MATCH REPORT: 2003/2004 Season

27 September 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: -
Arca (28 mins), Oster (32 mins).
Half Time: 2-0
Attendance: 22,420

DIVISION ONE 27 Sep 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
9 Cardiff City 9 14 +7
10 READING 9 14 +5
11 Burnley 10 13 -2
Reading: Hahnemann, Shorey, Brown, Williams, Murty, Hughes, Sidwell, Harper (Newman 62), Murray (Daley 62), Forster, Salako (Goater 45). Subs not used: Mackie, Ashdown.
Poom, Arca, McCartney, Breen, Williams, Butler (Tommy Smith 86), Thirlwell (Thornton 54), Healy, Oster, Kyle, Stewart (Proctor 86). Subs not used: Ingham, Bjorklund.
Reading: Newman.

Referee: H Webb (Rotherham)

Kevin Dillon's hopes of securing the management job on a permanent basis were dealt a big blow with this result - his third defeat from four league games that has seen Reading plummet from second to tenth in the league table. Rumour has it that Reading's new manager will be announced during the coming week - so this defeat couldn't have come at a worse time. After out-classing Oxford during the week things were looking good for Dillon, but today it was Reading's turn to be outclassed against a side that were simply more organised. Dillon stuck to the 4-5-1 formation that had been so successful at Oxford but it simply didn't work throughout a very poor opening forty five minutes from the Royals.

Reading got off to a bright enough start with a couple of good passing moves to work the ball forward and maintain a bit of possession - but it didn't last long with Sunderland quickly getting into the game and Reading just as quickly fading out. Reading's game plan to use a packed midfield with Sidwell back in the team in place of Newman lasted for just a few minutes. At Oxford we stroked the ball deliciously around the pitch making the full use of the midfield and playing the ball out wide to some very effective wingers. At Sunderland we quickly resorted to long balls pumped up the field with Forster the target. In truth the balls were entirely hopeful with only a few landing anywhere close to Forster who was well marshalled by the Sunderland defence. With our midfield effectively bypassed it was simply up to the defence to keep Reading in the game against Sunderland, who could attack at will. And so the pattern was set, Sunderland could build as they wished and Reading would just hoof it clear when they got the chance. A Reading goal seemed as far away as possible.

Any hope that Reading's defence might hold was quickly under doubt with a defensive mix-up between Williams and Hahnemann nearly costing us. Hahnemann's hesistation nearly saw Sunderland pull ahead as he failed to continue coming to the edge of this area to collect the ball. The home side did pull ahead just before the half hour when Hahnemann was expecting a cross from the left. The ball came flying over from the left side of the box and flew deep into the back of the net with Hahnemann stranded. A few minutes later the second goal came from the left as well when the cross with met with a firm header inside the Reading box to make it 0-2. Sunderland's job was already done with the three points in the bag at half time.

Credit must be given to Dillon for realising that it simply wasn't working and for making hasty chances during the break. Goater, who had been left out in favour of playing 4-5-1 started the second half, with Salako replaced, as Reading reverted back to the 4-4-2 formation that had been succcessful prior to the Oxford match. The combination of Goater and Forster hinted that it might have some return with some early Goater involvement. Just after the break Forster broke free through the middle of the home defence and got in a half decent shot on target that was unfortunately right at Poom in the Sunderland goal. Again after a bright start, Reading failed to gain any kind of momentum and Sunderland continued to look comfortable.

Daley replaced Murray midway through the second half and Newman came off the bench as Dillon re-arranged the side a little more to try and create a break through. Daley again looked exciting down the right wing but he couldn't produce enough of a spark to pull Reading back into the game. Sunderland were happy to soak up Reading's limited pressure as they came forward, but they were never in any danger of letting the three points slip.


