MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

22 February 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Harper (15 mins), Hughes (32 mins), Forster (40 mins).
Rotherham United:
Half Time: 3-0
Attendance: 14,816

DIVISION ONE  22 Feb 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
2 Leicester 33 68 +26
3 READING 33 58 +13
4 Notts F 32 54 +23
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Brown, Shorey, Hughes (Henderson 74), Harper, Salako (Watson 81), Sidwell, Chadwick, Forster (Tyson 68). Subs not used: Mackie, Ashdown.
Rotherham United:
Pollitt, Bryan, Mullin, McIntosh, Hurst, Sedgwick, Woodhouse, Swailes, Garner (Monkhouse 53), Lee, Byfield (Richard Barker 78). Subs not used: Gray, Daws, Warne.
Reading: Williams.
Rotherham United:
Referee: Mike Thorpe (Suffolk)

Reading marched to their fifth straight league victory this afternoon to complete a perfect February and build on a solid third place in Division One. Rotherham were swept aside with a dramatic first half performance from the Royals that saw them steam into a 3-0 half time lead. Reading didn't need to overstretch themselves in the second half and Rotherham never really threatened to get back into the game with Reading sealing the points before the second half had even kicked off. The opening forty five minutes from the Royals was nearly as good as they come as they hit the visitors with three fantastic goals with pace and precision that tore the Millers to pieces. They must have wondered what hit them as Reading put on a show of attacking football that wouldn't have looked out of place at the top of the Premiership. It took just fifteen minutes for Reading to show what was to come when Chadwick set up Forster down the right. Forster cut the ball back to Harper who drove it into the top of the net from the edge of the box. It was 2-0 to Reading just after the half hour with another amazing finish from distance. This time Reading steamed forward on the break and Hughes exchanged passes with Forster on the left before receiving the ball back and driving it home. Just before the break the victory was all but wrapped up when Reading put together another fast attacking move that left the Rotherham defence standing as the ball was quickly played forward. Hughes and Forster again linked up, with Hughes crossing from the right and Forster sticking it in from close distance to make it 3-0. Rotherham had a few chances throughout the first and second half and never looked a poor side - they were just beaten by a side that looked well in control and perhaps had a touch more class. Hahnemann made a couple of saves and Rotherham threatened with some high balls, but mostly Reading had no problems dealing with the visitors and were happy to stroke the ball around towards the end of the game for a comfortable victory.

Following report from John Wells:
It was not just the result that was significant about this fine victory , it was the manner in which their opponents, potential play-ff contenders, were swept aside with ease. Rotherham are renowned for their battling qualities but they simply could not contend with the power, pace and flair of a Reading side who now look very strong contenders for a place in the Premiership. Today the Royals wore the look of a team that believed they were good enough to go up and at this moment few would bet against them.

The first half was an exhibition of fine passing and movement punctuated by three superbly constructed and taken goals. The first came when Chadwick slipped a clever pass to Forster down the right who cut the ball back to the edge of the penalty area. Harper not in the slightest deterred by an imminent challenge, struck as sweet a shot as you are likely to see this anywhere season high into the top corner of the net. The second was equally spectacular. Hughes sent Forster through with a carefully weighted pass, received the ball back from the striker on the edge of the box, and smashed the ball high into the roof of the net. With five minutes left in the half Forster killed Rotherham off. Once again was Hughes was involved, breaking quickly down the left he slid in a perfect cross which curled behind the defence and eluded the 'keeper leaving Fozzy with a simple tap in at the far post. The only time Rotherham looked likely to score was when the Reading defence got itself in a muddle and nearly put the ball in their own net. When the whistle went the crowd were on their feet applauding a great first half performance which made the second half more or less a formality.

In contrast the second half was a understandably an anti-climax, but if you were a Reading fan there could be no complaints. The Royals eased back but still threatened to increase their lead with more slick passing and movement. By the end Chadwick was cutting through Rotherham's defence at will with clever flicks and twists and turns. Rotherham had no answers to the problems posed by the Reading midfield which was full of energy and invention, and their scoring attempts were easily snuffed out by a dominant back four. Tyson and Henderson came on to remind us that there are good young players waiting for their chance to break into the team.

Pardew and Dillon have moulded their squad into a very solid and entertaining team. There were good performances throughout the team today. Harper was as industrious as ever, and hit some superb long passes. Chadwick frequently went past three or four defenders with ease, and played through some excellent passes. Sidwell clearly had been briefed to concentrate on defensive duties and was outstanding, constantly winning possession and breaking up Rotherham attacks. He almost added a fourth goal near the end too. Hughes made a mess of several passes and a couple of scoring chances, but also created chances through superb passing and strong direct running from midfield. Forster worked hard and has recently begun to look much stronger in the air, making life even more difficult for opposing centre backs.

