MATCH REPORT: 2002/2003 Season

28 January 2003: LEAGUE DIVISION ONE
Reading: Hughes (54 mins)
: Dickov (17 mins, 26 mins - pen), Heath (34 mins)
Half Time: 0-3
Attendance: 17,156

DIVISION ONE  28 Jan 2003
Pos Team P Pts GD
6 Coventy 29 43 +4
7 READING 28 43 +2
8 Wolves 28 42 +15
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Williams, Brown (Newman 45), Shorey, Igoe (Cureton 56), Sidwell, Harper (Butler 56), Hughes, Forster, Rougier. Subs not used: Ashdown, Tyson.
: Walker, Sinclair, Elliott, Heath, Rogers, Scowcroft, Davidson, Izzet, Stewart, Dickov, Benjamin (Tommy Wright 83). Subs not used: Flowers, Summerbee, Jones, Ashton.
Reading: Hahnemann, Newman, Sidwell, Williams.
Leicester: Benjamin, Davidson, Sinclair.
Referee: M Warren (Walsall)

Tonight Leicester's first half aerial assault was enough to put the game beyond the reach of a Reading side that is still having great difficulty in finding the back of the net. The addition of new signing Sidwell gave the home side a lift as Pardew reverted to the 4-5-1 formation which was so successful in November. I was surprised at the inclusion of Hughes in a midfield that did not appear to include an obvious holding midfield player.

The first fifteen minutes was full of hustle and bustle and did not really give any indication of what was to follow. Rougier got behind the defence and wasted the opportunity by over hitting his cross. Forster missed a half chance by taking a touch when the ball fell to him in front of goal. The ball was whisked away for a corner as he prepared to shoot. It was not to be the last time a Reading player was to be shot shy. Rougier and Shorey were also guilty later in the game.

In the twenty minutes that followed Reading completely fell apart. Two goals were conceded as result of deep crosses being headed back across goal and finished with fairly tame resistance. Size certainly does matter when you are defending against burly centre backs and forwards. Just ask Murty and Shorey. They are good players but simply could not cope with City's power in the air. Not that they should shoulder all the blame. The defence did not react at all quickly enough when the ball was loose in the box, and on the first goal Hahnemann went down like sack of potatoes. The penalty looked harsh to say the least. The third goal underlined City's superiority in the air and killed the game. It is taking Reading a month to score four at present, so it was asking a lot to do it in sixty -five minutes. To make matters worse players started losing their discipline, giving away free kicks and conceding possession in haste.

At half time Newman replaced the injured Brown in the centre of defence and Reading set about salvaging some pride from a game that threatened to turn into a massacre. On fifty four minutes the ball broke kindly to Hughes who stuck his chance away well. He then spent the rest of the game running into trouble with the ball or passing it to the team in yellow. However when the goal went in there was just a hint of a revival. That was soon snuffed out when Pardew immediately changed the formation by replacing Igoe and Harper with Cureton and Butler. I was staggered. Any momentum gained from the goal was immediately lost through the substitutions. The game then became extremely ragged and City comfortably played out time without having to worry too much about attacking.

Leicester used their experience to unsettle Reading, helped by officials that were easily conned. Dickov did a superb job of unsettling the Reading back four, and Elliot was dominant at the back. Reading did not look likely to score a second. One bright spot in another disappointing evening was the performance of Sidwell. As the game wore on, he got more and more involved, and he is clearly going to make the team stronger in midfield, but we desperately need a decent striker. I feel we need to hang on the Forster and Cureton, but surely Butler has to go. His touch is poor, he doesn't score goals and he doesn't have the pace to go past defenders. A high work rate is not enough in itself to win games. It is a time to patient. We are still building, and we are certainly still in with a chance of a play off place.
Report by John Wells

leicester royal
Could someone tell Alan Pardew that if he wants to continue purveying crap to the good people of Reading as he did tonight, that he should be honest and change his job description to Fertiliser Merchant.
caversham royal
Two facts strike me about what I sat through tonight.
