays were like the last few. Div 1 here we come!

-- Kevin, Worthing Royal.

Brilliant, fantastic, superb... pass me the dictionary someone, I need more words to describe this demolition of a hard working Steve McMahon side. I took a friend of mine today who is a Chelsea fan, and he really enjoyed his day and is even threatening to come again. If the great Van Nistelrooy was up front he would have had a quadruple hat-trick. I am getting all gushy and American now I know (It must be the beer) but come on Reading stand up and look at yourselves in the mirror and realise you are now the best team in the league by a stretch.
It could have had eight or nine today easily.
Yes, if you are reading this and were not there today, it really was that good.
Every player can be satisfied with their performance today. Rougier was superb, he really deserves the goal his recent performances warrant, Forster was devasting, the midfield created chance after chance, and the defense were solid and rarely troubled. Well done to all at the club with special praise to Pardew and in particular Kevin Dillon. For me, the departure of Allen and the arrival of Dillon has shaped our season. Dillon should be assured of a long career at the club, and I am sure all Reading fans are gratefull to him, and see him as a possible future manager. And finally... "Steve McMahon, can you hear me? Your boys took one hell of a beating!".
Another beer one thinks, I am going to enjoy this evening. Even my wife looks prettier than normal.
I don't think my luck's in though, that would be too much in one day!

-- Bob Lethaby

I hope that Pardew enjoyed himself last night because he deserves it. A squad which has had more than its fair share of injuries, a management team that has been changed, an swithch (for the better) in the style of football have all been part of our season. Go back to the first game of the season. Only 5 who started then, started yesterday and yet we made it look easy. Why? Because we work as a unit and play the ball around on the floor.
Blackpool were not the best team to come to the Madejeski nor were they the worst and they did keep going. Fortunately they had a back line, four and then three who were was perfect for us. Big slow dominant centre halves should be exactly what Forster and Rougier want to play against. The service that was given to them was much better, especially from Igoe who I thought was outstanding. The man who scores a hattrick must be man of the match but Igoe ran him very close. We were the better team for the whole 90 minutes. We started well, dominating possession but not really hurting them.
Once Forster nodded in his first then there was only going to be one result. The second, which was a result of a classic collision between their keeper and Marshall, just made the task easier. Roug hit the bar and went off to a bigger ovation than the one that greeted Forster. He really has turned his season around and has come good just when we needed him to. I think the place would have gone wild had he scored! The only complaint if there has to be one, would be that we did not double our tally. Before he scored Forster squandered a wonderful opportunity by not looking up. Cureton, who looked sharp when he came on, had chances but drifted into offside positions too easily. Henderson too might have scored. We all now know that the other results went our way. The message must be to keep it going. Wigan will be tough but at the same time Stoke are at Cardiff. We should all give a cheer to Chesterfield this week as they play Brighton on Monday and Bristol City on Saturday. If we keep winning, however none of this matters, because we will be going up!

-- Ken C

At last the ghost of the long-ball has been laid to rest! The past few games especially, the speed and passing has been excellent, at last a team that is a joy to watch! Igoe was excellent but most surprisingly was his strength, he tackled hard and won the ball so many times, for a team managed by a legendary "hard-man" Blackpool looked very weak and Igoe, smallest guy on the pitch, really had a field day. Mackie and Williams have really gelled in the centre of defence and have covered for the recent loan-goalies so well. I can't believe Pardew was considering selling Mackie, please keep a hold of him! Shorey too has been a revelation, excellent ball control and him and Murty have been really exciting wing-backs, getting forward well but working so hard to get back to defend. Hughes is still the weakest link but yesterday was one of his better games, after his abysmal start to the season I hope the good run of results and team performances will give him more confidence and he can only improve. Pardew does need to get the shooting improved too, yesterday should have been at least 7-0, there were so many chances similar to the QPR game, against better opposition, the poor finishing and problem with killing off weaker teams could prove costly. What we, and the team really deserve is a real goal-fest, yesterday promised one but next Saturday (Wigan will be tough) against Colchester hopefully, Rougier and Cureton MUST score, the atmosphere would be amazing if they did!
-- Steve W

Another solid performance by Reading and it is encouraging that in every department we looked competent, organised and a team in control of its destination. Whilst 3-0 was a good score line, it was disappointing that Reading couldn't make the tally more in keeping with the balance of play, 4 or 5-0 would not have been an unreasonable result. Blackpool who have scored 9 times in their last two league games never really threatened apart from the odd break away in the first half and Reading too early on in the match got into the comfort zone and almost treated the game as a practice session, such was the standard of the opponents. It was disappointing from the football perspective that Blackpool were not the side a number of the pundits had warned could cause a threat to Reading, whilst our home form against lower position sides has been far from impressive this season, Blackpool never looked like causing an upset. On the day though class told and Blackpool could not deal with the likes of Rougie, Fozzy and Igo who are really playing with increasing confidence. Parkinson put in another solid performance and although he is not a crowd pleaser he is in inspirational form at the moment and his contribution must be one reason why we are causing othersides so much trouble. Hughes hopefully has now settled and I am sure more good things will come from him, It was in midfield that Reading looked weak earlier in the season, it is here though that we have improved and are starting to take charge and control of matches. Pardew must feel confident with players like Gamble and Smith ready to come in to carryon the good work if required, which is a nice position to be in at this stage of the season. Gamble looked class again when he made a brief appearance at the end of the match and you feel if he gets a run in the first team as Shorey has, it will be difficult for Pardew to leave him on the bench. I predict that he could finish the season as a first team regular and make the difference Reading are looking for to take us up as division two champion. Turning to the Wigan match, Reading will feel they have plenty in reserve following this performance against Blackpool, and as Milwall did last season can get a result from a tough away fixture to emerg as the dominant division two side. Reading and Wigan must be the two form teams at the moment and if we can come away from the JCB stadium with a result Pardew and Dillon will feel tactically, that they have come of age too. If Reading do come away on Tuesday night with something to cheer about, our biggest threat over coming weeks could be ourselves, either way Reading must feel like true champion contenders at the moment and with Bristol and Stoke failing to capitalise we look like the team to beat. Bring on Colchester and Notts County and watch out Stoke the Royals are on a mission.
-- Paul Finch

This is now serious!
Who would have predicted yesterdays results? Loads saying need a result against Wigan, I don't agree, if before somebody offered a draw at both Huddersfield and Wigan, we'd have taken it definitely, but with a win at Huddersfield, anything at Wigan is a bonus. Blackpool were dreadful and we could have easily won 7-0 but lets keep our feet on the ground and build on the recent tremendous form. We're playing with great confidence and the spirit in the camp is there to see. Although this may be unfair, with three months to go, if we blow it this time, it will be years before we recover. Play offs should not be an option nor exist in our language, it's automatic promotion we want. Dream scenario, last game against Brentford, promotion secured need a point for the championship... come on you mighty Royals... can we? Please!

-- Nick Newbury

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