(Half Time: 1-4)
Reading Scorers: Hughes (4 mins), Cureton (13 mins, 43 mins), A.Smith (45 mins).
Notts County Scorers: Allsopp (7 mins, pen 68 mins), Grayson (84 mins).
Date: 20 October 2001
Attendance: 5,604

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Viveash, Whitbread, Robinson, A.Smith, Harper (N.Smith 70), Parkinson, Hughes (Forster 80), Cureton (Henderson 86), Butler. Subs not used: Ashdown, Shorey.

Notts Country: Mildenhall, Warren, Cas, Baraclough, Richardson, Brough (Hamilton 79), Grayson, Caskey (Owers 45), Liburd, Allsopp, Hackworth (Stallard 63). Subs not used: Garden, Jorgensen.
A.Smith, Harper, Parkinson, Viveash (Reading); Allsopp, Baraclough, Grayson (Notts County).
R Pearson (Peterlee)

On the way to the game it was hard to expect anything from this fixture apart from a defeat. We agreed we'd settle for a point, but really couldn't see us being able to score more than a goal at the most. And then there was ex-Reading player Darren Caskey looking to put in a good performance against his old club. We had nasty visions of Caskey sticking in one of his famous free-kicks right at the end of the game to give County a victory. It could have been the biggest nightmare possible for Alan Pardew - already suffering from abuse for his sides recent performances. Thankfully, at full time, it was a completely different story. Reading had scored four goals, won away, and Caskey had put in such a poor performance that he was replaced at half time. Pardew had proved himself right in more than one way and his delight was clear as he came over to the travelling fans at the end of the game and punched the air with delight. This was a very good day for Pardew who had enjoyed the full support from the Reading fans behind the goal throughout the ninety minutes.

The starting line-up was probably close to Pardew's first choice eleven - featuring both Hughes and Alex Smith that Pardew bought in during the close season. With the return of Murty the defence was back to the normal combination - with only Adrian Williams missing with Viveash in his place in the centre of defence. This was Pardew's team of choice playing his favoured 4-4-2 formation. And it worked a treat for the opening 45 minutes, suggesting that Pardew does have the right idea and can get the team playing how he wants them. The midfield worked and we showed we could score goals, although the defence remained more than a little worrying. The second half was a bit crap, but the first half was fantastic entertainment from the Royals who stuck away four superb goals to deservedly take the three points.

Reading looked a different side right from the start. It was hard to believe when we took the lead after just three minutes of play, and even harder to believe that it had come from some great football. Cureton was released down the right and did really well to cut inside and into the area. He then delivered a great low cross to Hughes who had worked his way into the box from the left. Hughes hit it first time, meeting the cross a treat, to send the ball across the keeper and into the bottom corner of the net. 1-0 to the Royals - and just the start we needed to get the confidence going.

It was back to typical Reading just three minutes later. It was hard to feel suprised when we gifted them an immediate equaliser. Viveash was faced with a simple back pass to Whitehead on the edge of the box, but strangely tapped it as light as possible backwarsd and just stood there. Perhaps he wasn't aware of County's Allsopp stood right by him. Whitehead certainly was but he could do nothing about it as Allsopp sneaked it between him and Viveash. Whithead came out, Allsopp took it wide and stuck it into an empty net from an angle. A gift, and 1-1. With a poor run of results behind us it could have all gone wrong at this point as County launched a couple of attacks with a few shots that didn't trouble Whitehead.

Reading recovered quickly though started playing some great football. Proper football, on the ground, and making use of the midfield to feed the ball forward. It worked, although we regained the lead after County failed to clear and the ball dropped nicely to Cureton in the middle of the box. Cureton had two players on him and it looked like it would be hard to get in a shot, but he prodded it to the right and then suddenly turned on it, firing it inside the post. 2-1 to Reading with just 13 minutes on the clock and Jamie Cureton on the scoresheet. Things really were looking up.

The rest of the half was reasonably even, but Reading always looked more dangerous when they came forward thanks to some lovely football from both Smith and Hughes in midfield. Hughes certainly rose to the occassion against his old club and almost grabbed a second with a shot that hit the underside of the County crossbar, meanwhile Caskey fired a couple of woeful efforts over the bar into the Reading crowd who were more than happy to taunt Caskey about his pie eating ability and general crapness. The Reading defence didn't look too tight. Robinson was getting beaten time after time allowed County to put in a couple of crosses. Whitehead did well to claim quite a few of them, and County failed to get in any really dangerous shots when perhaps they should have done after bringing the ball forward.

With the game heading towards half time Reading wrapped it up with two more well worked goals. The ball was cleared and Smith took it forward and played a great ball into the middle finding Cureton a good distance from goal. Cureton just hit it and the ball went flying into the roof of the net. 3-1 to Reading, and now we really couldn't believe it. Just as important as the scoreline was the fact Cureton had grabbed two - perhaps it will kick-start his goal scoring this season. It was 4-1 in injury time of the first half with perhaps the best goal of the game after a few passes resulted in Smith getting the ball on the edge of the ball and he drove it in a treat with plenty of power. The keeper had no chance with that one.

