Reading 2 Cardiff City 1. Match Report

Last updated : 15 November 2004 By NigelBlues

This was as bad as that excuse fot football City served up at the start of the season. Another one to forget. The problem is that there has been far too any of these already this season.

Reading were ordinary, they didn't have to be anything else, to beat us Anyone who thought the biggest load of pants to be seen this weekend would have been in Bridget Jones' new film should have been here.

City, as an attacking force, were woeful. Ledley nearly opening the scoring early on and hit another over the bar in the first half but that was it until a consolation goal and late rally once we threw the kids nearly saved the day. It would have been more than we deserved.

Yet again, basic but glaring defensive errors undid City, we beat ourselves. How many more times must we tolerate that?

Once more, experienced players let the team down. Some of them must take a deep look at themselves for their performances and contribution to the team. Warner at fault for a goal, Williams - uncharacteristically for him in fairness - had an awful game and played his part in both goals conceded, Alan Lee embarrassingly inept but the biggest let down was Graham Kavanagh.

It makes you want to bang your head against a wall seeing Kav and Lee selected to play for Eire when many argue whether they should even be playing for City. Kav, has faltered back to his sideways and backwards passing style. The hero turned zero got himself a straight red card for kicking out. In all honesty, City were better off with 10 men and without him.

It is unbelievable but so obvious to see that the loss of one man, Gary O'Neill, has taken away everything we recently had. We look impotent, ramshackle and realistic relegation material once more. You realise all City's pace, energy and cutting edge in recent weeks came from O'Neill's drive and desire. You realise the one paced, one dimensional Kavanagh looked like his former self recently because O'Neill pulled him along.

Thank god we also have Crewe, Rotherham and Gillingham in the division this season as thoughts of City pulling away from the bottom few places have gone. It just shows how fragile this team are when one player impacts on us so greatly. In context, this was City's first league defeat for 8 games, although only 2 were won in that run, but it was the manner of defeat that disturbs and hurts. Don't underestimate how bad it was.

If City have money and Lennie wants O'Neill, then he should table a genuine offer for the player. No, I don't think they have or they will either!

However with Kav about to start a three game suspension, our midfield certainly needs immediate action but so do most areas of the team at present. Lennie Lawrence incredibly claimed he felt better about this losing display than at Rotherham last week when we threw away a two goal lead. I think I can understand his point but how anyone could come away from this game with any sort of satisfaction is beyond me.

On a day of derbies - Spurs v Arsenal, Southampton v Pompey, Fulham v Chelsea - City played their nearest opponents. Reading is 115 miles from South Wales, a drive along the M4 and, on a beautiful day with light traffic, the trip was little more than playing time of the game itself. We went to Twyford, watched the amazing Spurs/Arsenal 4-5 game on t in a pub and just knew it would downhill after that! Catching a coach from there to Madejski Stadium was the 1927 London supporters including Jobi McAnuff's father and sister. Mr McAnuff senior - a lovely man - later said his son had a poor game and wasn't too good last week either. Who am I to argue?

It's a great venue to watch football. An excellent facility in an excellent place, Reading's only problem is that they lack support and the support they have are just not a vocal bunch. The crowd was declared at 16,000 including almost 3,000 City fans but looked nothing like that with the place looking less than half full.

The blue skies and sun made it a bitterly cold afternoon for mid-November but City fans were warmed up with Pepperami giving away loads of free samples. Never had them before, those firesticks were hot! On the downside, fans were issued with leaflets telling us to "sit down if you love your club" as we entered the stadium, our tickets being barcode scanned to allow us entry. The leaflet told us our allocation would be reduced next season if we stood during the game. Many did.

The tannoy announcer helpfully pointing out that the stadium was all-seater. The way we're going, it's unlikely Reading and ourselves will be in the same division next season and it's highly debatable that 3,000 will want to make the journey - as it was, that's 500 less than we took midweek for the fixture last season.