It was good to see Watson back for brief appearance as substitute. At his best, he fits comfortably into a side that is passing well, and we are bound to need his services before the end of the season as injuries and suspensions arise as surely they must. Just before Christmas I felt sure we would drop out of play-off contention. Since then Brown, Sidwell and Chadwick have arrived to make me eat my words. There was brief chorus of "We are going up" today. If we can perform well enough to beat Sheffield United away, and dominate at as we did today, it is a real possibility. I can't wait to see what he national press have to say about our chances tomorrow.

worthing royal
A first half of sheer brilliance. Three great goals, controlled football, and real spirit, not seen too often before at the Mad Stad. The change in style brought about by the introduction of Sidwell and Chadwick has taken Reading to new highs. It has allowed Andy Hughes to play in his best position, down the centre of midfield, and it has also given a new lease of life to Harper. We actually look like a proper football team, and have finally stopped belting the ball over the top of midfield. We are now passing the ball through the pitch, and look unstopable. 15 goals in 5 games, only conceding 4 is championship form. It is unfortunately too late for that, but if we can keep going as we are, there is no reason why we shouldn't make the play offs after all. Bit of a poor second half, but who cares? The job was done by then. Quite nice for me in my seaside exile, as Rouge scored the goal for Brighton in their 1 nil win at home over Mr Magoo. I can be incredibly patronising in the pub tonight. Can't wait for the Dons away. For their sake, I hope they dont think we will roll over and play dead against them again, like we did earlier in the season, when they beat us at home. Better not book your trips to Cardiff just yet, but I think we can all agree that we have turned a very big corner at the club. Well done to all. URZZZZ
thatcham royal
Somebody is going to have to help me, because of I can't think of an example. When (if ever) was the last time a Reading team played like that?
I just can't believe what I saw. We played one of our near rivals, and comprehensively destroyed them. Our movement, passing, desire were faultless. I truly can't remember a Reading performance like that. Some are close, but this was awesome. I'm not exagerating when I say that, that team, playing that way, would have beaten at least half of the current Premier league sides. I can't put into words how I feel after that. A friend predicted we would either struggle in a very hard fought game, or we would give them a hiding. Even he didn't imagine that. Not one player deserved less than man of the match. Rotherham simply didn't know where the next attack was coming from or how to contain us. Every player was dangerous. We opened them up at will and passed through and around them. It was exhibition stuff. We were so in control of this game it was laughable.
Pardew must be close to bursting tonight. I know I am. If we can manage to play like that in the 3 play off games, nobody can stop us.
Come on Reading!
ken c
Bright incisive football of a very high quality, is what we were treated to in the first half today. Those of us who have watched Reading for many a long year were proud of the quality of the fare laid before us today. In the first half the passing was crisp and accurate but there were three factors that ensured our victory. The first was the confidence of the players, the second was the pace that was evident in many areas of the pitch, but the third and most important was that we were able to put the ball in the back of the net. Rotherham were not a bad side by any means. They had a lot of possession, even in the first half when Byfield and the impressive Lee offered quite a lot, but they were no match for the quality that we had when we struck at goal. The game started brightly and showed hints of what was to come. We might have scored on several occasions as Hughes, and Forster both went close. When the first goal came it was the result of a good move, but tremendous credit should go to Harper whose strike was excellent and showed how he continues to develop. This theme of development is important because at the heart of the team were three young players who, if they stay fit and work hard have good futures in the game. Sidwell worked tirelessly and Hughes is getting better and better in terms of his running. It is not just his athleticism but the timing of his runs and his strength on the ball, and his strike for the his goal bettered that of Harper. It is vitally important that when you play with just one striker, that the rest of the team weigh in with their share of the goals and this is what is happening now. Fossie got his as well and the first half was as good as it has been at home this year. That I have got this far without mentioning Chadwick is unfair to him and to the manager who got him here. We can now attack from anywhere on the pitch and Chadwick has brought some real control on the right hand side. One of the highlights of the second half was a turn by him to feed Henderson which just reeked of quality as did a move by him in the first half as he left two defenders wondering what had happened. Three nil looks like an easy victory but I suspect that the boring old stats did not support that. Rotherham had lots of possession, were certainly dangerous in the air, and had chances that they just hit at the goalie or wide. Our defence had to work hard and Williams once again displayed real quality. After a poor start to the season I think he has been terrific and was delighted that he has secured his future with us. The play offs are a real prospect and are ours to loose now. Let's hope that this team can finish a season off properly, we don't want a repeat of last year! Well done today terrific! If we keep going as we did today we will be OK. In the final minute of the game Sidwell made a terrific run to get up and strike at goal only to see his lob go just wide. I don't think that will happen to us at the end of the year!
darren hall
Things that made me smile today... The SUN listing Jamie Cureton as KEY MAN for the clash with Rotherham. I remember those days...