1. The ref was crap. No doubt about it.
2. Although crap, the ref was not the reason Reading lost.
We lost because we were APPALLING. No doubt about that either. I heard someone saying on the way out "we were robbed tonight". They can only have been talking about paying to watch that rubbish. I should've seen the worrying signs when 'good old 4-5-1' made it's 'long awaited comeback'. However, no matter what the formation tonight we would've lost anyway playing that poorly. As with the Walsall 'games', little in the way of commitment, invention, spark, shots at goal, etc...... I also can't understand why Pardew takes off two of the only players who seemed capable of making the effort tonight, Igoe and Harper, and leaves on the likes of Hughes (lots of effort, including his goal, but AWFUL passing again), and Rougier (my other half told me the 'mighty Radio Berks' thought he "played well but ran out of steam". For God's sake, take these pratts off the air or make them actually watch a game properly!!) Something major needs to happen, because I don't reckon anyone can cope with this old rubbish much longer.
Oh, and a third fact. It was bloody cold, couldn't we have used that as a reason to get the game abandoned again?
nick newbury
Total bollocks, and that's not the referee's abysmal performance! The moment he took Igoe and Harper off leaving Hughes and the complete lazy twat Rougier on I knew that was it.
Where will the next win come from?
west sussex
I came to my third home game of the season from deepest Sussex last night. I've also been to the Withdean and Selhurst Park. I arrived at Junction 11 at 1845 but didn't get into my seat till just before Dickov scored... Great timing! The traffic (and the performance) were worse than ever. What can be done to relieve the congestion? I've come by train but have to change at Gatwick Airport. Have we investigated a rail station on the Basingstoke line? If we get a crowd in excess of 15,000, surely you'll get this problem over and over again? Solutions please... As for last night, I'll put it down to being rusty but we were feeble and Leicester definitely wanted it more. They looked a division above us which was worrying. The main problem as Pards has identified was the constant giving away of the ball in midfield. This put pressure on the back four. Brown got injured and Ricky did well in the 2nd half to cover for him. Adie had a mare as did Andy Hughes. Forster couldn't get into the game and neither Butler or Cureton could do any better when they came on. Sidwell did ok for his first game and will get better as he gets to know the others. Everyone can moan about the ref who handed out ridiculous cards and free kicks when the player quite clearly had won the ball. The penalty looked crazy but people who have seen it on telly said it was a pen. However Leicester had passion and commitment. We were tentative and feeble. At least my Blades supporting brother had a laugh on his first visit to the Mad Stad
I didn't go to the game, but how did Pardew expect to get any sort of a decent win from playing one man up front? We need to get a decent defence and fast- we're just lucky to still be where we are in the table. Oh, and another thing, give Rouge a chance; he can play first division football!
worthing royal
Another totally inept performance. My Brighton mates are now siting Reading as one of the teams they can catch. It's a damn good job we won those one nils earlier in the season. We are now playing as badly as we did the last time we went down, and you really do wonder where the next goal, let alone the next win will come from. Congratulations to Adie for being honest on the official site. At least he agrees with the rest of us, that we were total crap. It is time for a dose of honesty and reality in the rest of the camp.
We are not, and never were good enough for the play offs. The powers that be, do not really want that this season. The investment required if we were to go up, is not available. Survival in Div 1 is as much as the board ever wanted this season. That is fair enough, as they, not us, are the bank rollers. Look at Leicester. They HAVE to go up this year, or face financial ruin. Derby are deep in trouble, and the reason for the demise of both of them rests with their previous failures in the expensive top flight. If you spend to try to survive there, and incur the same costs if you are relegated, you will not survive. Mr Mad has made it clear time and again that Reading must operate as a business, and must stand on its own financial feet. He even suggested he might step down if we did make it. He said that this would be because he would have achieved his objectives. I think it is more likely that he would not sanction the phenominal extra expense. He would step aside allowing a Reading heart, rather than a Reading head to make the decisions. Sound as that business plan is, it precludes us from having a wistful year in the Premiership. Don't get me wrong. I would love to see us there. The honesty I am talking about surrounds the fact that the current board do not have it on their agenda at the costs required, firstly to get there, and secondly, to stay there. Unless and until a new Mr Moneybags appears, we should be grateful for what has changed so dramatically at the club in the last ten years.