As so often is the case at City, and it's not healthy, the team nearly always picks itself. Lennie was reported to be considering the out of sorts Vidmar to replace the "playing well but switches off sometimes" Collins. Wisely, he stayed with Ginge and Vids had to sit it out on the bench, something against Lennie's standard instincts for his older, experienced players who often play despite personal form. So it was Warner, Williams-Collins-Gabbidon-Barker, McAnuff-Boland-Kavanagh-Ledley, Lee-Parry.

Reading's are hoping it's third time lucky with a Premiership challenge having faded away and missed out when strongly placed in the previous two years. This time it's no different, they kicked off in 3rd place, 5 points behind leaders Wigan, two behind Ipswich in the 2nd automatic promotion spot, 7 ahead of the play-off challengers and after just 18 games, 15 points ahead of City, it's now 18 points of course. Ominously, their home form is outstanding, they were unbeaten with 7 wins and 2 draws at Madejski, that record is now even better.

In a week when Steve Coppell sent his Welsh captain Adrian Williams to Coventry, his side were Hahnemann ,Murty-Sonko-Ingimarsson-Shorey, Morgan-Harper-Sidwell-Hughes, Kitson-Owusu. No real stars but Coppell has put together a fine blend of mostly young players with great potential and it works for him. Hahnemann is a USA international, the rest are familiar opponents to City fans from many lower division clubs in recent seasons.

They also had the compulsory "one time City targets" in Charlie Harper who played on loan for us, Lloyd Owusu who we never made an offer for and the ginger haired Dave Kitson who Lennie admits City watched about 15 times but couldn't make their minds up about him. We got Lee instead for £850,000 who never looks his value, Reading got Kitson for £150,000 and he's the leading scorer in the Championship.

Before kick-off, there was an impeccably observed 1 minute silence for a Reading season ticket holder killed in the train crash and derailment which took place after their home game last weekend and it was followed by 90 more minutes of relative silence as Reading were quiet and City fans were speechless at our display.

City almost got themselves into trouble with the opening action, it was a taste of what was to come, as Barker underhit a backpass to Warner who was also slow in sensing danger, he had to boot away under pressure as Owusu closed him down and hit a poor kick but, lucky for him, Hughes' first time return shot lacked power and Warner was able to breathe a sigh of relief as he collected the ball under his crossbar.

On four minutes came City's brightest moment of the day as Joe Ledley beautifully skipped a challenge and raced in on goal from the left, his low shot across Hahnemann was well saved but it gave promise which we never saw until the final action of the day. Ledley however fired in another shot within the opening 10 minutes, this time clearing the bar.

On 12 minutes, City went behind in disastrous fashion with shambolic work all around in defence. City failed to cut out two challenges as the ball found its way to DEAN MORGAN who went inside and past Darren Williams as though he wasn't there, Williams putting in no challenge whatsoever, and letting an angled shot go low to Warner's near post which the keeper inexplicably failed to stop, inside his dive merely helped the ball into the corner of the net. How can we expect to compete with decent sides when we defend like a Sunday League side? That was terrible.

City were looking a poor side indeed, unable to put any move together. Unable to put more than one or two passes together before losing out. With Sidwell and Harper bossing midfield without too much difficulty, it looked a hopeless cause. Lee was booked for a giggly challenge, Boland and Kav could have joined him. Lee was annoying everyone, none more than City fans themselves, for falling to the ground appealing for free-kicks every time the ball was near him. Reading were playing well within themselves but still far too comfortable against us until, on 39 minutes, it was 2-0, effectively game over as we had absolutely nothing going for us.

Another cock-up too as Williams pass was too slow for McAnuff who compounded his error by standing motionless waiting for the ball to reach him, Hughes nipped in and dissected both Gabbidon and Collins with a pass that put KITSON clear, the striker had few troubles rounding Warner and slotting into an empty net, seeming to do it all off balance too,

There were brief exchanges between Reading and City fans as frustrations boiled over. "You might as well go home" the home fans taunted. How right they were.

Half-time: Reading 2 City 0

We'll just skip forward to the final 5 minutes of the game as everything until that point was completely forgettable and mostly dross.