Stoke getting tonked 6-0 at Forest, although a rival to our rightful place in the premiership, I do have a total hatred for the supposeded big-time charlies from the Potteries. Reading losing 2-0 at Grimsby in the true life comic strip that is Striker in the SUN, yeah right... The continuing sad demise of the Blades promotion push, god the home ends of Bramall Lane must have been even more quiet today than on Tuesday night. Hearing the news that a certain T. Rougier had scored (with his first touch) for a team in blue and white! Surley a misprint?
Oh, and the small matter of the Rampant Royals chalking up five wins on the bounce.
What a week, what a month, what a season. I hear it on good authority that the Brazilian FA have made an application to change their home kit to blue and white hoops... King Alan I salute you... Nuff said... URzzzz!!
nick newbury
What joy for the home fans to see a first half performance that carried on just where we left off at Sheffield Utd. Five straight wins! The swarm of blue and white steaming towards the Rotherham goal in the first half was tremendous, certainly gave big gob Ronnie Moore something to think about. Having witnessed one of the best second halfs by a Reading team at Sheffield I reckon the first half yesterday rates as one of the best seen at the Madejski. Three super goals including one from the most improved player at the club in James Harper who's partnership with Sid Sidwell is starting to look very promising. Does anybody else think Sidwell looks like a taller Simon Osbourne? Having gone through a right dodgy spell Andy Hughes has come back and made all his critics including myself choke on their words as he's produced a couple of sparkling performances in recent games. If only he could finish some of those amazing runs of better, but hey, what a thumping shot for the second, nearly burst the net, well played Hughsie. Defence was solid again and I like to take the opportunity to give Steve Brown some praise. The bloke came in on a hiding to nothing following Upson's departure and has done absolutely nothing wrong, quietly getting on with his game, solid and dependable at the back with Ade Beckenbauer. He may not be the fastest on the pitch but Brown deserves credit for the job he has done for Reading FC, well done mate. Looks like Pardew will rightly win manager of the month for going undefeated in February, we all know what that means so fingers crossed the curse won't strike again.
Dizzy times as we march on towards the play offs, the thought of Royals fans all over the world in the likes of Japan, Australia, USA, South Africa and Swindon following our fortunes from afar is quite lifting. We should turn the Milton Keynes game at Palace on Saturday into a home game as we should outnumber the home fans by about 100 to 1, get there, sing up, get behind the lads, have a party and win or lose have a great day... come on you Mighty Royals!!!
maidenheaed royal
Another impressive performance from Reading. It is a pity that we had the game won at halftime as the second half was a slight anticlimax. Still noone is complaining. If we continue to play this way then we must have every chance of making the playoffs. We do not want to get too carried away but enjoy it. Talk of finishing second is a little optimistic but you never know. Just as with Mathew Upson, Luke Chadwick seems to be acting as a catalyst as he is making the players see what can be achieved. Nicky Forster seemed to have his brain in gear yesterday as he was passing and doing it at the right time. This is using his ability to the best. It is worth every penny that we are paying Chadwick just to have this affect. Sidwell seems to have made a big difference and also Harper is playing well. There still seems to be a bit too much hoof out of defence sometimes especially by Williams. Hughes is performing better but remains an enigma. Some of the things he does are excellent but then some of his passing and pass selection are terrible. Still he has plenty of time to improve. Lastly we do not seem to be praising the staff enough. Pards and Dill get a lot of praise but do not forget the fantastic job that Niall Clark and Jon Fearn are doing. It can be no accident that we have had hardly any injuries apart from Gamble and Savage who, with respect, would have only been fringe players. Now let us concentrate on another 3 points at Wimbledon and let us have many more fans than them at the game.
Another great win Saturday against Rotherham, Keep it up boys.
We don't want Alan to get Manager of the month although he should win it with 5 victories, but look at the last time he won it November was a bad month not winning many games. Same with last season. Won manager of the month and went the next month without winning a game. March is going to be a important month for promotion. Good Luck for the rest of the season we are going up.
Took my son and his grandad to the match - my father in law is a life-long Rotherham supporter so comes down to stay with us for this clash (last time was 2 years ago).
Must say, I felt sorry for the poor chap!
caversham royal
A very comfortable win. Three excellent strikes. Harper really deserved his goal for the way he's been playing of late, and the curve on his shot was amazing. Hughes too deserves great credit for his performances, and his wonderful goal was a testament to that. Forster too has realised of late what a striker is there for, and both goals 1 & 2 came from PASSES (shock!) of his, and again he popped up in the right place at the right time to get his 11th. Bit of a shame we stepped off the gas in the second half, but 3-0 is not to be grumbled at this stage of the season. I have to moan now, because if I didn't I'd twitch for the rest of the week. Radio Berks;- FOOLS. We played well today. But we are not the WORLD BEATERS they made us out to be. Pete Morris, whether in 'love us' or 'hate us' mode, ON-ONE dare have a different opinion to him. The guy should be taken off the air and have Kingsley Royal's suit present the programme. He is NOT a Reading fan whatever he may say and is only there to hear the sound of his own voice and opinion. TAKE HIM OFF! There we go, I had to get a moan in somewhere.
Well done Reading, keep it up. And Rougier scored on his Brighton debut... There is a God. COME ON...
peter richardson
I would have to think long and hard to remember a better 45 minutes by a Reading side in the 25 years I've supported the Royals. Great movement, passing and some truly dynamic finishing a joy to watch. My only grumble was the poor gate on the back of 2 outstanding away performances. It begs the question do the Reading public want Premiership football? On this turnout clearly not.
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