We have done enough to stay up, and that is good. It would be nice though, to have some entertaining football to watch in the remaining games this season. So come on Pards, get the team thinking positively again. Let us sink into mid table obscurity with some exciting games along the way. After all, we are Reading fans, and we don't expect miracles. It's sad to see the team booed off the pitch. Give us all something to cheer again, even if it is with a harsh dose of reality. URZZZ
wokingham royal
Once again, Pardew's team failed to live up to their billing & the talk before the game of moving into 4th position proved just that - talk. The referee was very poor, but so were Reading. Leicester chased every ball & showed the level of commitment that any team with genuine promotion hopes needs to have. Where has Reading's drive & commitment gone to?
From a tactical perspective, there did not appear to be any tactics. Poor old Sidwell must have wondered what he has joined. He showed some nice touches & was prepared to get stuck in - but the rest of the midfield was poor. After Igoe & Harper went off the midfield was almost non-existent with Hughes running into people but, apart from the goal, he did not make any real contribution. I can't even bring myself to discuss Rougier, except that he is a waste of space. Surely last night, there was room for Salako & Watson? Williams needs to control himself as the red mist descended after the off the ball incident with Benjamin, & there was only one thing on his mind & he let the team down with his actions. A shame, as he has had a very good season so far. Is it me, or does Hahnemann lack confidence right now? Praise to Shorey & Murty again, both very solid but are being let down by their colleagues. At least I was there for half price, because as my mate Keith said, Reading only played for half the game.
mad in mortimer
We need to practice set pieces, we are hopeless at corners and free kicks.
tails from woodley
Sorry to point out that Leicester was the same team that lost 4-1 to Wolves last weekend. Even Radio Berks made a pre-match comment about "hope Pardew has seen the tape of Wolves game". Point was in that game they kept the ball on the ground and Ndah ran at Leicester's 8ft 6inch players who are good at dealing with high balls and crosses but no good at dealing with teams that run at them. So how come we kept punting the ball up field to one man against 4 defenders. I know "..we are learning; Pardew is learning...." etc etc etc but how may times have we seen this lot punt the ball and continue to punt when it is clear after 10 minutes it isn't working and the East Stand are screaming to pass it.
Footballers eh - bank balances high - brain cells - ?
pete gumner
Another inept display from the "play-off chasing" Royals. How we are 7th is a mystery and if we're still in the top half in a month I'll be well happy. You could tell from the 1st 10 minutes that it was going to be a long long night. Why sign a new midfield player, play 5 in the midfield and get your goalkeeper to hoof it as hard as he can over them in the direction of Fozzy?
I'd love to know if Pardew and Dillon bother discusing tactics and the team before the game. It must be like a raffle. Thats the only way to explain Rougiers inclusion in the side - his name being pulled out of a hat. You need all the religious belief he rants on about just to sit there and watch him. He cannot pass the ball, can't cross, certainly can't tackle, scores once a year and spent most of last night walking about looking upwards for the man upstairs to give him some help. AND he managed to stay on for 90 minutes.
What "Golden boy" Hughes has to do to get dropped is a mystery as well. He may have scored, but made no tackles and completed no passes all night. Some praise must go to Harper as he looked like he wanted the ball (maybe thats why he was taken off), and to Fozzy who tried his hardest on his own up there 1st half.
All in all an embarrasing performance in bloody freezing temperatures. Next home game we're on TV against Gillingham. What a "treat" for the Sky Viewers!
lower early
And I was worried that it was just me that thought Igoe & Harper were our best players out there. I've always been a fan of Sammy's (great touch and passer), but Harper has impressed with his non stop effort and at least they both pass to one of our's. I thought Sidwell showed that he will be an asset, but we need a midfield enforcer in the Parky mould.
Rougier has no idea where he's going half the time, and Hughes' passing was awful. Even Marcus is looking poor at the moment. This was a chance to go 4th in the table and there should have been the effort to reflect this. I know Upson was a major influence in the 'run' but what about the rest, were we really a one man team? The ref was bad but we didn't do ourselves any favours with some of the challenges going in. All in all Leicester were 'up for it' and deserved to win.
This game cost a lot of people £26 or more, value for money? Don't think so. Will I be back? Depends how many more performances like this are dished up.
