Monday, December 26, 2005

SLAYED Wolves 0-2 Reading

So, come on feel the noise. The sound of silence yesterday at Molineux as Reading delivered a Boxing Day knockout blow to pre-season favourites Wolverhampton Wanderers title hopes. The West Midlanders are now a woolly mammoth 27 points behind the Championship elephants Reading Football Club.

Yet it was all supposed to be so very different for poor old Glenn Hoddle. Clearly distraught after his team were comprehensively beaten, he bemoaned his side's "worst performance since I've been here" and a result that "I didn't see coming" - obviously Eileen Drewery's powers must have weakened somewhat. Indeed it was all talk from Wolves before the game as Coppell maintained his usual radio silence; Rohan Ricketts, who ran through the heart of the Reading defence to score a winner when last we met, claimed before the match that he didn't believe league leaders Reading "are better than us" despite overwhelming statistical evidence to the contrary.

Ricketts was the second Championship midfielder in the space of a few weeks after Southampton's Nigel Quashie to insist in the national media than their own underachieving sides are better than the run-away Championship leaders. You have to wonder sometimes whether such ill-judged comments are bourne out of the fact that we are only little old Reading - after all, anyone with half a brain can see that on the first half of the season showing we are an outstanding side in this league. Wolves fans were the most recent set of supporters to serenade us with "you've never won fuck all", forgetting that it's isn't who you were but what you're doing now that counts - ask Keith Harris and Orville.

To call this Wolves worst performance in the 12 months of Hoddle's reign does Reading an injustice in the eyes of Floyd on Football, as we did a job on the home side who we sussed out from the offset and restricted to long range chances, most of which were despatched desperately high over Hahnemann's crossbar. Reading should have led in the opening minutes as the Wolves goal led an extraordinarily charmed last as Kitson bounced a header against the crossbar after Little had fed Convey's half cleared corner back into the box. The rebound fell to Kitson who again thumped a header goalbound to be denied by the same section of woodwork again, a third headed chance landing the way of Gunnarsson whose effort landed on the roof of the net. Wolves were to see more of Little's crossing ability and Kitson's heading skills later on.

At the other end, the home side only threatened from distance, Seol wrapping a fizzer just wide of Hahnemann's right hand post. Kenny Miller had already volleyed well over the crossbar under pressure from Reading's Scrooge-like defence, and Wolves never really looked likely to pounce. Penalty appeals had already been waved away at either end, Doyle appearing to be bundled over on the edge of the Wolves area and Murty having apparently handled in the Reading box, before referee Tanner did finally point to the spot. Unfortunately for Wolves, it was the centre spot and the award of the first goal of the afternoon for Reading - Little winning the ball back off the highly rated Joleon Lescott before beating three men and centring the ball for KITSON to dispatch an easy header past Postma. The Reading fans, full of seasonal cheer behind the goal at the opposite end, celebrated with glee reminding the home faithful "that's why we're top the league".

Reading were well and truly on the front foot and the industrious Doyle forced his way in familiar style down the right flank to be denied at an angle by Postma. Reading were destroying the home team down that side and it must have been of great relief to Hoddle that Glenn Little had to limp off with a nasty gash to the knee at half time - the third time in the last three visits to Molineux that we have lost a key player to injury. On those previous two ocassions, the match turned for the worse after losing Nicky Forster in the 2003 play-off semi final and skipper Murty in the league defeat last season, but it is a sign of the team spirit we have now and the organisational skills of Steve Coppell that the loss of our in-form right winger was a mere blip on the day. Indeed, replacement John Oster got into the grove very quickly and provided the cross for Kitson to header powerfully into the net ten minutes into the second half - only to be denied a second goal by the referee following what had been an obvious push on his opponent.

Wolves response was for the most part high, wide and not very handsome although Seol crashed a header against the same crossbar which had twice denied Kitson after a cross from former England international Darren Anderton. Reading had earlier been denied twice by Postma, Harper's effort parried after hard work by Kitson to force his way into the box and Gunnarsson's header pushed over the bar following Oster's quality delivery from a freekick. Wolves biggest home crowd of the season didn't have long to wait for a second Reading goal though, on 64 minutes Bobby CONVEY picked the ball up in midfield, hurried towards goal and let rip from outside of the area. The ball cannoned off Postma's left hand post giving the keeper no chance as it nestled beautifully into the netting on the other side. Convey celebrated in front of the jubilant travelling faithful who didn't waste an opportunity to taunt the home support who had been fairly quite since the opener and were mute from then on, before leaving en masse well before the end - how very different from the crowing and intimidation of our most recent couple of unpleasant visits.

As usual, with 12 goals conceded in the league all season, you expect Reading to hold on to a two goal advantage with ease and that is exactly what we did, save for a thundering Miller effort from 25 yards which spanked that very busy crossbar. Postma saved again from Doyle before the end, but 2-0 and the air of silent deflation from 3 and a half sides of Molineux at full time was a most satisfying Bank Holiday result all round, coupled with the news of Sheffield United's capitulation at home to Norwich. Here it is, Merry Christmas. Everybody's having fun. Look to the future now it's only just begun.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Little (Oster, 45), Gunnarsson, Harper, Convey (Hunt, 79), Doyle, Kitson. Subs not used: Stack, Makin, Brown.

Floyd's Favourite: Kitson. Led the line well.


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