(Half Time: 2-1)
Reading Scorers: Cureton (24 mins).
Colchester Scorers: Conlon (34 mins), Skelton (43 mins, pen).
Date: 28 April 2001
Attendance: 5,010

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Viveash, Whitbread, Robinson (Rougier), Parkinson, Harper (Caskey), Igoe, Cureton, Butler, McIntyre (Forster). Subs not used: Howie, Hunter.

Colchester United: Woodman, Dunne, Keith, Fitzgerald, Clark, Gavin Johnson, Stockwell, Skelton (White), Izzet, Conlon, Duguid (McGleish). Subs not used: Brown, Ross Johnson, Morgan.

Bookings: Dunne, Gavin Johnson, Izzet (Colchester); Caskey, Viveash (Reading).
Referee: P S Danson (Leicester)

The automatic promotion dream finally came to an end at Layer Road after a nervous performance ended in a Reading defeat. It couldn't have been possible to feel such a mixed set of emotions over ninety minutes as Reading looked set to retake second place in the table earlier in the game - only to see it all slip away before the half time break. Early in the game news filtered through that Rotherham were losing 0-1 at home to Brentford - that was followed up, not long later, with a Jamie Cureton goal to give Reading the lead. The Reading fans behind both goals of the Layer Road ground went mental. We were going up. And automatically going up. For ten minutes after the goal all we could think about was we were well on our way to automatic promotion. It was typical Reading that it then went tits from that moment on. Colchester United equalised with a well taken goal and then delivered the killer blow just before the break. The penalty that gave the home side the lead just before the break appeared to come from nowhere, but that made no difference. We had to win this game, and to do that we had to do something special in the second half.

Unfortunately it was the same story as the week before against Walsall - and ended with another disasterous result. Reading failed to bounce back from Colchester United's double strike. Reading had perhaps been the better side in the first half, but in the second half we failed to get back into the game. Head certainly dropped, and Reading became desperate. When we couldn't find a way through the Colchester defence we resorted to desperate long balls pumped forward. There was no way back - we needed two extra goals in the second half for the win but couldn't even find one. The win gave Colchester United safety from relegation - but they were already quite safe from that. It was Reading that desperately needed victory - but it was Colchester that casually added three points to their season total with relative ease.

Yet, once again, it all started brightly for the Royals. Colchester had a couple of early attacks that were well dealt with by the Reading defence - by Viveash and Whitbread getting in some good early tackles. But Reading quickly settled into some great attacking football that always looked likely to create some goals. Murty and Igoe were both getting forward well down the wing and coping well with the massive amount of surface water that held up the ball on every attack. It looked like our fast on-the-floor football would pay dividends. Igoe nearly managed to set up McIntyre after a great low cross from the right. Butler almost managed to do the same to Cureton in the middle but the Colchester defence cleared the trouble. Parky had an effort that flew over the bar and Reading were looking well on top. The deserved goal came on 24 minutes when the Murty and Igoe partnership down the right paid off - Igoe played in another low cross which wasn't defended properly. The ball came out to Jamie Cureton who made no mistake in burying the ball into the back of the net. YES! 1-0 to the Royals and Cureton ran over the small section of Reading fans in the seats behind the goal and signaled 3 and 0 with his two hands - it was his thirtieth goal of the season. We couldn't be any happier.

Reading didn't sit back on the lead and pressed for the second. If it had come then we could well have gone on to win. But it didn't. Butler and Cureton were getting excellent service with a series of decent low passes from the centre of midfield and from the full backs. It was looking good. Butler and Cureton combined twice to create decent goal scoring opportunities. Butler crossed to Cureton whose shot from the middle of the area was well saved by the Colchester United keeper who got down well to his right to push it wide. Moments later the two front men combined again - with Cureton crossing low from the right to Butler in the middle of the box whose shot was blocked by the home defence. Colchester may have been looking second best but they were far from being out of the game. After a bit of pressure they equalised with ten minutes of the half remaining. A good cross from the left was met with an excellent header that buried itself into the right side of the net. 1-1.

At 1-1, Reading still looked like they could go on to win. Igoe continued to look lively, McIntyre was working very hard up front, and you always felt that we could create more chances. Overall we were running the midfield with Harper and Parkinson both doing well in winning the ball back. Igoe nearly set up Cureton for another shot on goal - but Cureton was blocked as he shot. With half time looming everything suddenly changed. Colchester crossed the ball in from the left - Whitehead claimed it and then the referee stopped play. Moments later he appeared to be giving a penalty to the home side. It didn't make any sense. None of us had seen anything, I still haven't got a clue what it was for. No clear foul, no clear handball. Nothing. But Danson, the referee, had clearly seen something we hadn't. Up stepped Skelton for Colchester and stuck it firmly into the left side of the net clear of Phil Whitehead.