I'm a leicester fan at the game on tuesday. you talk about your lack of commitment and desire, ours was great, for the first time in a long while. For once we played throughout the entire game, were first to all the dead balls and won all the 50:50's. A super performance by all the team with Muzzy Izzet controlling the midfield and Dickov never stopping trying. Your goalkeeper was shockingly bad as he flapped at everything, and yes it was probably a penalty although a soft one, and yes you're goal was offside! Do remember though you only got promoted last season, you can't really have ambitions much higher than midtable respectablility. Anyway, hail the referee on New Years Day, and thank you Reading for maybe getting our season back on track. - ?
emmer green royal
What a load of bollocks! The only question is which was the biggest load of crap Readings performance or some fans claiming that we were ‘cheated’ out of the points by the ref?
Was it really the refs fault that Reading couldn’t pass, couldn’t tackle, had no shape, left players unmarked for two of the goals, had a total inability to break down the opposition and ran around like headless chickens? I think not. Ok so the ref was poor but we would’ve lost however good the ref was playing like that. The only people to blame are the players and even more so the seemingly tactically inept manager. I’m have never been an anti-Pardew man but I’ve also never been entirely convinced by him and at the moment I am definitely swaying towards the anti side. Maybe he can become a very good manager but it seems he has a lot of learning to do and as a result we are not moving forward as much as we should be.
Why were Harper and Igoe taken off? They were the only two players who looked like they were doing anything. Instead Rougier and Sidwell, (who had an appalling debut) stayed on. I wouldn’t want to judge the new man on one game but to say the least he needs to improve dramatically to prove he is worth a place in the team. He added absolutely nothing to the side. He certainly wasn’t a goal threat.
Hopefully one good thing will come out this result and that would be that I will no longer here people harping on about how good 4-5-1 is (In particular the Chronicle saying we should get back to what we do best). Yes it worked for a while but at the moment it makes us look terrible. What we need is adaptability so that we can change tactics when we hit a brick wall and can work to the strengths of whoever is on the pitch not just one or two players as 4-5-1 seems to do. Although I was happy to see Cureton on (he has been majorly underused and should still be given a chance alongside Forster) it is our lack of creativity, which is causing our lack of goals. Unless that is sorted we will be nothing more than an average Div 1 side at best. We need someone who can create something out of nothing.
On a separate note I am very concerned about the lack of cover in defence whilst continuing to add midfielders to the squad. We now have 7 central midfielders fighting for 2 places, (or 3 if we play the crap 4-5-1 formation) 3 recognised left midfielders, and 2 who can play on the right. However we have no cover at right or left back (maybe Newman for both at a push) and after last night only 3 fit centrebacks. Yes up until last night we had the best defensive record but what happens if another centre back gets injured or suspended or if Shorey or Murty can’t play?? Add to this the fact that Whitbread may not be offered a new contract and things look a bit worrying to me. Come on Pardew sort it out.
tony williams
Yesterday's match was full of just sheer frustration. I travelled all the way from Croydon on a wet Tuesday night with school the next day, just to see a terrible refereeing display and a diabolic team performance. I do agree that Reading would have lost anyway, but with a referee like the one last night Reading never had a chance. The turning point in the game was the penalty, which was a diabolical decision and when Dickov slotted home the penalty Reading collapsed. Even when Andy Hughes uncharacteristically did something right and scored it was plain to see that the goal would be no more than a consolation. I do hope the 'only support the club when their winning' fans do not give up coming along though, as at the moment Reading need all the support they can get.
Hahnemann 5/10 - Lack of confidence meant he would nver recover after the first goal. Shouldn't have been booked.
Murty 8/10 - By far Reading best player, looks like he wants us to do well and was the only player who didn't run off after the game.
Shorey 6/10 - Shaky first half, excellent second half. Comanded the game in the second half.
Williams 6/10 - He was better than Benjamin, but poor refereeing decisions left him worse off.
Brown 5/10 - He was quiet but did nothing really wrong, very average performance.
Igoe 6/10 - unlucky to be taken off, but found it hard against a physical side.
Rougier 7/10 - Battled hard but lacked that killer instinct.
Sidwell 6/10 - Showed signs of class, but seemed to be nervous and made some silly errors.