We seemed to change tactics at half time and rather than increase the lead after the break we seemed to want to play time out. The passing from the back was gone. Instead we were content to just hoof it forward and clear it everytime we got the ball in defence. It meant the second half wasn't even close in terms of the quality of play Reading had shown in the first half. With Caskey off the pitch, County improved slightly as Reading let them attack. Reading's tactics seemed to be working though as time ticked away and the Royals got closer and closer to victory. With just over twenty minutes to go County got a glimmer of hope after a player went down in the area and Viveash was booked for bringing him down. The resulting penalty made it 4-2.

Reading failed to make many chances in the second half, but Butler will again be disappointed after failing to take his. Butler managed to get one shot in on target but again failed to find any power and the resulting shot was more like a back pass - an easy catch for the keeper. Towards the end of the game Reading could have grabbed another one after great work by Alex Smith down the left resulted in a cross that Butler just failed to get his head onto. Butler's lack of form remains a worry. The biggest worry of the day naturally came in the last ten minutes as Reading had to hang on for victory after County bundled the ball in with six minutes left to play. 4-3. As the clock ticked over to ninety minutes we thought we'd thrown it away as a County player went down in the area and everyone in the ground thought the referee was pointing to the penalty spot. Thankfully it was a goal kick, and Reading clung on for the 4-3 win.

Post Match Opinions

For about 30 minutes in the first half, Reading were fantastic and convinced us supporters that there is life in the old (mad) dog yet. Pardew lives on to fight a few more battles and on today's showing so he should. The goal by Smith (number 4) was a cracker, "absolutely superb" to use fan speak, and one of those that you fantasise about, even when you are a grown man. It was hit from the edge of the box across the goal and into the far top corner of the goal. A beautiful moment, one to savour. Another personal favourite of mine is when it hits the underside of the crossbar, bounces down and up into the roof of the net causing a slight bulge. Anyway that's enough of all that! At half time I wondered if Reading had the balls to come out and score more. 6-1 or 7-1 maybe? Sadly not and typical Reading nearly throw it all away. You could see the script being followed for a glorious Notts County comeback. A penalty (4-2) and a far post header (4-3) and then in the final 10 minutes they had a penalty shout denied (seen them given) and Whitehead made a couple of very good saves. Excellent entertainment and a welcome 3 points. "...By far the greatest team, the world has ever seen...."
-- Telford Royal

Terrific entertainment, and we deserved some, after the rubbish that has been served up this season. This was a wondeful football match and those of us who were there will remember it for a long time. Now let's think about the game in the context of our season. Firstly Pardew had his first choice midfield for a change. The only absentee from his first choice eleven was Addie Williams. They came out and got at the opposition from the start. The first half was as near to perfection as you would want. Four superb goals. everyone working hard showing that they cared for the team. One mistake by Viveash cost us a goal, but that can always happen and he recovered to putting the ball in row Z if there was any danger.
The second half was, at best, poor.
We sat back and gave them the space to attack us instead of going for the next goal which would have destroyed them. In the context of the season it was a terrific result. It was also a performance that reflected the good and best of last season. We won this match because our finishing was outstanding. Cureton looked back to his best. Hughes and Smith also scored. A weakness last year was that the midfield players did not score often enough. I thought that Butler had an excellent game. He is not confident around goal. We all know that. In all truth he should have scored with a header. What he did do was to lead the line well. He chased, he harried, he wanted to be part of the team today and as such it was a welcome relief to see.
The concerns from this match was the space that we conceeded in the second half. In all Notts County had three goals disallowed for off side (quite rightly). We did look a bit frail in terms of physical presence, though Parkie had been booked, and for once, he just did not deserve it. Viveash looked short of match practice which is understandable and Robinson after a good first half, faded to his usual self. But let's concentrate on the positives. It was a terrific match. Cureton is scoring. Hughes looked good. We have an excellent keeper in Whitehead (please get a kicking coach in to help him). Butler will score soon and showed what a good team player he is. In Murty we have a potentially outstanding right back. Today he showed that not only can he get forward, but that he understands what is needed to defend and cover your colleagues.
If you weren't there you missed one of the best!
I'm just glad I was!

-- Ken C

I didn't go yesterday, as I said I would no longer go with Pardew and Allen at the helm. Being the completely shallow bastard that I am, I shall go to the Brentford game next week in the naive hope that things are turning around. We have the players, everyone knows that, and looking at the table it is not beyond the realms of possibilty that we can still challenge. I stated last week that though he is a likeable person, Pardew must go. I would dearly love to be proved wrong, as a change of management now would effectively end this seasons hopes. I also stated last week that I didn't rate Allen's bully boy tactics. No person will change my feelings on that one.
On a lighter note Oxford lost again yesterday. A close friend of mine is an avid Oxford supporter and feeling worse than any of us Royals. I cheered him up by telling him I will be able to get him complimentary tickets for fixture against Basingstoke Town in two years time! Please, please, please Reading, build on yesterday and start moving up the table again.

-- Bob Lethaby

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