Another very poor display by Reading. I wondered at half time whether the players really cared. I came up with the view that individually they probably did. The problem was, that as a team, there was no co-ordination. The only moment at Sunderland where teamwork mattered was at the group hug before kick off. The players should have an individual desire for success, but should also want to win for each other. Today, there was no such desire. We are not a team challenging for promotion. We are a team, where on performances so far this season, we are lucky to be in the first division. The only real issue at the end of the season, I fear, will be avoiding the dreaded drop. Let us not kid ourselves. We have performed well in two league games this season. We were awesome at Ipswich, and had to settle for a draw. We demolished Forest, and we all started to believe. Since then, we have flattered to deceive at home to Rotherham. We were lucky that Derby didn't equalise. Wimbledon don't really count, and apart from the second half against Cardiff, we have been, at best, ordinary. Pards created a team that, last season, did ok. Fozzie as a lone striker worked then, but for God's sake, the opposition have seen through our clever plan now! We still have the players that can do it. The support is there, but won't have the piss taken. Let us appoint a manager who can deliver. The Nicky Hammond thing is laudable, in that it recognises loyalty, and all that. What it doesn't do, is give us a realistic way forward into the Premiership. Let us get off this highbrow stance where we lose our own manager to the realities that exist in football, but we stubbornly refuse to see the need to adopt the same realities when we need a replacement. We have all come a long way. Strangely enough, the way back is a lot shorter, and not one we should be contemplating. Come on Board of Directors, be brave. We may need to re-build a little to be a credible force again, but with the right appoitment now, we could still get to the promised land. It could still even happen this season! URRRZZZZ!
Kevin, Worthing Royal.

Like a group of Sunday school children who had lost their teacher on a school outing , Reading meekly succumbed to another defeat as the club continues to plummet to mid table mediocrity following being left well and truly in the shit by Pardew . It's getting painful to watch , goals are being conceded with frighting ease and when we need the infamous " spirit , tenacity and flair " to get us out of trouble and get a result , the opposite applies . I find it hard to find three words that resemble what's going on at the moment . I'll be amongst the few at Norwich on Tuesday to see if we can get back on track again for what is now appears to be the realistic objective of a play off place . It's unbelievable to see how the same side that had so much confidence , guile and swagger at the start of the season have sadly turned into a team who are clearly lacking in leadership , direction and indeed that vital factor confidence . Yes I do blame Pardew , well and truly , but of course life goes on . Still many many games to go , but I fear unless the club and JM act swiftly in appointing a manager asap , it really will be a season of consolidation after a start that promised so much . A draw will be a great result on Tuesday under such uncertain circumstances .......URZ
Nick Newbury

Like many Royals' fans I watched the game courtesy of Sky. I have to say that I found it very frustrating. Most of you reading this will also have seen the game and have drawn your own conclusions. What I would like to add is the fact that the players who failed to deliver, were, in the main, the younger ones. Sidwell, Harper Shorey and those recently brought in by he who should no longer be named, Goater and Murray. Those with a bit more seniority, like Williams, Brown,Murty and Forster have been though this all before and did OK. The way Hughes is pilloried by certain sections on this site does them no favours. He has been asked to play a number of roles. His passing is not of the highest order, but he is always prepared to have a go, and his running is an example for all in the team. Personally I think he has been better than Harper this season and have never understood why he was player of the season last year against Forster and Williams.
So the results would suggest that Dillon is not the man for the job. Who can tell from this distance? It would have been interesting to hear the club's captain view on this! What is important now is that the right decision is made as quickly as possible. It is almost an impossible decision and if you look at the current Spurs situation that will tell you much. You only know if you got it right a few years down the line. The reality is that we have become a good first division side very quickly. Other clubs have done that in their first year in this division - Milwall, Preston etc. What is also true is that other clubs are getting their house in order financially where we have had a short term advantage. I still believe we over achieved last year which was a tremendous achievement by all concerned. If that is to be maintained then we have to pay the price. That only comes from the Chairman and as such is an unfair request because we do not have the gates to compete with some of our rivals. This match was both frustrating and understandable. What we have to as fans is to support both the team, and that is all of them, and the decision that JM finally comes to.
Ken C

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