Danson was hardly popular with the Reading fans at this point - but then did himself no favours by missing a clear Colchester handball just before the break. Reading went on the attack trying to repair the damage and as the ball dropped in the area it was handled as clear as anything - both hands on the ball. A definate penalty - and not given. It was clear the luck wasn't going our way today. The goal before half time seemed to kill us off. It might have been a dodgy penalty, but we still should have bounced back from it. In the second half we were a different side. Danson did his best to ruin the game by stopping play every two seconds for no good reason - with hardly anything going our way. Not long after the restart Cureton was brought down in the area, but no penalty was given.

It would be easy to blame the referee or the state of the pitch, but these weren't the real reasons we lost. Reading looked devoid of any ideas in the second half and lost our pattern of play. After our first half performance we had every reason to think we were still capable of winning the game - but the goal before half time had a serious effect on the team. Head dropped, the decent football disappeared, and every Reading player looked nervous or knackered, or both. Harper had had a superb second half but faded out badly as passes started to fail to find targets. Murty had been outstanding in the first half but resorted to long hoofs up the pitch instead of running it forward and laying it off like he'd done so well in the first half. Butler and Cureton's service dryed up. Rougier came on but hardly got a touch of the ball as we seemed to avoid playing it out to the left for some reason. Forster failed to find any way through. Reading were limited to just a few chances by a strong Colchester defence - when we did find a way through we found the home keeper in excellent form as he pulled off an excellent block from a close range Butler shot.

Reading need to take time out before the play-offs and address the tactics. Today was a good example as any that we can be a good side when we're playing proper passing football - and a very average side when we resort to the long ball game. We're going to need something special to win the play-offs. We're capable of going all the way and still gaining promotion and we've got to put the automatic promotion disappointment behind us.

Post Match Opinions

Having slept on it, my original report was going to be.. Bollocks, blown it!
However this is all about opinions from real fans so here goes....This was a truly dreadful performance inspired by a manager who clearly hasn't got a clue on how to break down teams like Colchester, Luton and Cambridge etc. It's so easy to appear a smart arse and say "told you so", but I (and many others) have been saying for ages that if we continue with the hoof game it will get us nowhere. I heard Pardew on the radio a couple of months ago loosing his cool and saying that if he wants to play the long ball game, then so be it. Well Mr Pardew, you've done a good job at the club, and we may well still go up, but when it come downs to the crunch, the fact we've not gone up automatically must gone down has a massive failure. The eyes don't lie, any neutral watching us play Swindon, Luton, Bourmemouth, Cambridge, Wrexham and Bristol City would have seriously questioned which team was at the top of the league and going for promotion.
We clearly do not have the tactics or a ability to dominate teams and kill games off. How many times have we gone 1-0 up in recent weeks and bloody blown it. Yesterday was the icing on the cake, 1-0 up, good equaliser, then 2-1 down through a penalty, yes it was, I was yards away, and you cannot wrap your arm around the neck of a player and pull him without being punished. Though at 2-1 down at half time, and the Rotherham result going for us, if ever, ever, there was a time for passion, bombarding the Colchester goal and really going for it, what happens... sweet FA, and we don't have a shot on target for half a poxy hour! Just imagine Pardews team talk at half time "keep booting it up the park lads, we'll get a break soon". You had to stand at pitch level yesterday behind the goal just to appreciate how desperate this long boot game is. Poor Butler and Cureton seeing the ball coming down from a mile in the sky chasing all the time... absolute crap!
It's so obvious that the coaching staff are so naive in their tactics it defies belief, we've good players for gods sake, but with nobody in midfield to pass the ball there's no option but to boot it up the pitch and we've paid the price for Sunday park football. This is a terrible blow for Reading FC and particularly John Madejski who has backed the club to the hilt. I personally feel embarrassed and humiliated. I don't take it personally, but I just wonder what the players feel for the magnificent Royals fans. The away support this year has been unbelievable, and we've all been let down. Rotherham have got promotion with a squad of 24 and have spent the grand sum of £200k this year, think on that!
So it's the lifeline of the play offs, of course we can do it , but not just physically but mentally it's going to be very tough. If we play like yesterday, forget it and its back to the slums of Colchester et all again next season. That thought makes me shudder. At the end off the day its quite simple... The league table never lies and Reading FC are just not good enough.

