The watching Martin Jol probably learned
more about Reading than the young Spurs players who turned out in this
match which saw table-topping Reading maintain their supremacy at the
head of the league.
4-0 was perhaps a little harsh on
Tottenham, but facing the Reading side which brought some dropped jaws
among the Spurs crowd when the side was announced. Kitson, Doyle,
De La Cruz, Seol, Convey and Gunnarsson have all featured in the first
XI and will do again. For Spurs, there were just Cerny, Ifil and
Barcham with first team experience and O'Hara and Lee have been squad
players this season.
The teams both lined up with 4-4-2 formations and
Reading got into the action the quicker, with Gunnarsson pinging a
25-yarder off the top of the bar, but Tottenham hit back when O'Hara
stepped over Hallfredsson's pass to allow Jake Livermore to curl a low
shot just a foto wide of the post. Adel Taarabt, who showed good
footwork all evening, linked with Jamie O'Hara to put Andy barcham into
the area, but a defender just managed to manoeuvre himself inside the
striker to shield the ball back to the keeper. Federici in the
Hoops goal had to palm out a cross from Emil Hallfredsson from under the
crossbar and at the other end, Cerny was called into action to make a
double save from Seol and Kitson.
The Korean winger was causing problems
with his direct running and he stepped around two Tottenham tackles to
hit a shot on goal, but Leigh Mills managed to block it out for a corner.
A short free-kick in midfield caused Reading a nervy moment, as
Phil Ifil played in a fierce waist-high cross, but there was no Spurs
man on the end of it after 16 minutes of the match. Taarabt was
producing some extravagant step-overs, but at the end of one run he hit
a weak shot straight at the keeper.
Reading started to press forward with
more intent and Kitson managed to work a position on the edge of the
area, only to be denied by Cerny rush from his line, but a minute or so
later, Seol once more rattled the crossbar with a shot that skimmed off
the top of the woodwork. A low cross fizzed off the wet turf in
the Spurs six yard box and missed the two Reading players in the zone,
but it was only two minutes later that Reading opened the scoring.
35 minutes gone and Convey got past Daniels on the
Spurs left and lobbed over Cerny from six yards out as he came in from
the wing, but Kitson got a finishing touch as a defender closed in to
clear. The match got bogged down in midfield as the rain came down
heavier and it was right on the half-time whistle that the last chance
came, with Hallfredsson volleying low at the goalie after a headed
clearance went up in the air.
After the break, Tottenham introduced
Czech youngster Thomas Pekhart for the ineffective Fraser-Allen on the
wing. This move saw Taarabt drop behind the front two and this
gave Spurs more options from midfield, as Hallfredsson ran through the
middle, after accepting a pass, took the wrong option in firing a shot
wide instead of laying in Taarabt on the right and Pekhart on his left.
Barcham wasted a good chance after
Pekhart and Livermore's back-heels opened up the defence, but on the
break, Seol got away down the left wing and played in a low cross that
Convey got to first, but skied it over the bar from a couple of yards
out in front of goal. Pekhart had a shot saved from 18 yards after
Taarabt had taken a short free-kick and set him up and then the
Frenchman forced a low save from the keeper and Ifil followed up to get
to the rebound, but fired wide.
Tottenham's clearest opportunity fell to Pekhart as
the hour approached. Barcham got past his full back on the right
wing, hitting a low ball towards the six yard box, but Michael Duberry
got s touch on it and it ran into the path of Pekhart, whose precise
shot went a foot the wrong side of the post from Tottenham's point of
Three minutes past the hour mark, Ulisses
De La Cruz walked past some luke-warm Spurs tackling and then shimmied
past Cerny to stroke the ball home for Reading's second goal of the
night. It seems to deflate the Spurs side a little, as Doyle
jinked into the area on the right and his low shot was well kept
out by Cerny, but when Gunnarsson followed up to strike the rebound into
the back of the net, he had little chance of stopping that effort.
With a quarter of an hour left, the
victory for the Royals was sealed. Convey's low cross saw John
Oster glide into the box unmarked to steer the ball past Cerny for 4-0.
Tottenham didn't give up. A short corner saw
Adel work past a defender tight to the goal-line and pull the back for
O'Hara, but his effort was charged down by Sodje. Two long range
efforts from Hallfredsson and O'Hara flew too high and the rain soaked
team trudged off at the final whistle.
Hallfredsson had returned from his
sojourn in Sweden on loan, but looked to be lacking in his decision
making, as he often produced the wrong pass or shot. Fraser-Allen
started his first game for the reserves, but looked apprehensive and was
well marked out of the game by the experienced Reading defence.
O'Hara was always available to take the ball and showed good skill, but
often got crowded out and Taarabt showed good skill, but when his flicks
didn't come off, he tended to show his frustration and he was not averse
to making a meal out of almost any contact to bring it to the attention
of the referee.
Ifil looked withdrawn from the confident youngster who
broke into the first team and Barcham struggled against two strapping
central defenders. It was at the back in central defence that
Tottenham did well. Mills looked classy and had time to play,
while alongside him captain Charlie Lee put in a captain's performance
winning headers with great regularity against the taller and more
Clive Allen has a talented bunch of youngsters in the
reserves, but must now make something of them.
On this night, they did well, but were no
match against a top notch Reading eleven, so it is not hard to see how
they are the top of the league. With winnable matches to come,
Spurs could push them for the title, but it will need a degree of
cohesion from a side that had not played together before and looked like
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - CHARLIE LEE
MARCO van HIP