Harper 4/10 - Made silly errors and looked lost against a premiership midfield. I think the praise has affected him badly.
Hughes 4/10 - Had to look twice when he scored, Not his best game but a well taken goal.
Forster 5/10 - Never really had the chance to weave his magic. Found it hard against Matt Elliot, quiet game.
Curo 5/10, Butler 5/10, Newman 5/10
steve w
A shameful display, certainly the players should feel ashamed of themselves.
I think the reason there has been such a backlash from fans is just the manner of our recent performances - utterly inept. No commitment, pride or passion - that is what hurts the most. Rougier's lazy performance yesterday summed up the recent team displays and was unforgiveable.
You can accept being beaten by a better team if it at least looks like the players tried but it is hard to take when they cannot even motivate themselves. I mean we have games in hand, a chance to move to 4th place, keep up in the play-offs etc - you'd think they'd be raring to go, closing down, fighting for every ball, tackling hard - but what do we get !? Utterly inept displays, disgraceful ball control, absymal passing, hilarious defensive calamities, goalkeeping howlers...hard to equate it's the same players and Manager that had such a superb first half of the season. It's great to hear Alan Pardew being honest and say he was ashamed of the performance but guess what Alan, the buck stops with you. You can blame the players and the ref, but you are responsible for the tactics, organization, substitutions, training, team selection....all of which have been a complete and utter mystery for the past coupl eof months! Is someone responsible for coaching the players? Have we delivered one decent corner, one decent free kick this season? Can we pass to a blue and white shirt?
These are basics that school kids can perfom let alone highly paid professional footballers. And, while I am seething, please somebody explain why Andy Hughes is in the starting line-up? Yeah, he scored a goal, but so he bloody well should have done. He is a liability and an acute embarrasment, if he had any self resepct he would offer to sub himself as soon as the ref blows for kick-off. Did I really read once that Alan Pardew said that Premier League Clubs were interested in Hughes? Utterly hilarious!! Do me a favour Alan - and you wonder why most Reading fans haven't taken you to their hearts! It is exactly these sort of selection and tactical blunders that mean the half hearted chants of "Alan Pardews barmy army" started in the North East stand never fill the stadium. For example your insistence on playing Butler and Hughes - by your taking off Igoe and Harper and leaving Hughes and Rougier on, it's things like that, things that 17,000 people in the stadium can see clearly but you just cannot seem to see them too.
Come on Alan, you have done wonders for the Royals to get us this far but it is time to wise up, swallow your pride, drop the underachievers and give the fans reason to really get behind you and be proud of you and the team.
wimbledon royal
Where to start?! This was one of the worst performances I have seen from Reading since I started supporting them 10 years ago. The defence was made to look inept, several times they backed off Leicester strikers allowing them to turn with ease, several times we were left with 2 or 3 defenders against 3 or 4 attackers in our box. Leicester nearly always had a spare man at the back post, which resulted in us conceeding 2 goals. There was very little talking between defenders & keeper. Generally the passing was poor, some players were awful. If I want to see that standard of ball control, I can go to my local Rec on a Saturday afternoon. I read somewhere the players are going to be asked to follow Alan & Kevin in taking a pay cut. Well if it was to be performance related, one or two will be out on the street corner with a begging bowl soon! Half price admission eh? I have been ripped-off. And as for our 'strike force', 'on strike' would be closer to the mark. Hardly a shot all night, even our goal was from a midfielder, and had an element of luck (off-side) about it. Still there were some bright sparks. Harper ran his socks off for the Royals, Igoe was his usual busy self. Murty and Shorey did their best. Sidwell gradually got into the game, although he looked a little lost (and shell-shocked at full-time - welcome to the Royals mate!). At one point in the second half it looked like we might get back into it, Hughes was starting to control the ball, Harper was everywhere, players were starting to find hooped shirts with their passes, and then what happens? Pards brings on two strikers and takes off Igoe and Harper! Harper? Had I been watching the same match? No-one round me could believe it! The rest is history. A work colleague is going to Pards' 50th bash this weekend. I should send him with a rocket as a present. I said in my last opinion on the Palace away game, anything is possible. Yes it is. There is still time to grab a relegation scramble out of a play-off place. Come on Alan and Kevin, sort it out and prove me wrong
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