-- Nick Newbury

I wasn't there so I cannot gauge the mood, but I guess there are some sore heads after sorrows being drowned. So it's the play-offs and we're all disappointed (putting it politely). Let's try and be positive, it has been a fantatstic season, just for once, and we could all be celebrating in Cardiff! So get behind the lads again, be positive and let's make the Bournemouth game a rousing end to the term before the nail-biting starts.
-- Telford Royal

Just as i predicted,we are not as good as we think we are, Millwall and Rotherham deserve their sucess because they play as a unit, while Reading i'm afraid have struggled to impress,and have looked disjointed since christmas.
Typical of Reading though to shoot themselves in the foot against lowley opposition. The run has been a very good one,but we have flattered to decieve with our performances, i can only say i am keeping my fingers crossed as we can still beat anyone in this league,we just need the self belief. Whitehead, Viveash, Parkinson, Cureton, Butler and Newman have been superb all season,and well done to them, but the team unit thing is very worrying. But the team have the best supporters outside of the Premeirship and that will be of great help to them. Another worry is Pardew's tactical awareness, has he got any for starters? Will the Chairman erect a giant screen at our stadium for all our supporters that cannot travel, for the first game, I hope so.

-- Terry P, Tilehurst.

Bloody gutted! We just keep under achieving against teams we really should be beating.Now the Lottery of the play offs, i just can`t see us doing it, certainly not after yesterdays debacle! Still we`ll see, fingers crossed,and well done to all at the club in which after all wasn't a bad season.
-- John, Wales

So we ended up in the play offs and to cap it all itís just started raining, so I thought Iíd put down on paper my feelings over this weekend. All we need to say about Colchester is that weíve lost 6 points to them, a team near the bottom, and we couldnít even keep it all going to the last game of the season.
So aside from being positive, letís try realism.
My feeling all along has been that weíre not quite good enough and that we rely on our strikers too much. If we look at where we were when Pards took over, whoíd have thought we might have just missed out on automatic promotion this year. Itís some achievement, butÖwhat annoys me is that weíve given it to Millwall and Rotherham when had we won three games of football starting with Walsall it would have been ours. Rotherham have done it on a shoe string when as a rich club we constantly said we had one of the strongest squads in the division, well at the moment itís third best and might end up worst.
History doesnít favour the team dragged back into it, the others have nothing to lose and at the moment we seem to have run out of steam (although maybe thereís some benefit in not having it taken from us on the last day i.e. weíve got time to adjust to the idea of the play offs). So on the one hand you could say that even if we donít go up, and I fear the worst, itís been an achievement.
On the other hand, it was all so close and with the Chairman bemoaning the cash shortfall he has to cover, the club canít really afford another year in Division 2, so why run the risk of the play off lottery?
By this I mean that I felt uneasy at transfer deadline day when we didnít add to the squad for the final push. We were in a good position and a few short term buys might have got us there. We wonít necessarily have it so good again. A big player up front Ė you canít knock our 50 goal men but at times (or was it more!) weíve reverted to long ball and at these times, maybe we needed to be able to bring on a Don Goodman or Brett Angel to be on the receiving end and to take the weight off Butler and/or Cureton who prior to coming here both played with big number nines.
Maybe the long ball can't be avoided in this division and if it can't, we're hardly playing to Butler's and Cureton's strengths. Some know how, players that have been there before and physical presence in midfield would have helped. Harperís good but heís one for the future. Against Walsall, for example, I felt we were out muscled and up front Goodman was a solid professional who knew when to fall over and so on. So may be a bit of money might have got us to Division 1, where strangely enough the team could do well given that football is played more than in Division 2. Given the good work that Pards and Allen have done to get us this far, some further backing would not have gone amiss. I also wonder what might happen to the squad if we donít go up, some might want to move on and the wage bill might have to be cut.
Finally, a word about Rotherham. We beat them twice, they reminded me of a Burnley or a Wimbledon, not a lot of good football going on but they had a team to get them out of the division. Which brings me to my final point.
Pards has said itís a hard division to get out of and heís right. I also believe though that you have to build a team within the context of the division youíre in or like Fulham be so good it doesnít matter. So if you need big sergeant majors across the team, where are they? Automatic promotion was so close and as a team we deserve it in that the top three were miles ahead of the rest. By Monday Iíll be more positive but this isnít going to be easy. If we donít make it then above all weíve got to learn because next season thereíll be another Millwall and Rotherham. And when it comes to cash, just look at the support and income this club can drag up when thereís success on the pitch but itís this last bit that has to come first. I've said the teams that creep into tehplay offs have nothig to lose well in a strange way neither do we. The last few games were always going to be tense and may be that did it for us.
So the slate is wiped clean, here we go again, playing teams we've tended to do well against unlike Luton and Colchester. Starting with Walsall we had three games to win, we didnít make it. After Bournemouth, weíve got another chance and three games to win, that simple (!), letís do it this time.
Come on you RísÖplease!