Kav had 2 shots at Hahnemann which barely tested him around the hour mar before getting himself sent off deep inside City's half which was furthest away from us. Sidwell went to the ground in a scramble, Kav appeared to kick out at him whilst there, the ref wasted little time showing Kav an instant red card. Kav has appealed his innocence but all suggestions are that he did something, it's just how hard his kick was that maybe open to debate. If he made any attempt at a kick on Sidwell, it certainly appeared that way, then he deserves a red card for stupidity.

For City, there were brief - very brief at that - moments from Parry and Ledley but they could not breakthrough a Reading rearguard that had conceded only 3 home goals all season. It was awful and painful viewing. For Reading, Kitson twice close as Gabbidon cleared off the line from Kitson who went close again with a header that just drifted past Warner's far post with the keeper looking on.

Lennie made changes, with some fans now openly debating his worth once more, the pressure will be right back on him without a doubt. McAnuff was withdrawn for Bullock, Jerome and Fleetwood replaced Lee (who went off to some relieved cheers) and Parry (who did as well as he could and got a little more respect from the fans). A combination of the introduction of our youth and Reading relaxing a little did bring some late pressure and reward.

The reward came on 87 minutes as City won a free-kick 35 yards out. Boland swung it towards the penalty spot where a melee of players, including Hahnemann charging out, converged but CAMERON JEROME got there first and once he had, it was the simple matter of helping the ball into the empty net with his head.

Reading now panicking a little as 10 man City took the game to them, Collins now playing in attack. Bullock had a good chance but was leaning back as he shot over the bar from 10 yards but the best moment came when Fleetwood sent the ball to the far post where Collins rose unguarded. I honestly felt he would bury it but he lacked direction and the ball flew well over, a glorious chance wasted but it would have been more than our efforts deserved had it gone in.

That was as bad as it gets once again. We lacked any sort of quality, we looked short of spirit and enthusiasm, we looked a very poor side. There's a lot of soul searching and a lot of major issues to be tackled at Ninian Park this week as, suddenly, we look as if we're about to re-enter the relegation battle and big time too.

Report from FootyMad

Dave Kitson's 12th goal of the season continued Reading's push for promotion as the Royals ended Cardiff's run of seven games without defeat.

Kitson superbly put the seal on Reading's hard-fought win when he displayed a neat combination of legwork to round Cardiff keeper Tony Warner and sidefoot home on 39 minutes.

The striker, who now stands alone at the top of the Championship goalscoring charts, gave Reading a vital cushion after Dean Morgan's first of the season had put them ahead on 13 minutes.

Cardiff gave themselves a real mountain to climb when captain Graham Kavanagh was sent off for an ugly stamp on Steve Sidwell on 57 minutes.

But the ten men did battle back in a frantic late finish, which saw substitute Cameron Jerome offer some hope with a late header.

Reading, though, were worthy of their win, having recovered from an unconvincing start to take control of the game.

Seventeen-year-old winger Joe Ledley could have put Cardiff ahead inside two minutes but saw his low shot well smothered by Reading keeper Marcus Hahnemann.

And Cardiff lived to regret that early miss as Morgan opened the scoring on 13 minutes, with a big helping hand from Cardiff keeper Warner.

The tricky winger ran on to James Harper's pass and skipped past two defenders before hitting a hopeful cross-shot that Warner could only help into the back of the net.

Kitson made it 2-0 six minutes before half-time after Nicky Shorey had snatched possession in midfield and set the striker up.

Kitson did the rest, tricking his way past Warner and then hooking the ball in from a tight angle.

Having proved so adept with his feet, the lanky striker should have done better with his head twice in the second half, but nodded wide on both occasions.

Andy Hughes also wasted a golden opportunity to avoid the frantic late finish when his low shot was saved by Warner.

But Jerome made no mistake when he headed in Willie Boland's free-kick three minutes from time.

And the ten men might have snatched a point and extended their unbeaten run to eight games in stoppage time, only for Welsh international defender James Collins to head over after escaping the Reading defence.

External reports
Off at Eleven
Western Mail
Western Mail 2
Wales on Sunday