-- Chris.

It's been a long time since I've seen the Royals play. Seven years living and working in Shetland and since moving to Leicestershire in the last few months has cut down my opportunites. Some may dismiss my views on that basis but here goes anyway:
Firstly look at the club... what John Madejski has done is brilliant. Not only has he put his money on the line but he had the vision of the stadium and the way it would operate. The club has a great future if only we can generate the support. Since first seeing Reading in the 60's we've always had this problem of a small vision ... now that has changed. No more excuses there. Secondly look at the team .... they have not performed. As others have noted, the R's squad cost megadosh compared to the others .. especially Millwall and Rotherham.
That leaves us asking questions about the abilities of the staff as well as the players. Pardew and Allen have done a good job after the 2 TB's but are they good enough to take us into the first and then into the Premier? The one component missing has been tactical nous and the ability to inspire the underperformers. If John Madejski is looking to throw money at the problem he should maybe look at the staff. I'll be down for Bournemouth and the play offs .. I really hope I'll be down for the first division next year.

-- Andy, Leics Royal and Whitley Boy

Bitterly Dissapointing, Humiliating, Depressing, yet again Reading blow it, after the 2-0 win at Oxford I seriously beleived we were on our way to automatic promotion, how wrong I was. Make no mistake this was a woefully inept performance. After going 1-0 up for the upteenth time this season we were unable to hold on to a lead. Pards has to address the problem of our fullbacks, if there is a worst fullback in the division than Matty Robinson ill be surprised and Murty's certainly not a rightback, where was he for the first goal, get tight to the player & prevent the cross, basic stuff.
One would have expected the management team to have changed things at half time and laid seige to the Colchester goal considering what was at stake, but oh no we continued to willy nilly hoff the ball forward without any direction at every opportunity, Butler & Cureton are great strikers and do score goals but they do not come from route one football. If this is the way Pards wants to play football then he should go out and buy a great big six foot + striker.
Colchester like Luton & Cambridge were a poor side, and we should brush teams like these aside, but i'm seriously beginning to doubt Pardews managerial abililty in applying the correct tacticts to beat these sides. No good blaming the pitch because when we had the ball it was always up in the air. I dont want to be negative but I think we will be playing in this division again next year visiting crap grounds like colchester but i would like to offer my congratulations to Rotherham who when it came to the crunch got the results required with a team put together on a shoestring.
Just because we have a great stadium and players that cost a few bob, this does not give us a divine right to promotion it has to be deserved and over 46 matches we just were not good enough, the league table never lies. Come on Reading lets have one last effort in the playoffs & give us long suffering fans something to cheer!

-- Bob, Newbury

So it is a massive disappointment, and naturally everyone looks for someone to blame, whether a player, a referee, a manager or another team. All this doesn't hide the fact that Alan Pardew and Martin Allen have turned a side that was relegation fodder to championship contenders within one season. Of course I am disappointed and frustrated, but this season, unlike the several before, I have been entertained. We not only have household names at the club but genuine personalities, the kind of players your kids can idolise. Sure, we need to look at our midfield - until we win the European Cup 3 times in a row we always will. However transfer deadline day is not the day to do it - Burns proved that beyond all doubt.
Alan Pardew has demonstrated an exceptional shrewdness in the transfer market, we have to believe he will continue to do this. So please all genuine Royals, don't allow this disappointment to develop into a return of the boo boys. We have an excellent platform from which to improve further next season, whether that is in division 1 or 2. But in the meantime we must keep the faith and look forward to another months quality entertainment. Football is about this kind of drama, if we didn't want it we'd be Manchester United fans!

-- West Reading Steve

We haven't made automatic promotion! O.K.Disappointing! Especially when we were so close. However, at the beginining of the season we'd have bitten someones hand off for a play-off place. We have acheived that, so well done Pards, Mad Dog and the lads (not to forget a great effort by the fans).
I've spoken to fans and read a few comments since our defeat at Colchester and heard and read alot of negative crap. I know as Reading fans it's in our nature but now is the time to be positive or we definately have got no chance! We're the 3rd best team in this division (the table says so, no matter what anyone thinks) so we deserve to go up!

-- Steve K, Lower Earley

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