Reading 1 Southampton 2By Nick Ive
November 24, 2008
Chris Armstrong admits Reading got exactly what they deserved as their unbeaten home record was brought to an end by struggling Southampton.
Steve Coppell’s promotion-chasing side had turned Madejski Stadium into a fortress this season with six wins and a draw.
While Saturday’s clash against a young Saints side looking nervously over the shoulder at the wrong end of the table was far from a home banker, only the brave or the foolhardy would have bet against Royals extending their enviable record.
Yet far from looking over-awed and nervous, Jan Poortvliet’s crop of youngsters revelled in the spotlight in front of Reading’s largest crowd of the campaign.
They survived an early scare to dominate the first half with an outstanding display of passing, movement and confidence.
In contrast it was Royals who looked the likely relegation candidates. They were disorganised, shaky and had little cohesion when they managed to gain possession.
Not since the final months of their Premier League days has a Reading team showed so much insecurity and lack of belief.
The defeat against the Saints was the first time Armstrong has tasted defeat at Madejski Stadium following his August switch from Sheffield United.
But he made no excuses for the poor display and admitted Reading were beaten by the better side.
“It is very disappointing today and Southampton probably got what they deserved,” admitted Armstrong. “We just weren’t at it and they deserved to win so credit to them. We couldn’t get near them.
“We didn’t get going. The effort was there and we tried, but it didn’t quite happen. The chances didn’t come.
“You always think you will get something from a game when you score and the crowd gets behind you.
“And we thought we could get something out of the game. We tried really hard, but it just didn’t happen.
“It was a bad day at the office, but there are plenty of games to go. We have to draw a line under this, move on and try to get three points tomorrow at Cardiff.”
Coppell kept faith with the same starting line-up for a fifth successive match.
And they should have been celebrating a third-minute lead.
Jimmy Kebe made a blistering run before trying to thread a pass to Stephen Hunt.
It was deflected into the path of Noel Hunt, who unselfishly squared the ball for his brother. But his touch let him down and he fed Kevin Doyle whose rasping effort was blocked on the line by Lloyd James.
Morgan Schneiderlin had a shot blocked, Andrew Lallana was thwarted by Marcus Hahnemann and Bradley Wright-Phillips missed a sitter after Ivar Ingimarsson failed to get a proper connection on a clearance.
But the pressure told on 13 minutes. James whipped in a superb outswinging cross and Wright-Phillips jumped above Liam Rosenior to crash home a header at the back of the six-yard box.
The Saints had penalty appeals turned down after the ball hit Ingimarsson’s arm and there was another scare when Jordan Robertson went to ground under a challenge from Hahnemann.
Reading were on the ropes.
Hahnemann thwarted Schneiderlin and Lallana before the break in what was possibly Royals’ worst home display of the season.
But there was little change after the break and Wright-Phillips smashed home a 20-yard effort to put Southampton 2-0 up.
Reading were in desperate need of a lift and Marek Matejovsky was thrown into the action with more than half an hour to go. Within minutes Royals had reduced the deficit.
Stephen Hunt cleverly dummied Matejovsky’s pass allowing Chris Armstrong to seize possession and power forward. He slipped a neat pass into Doyle, whose fierce effort was parried by Kelvin Davis.
However, Jimmy Kebe was first to react, slamming home the loose ball for his first competitive goal for the club.
Doyle then blazed over and James Harper had a very good headed goal ruled out for offside, but Royals’ last chance of salvaging something from a below-par display came a minute from time when Doyle nodded Brynjar Gunnarsson’s cross over the bar.
Reading have the chance to put this defeat behind them almost immediately as they travel to Cardiff tomorrow night.
And Armstrong insisted: “We’ll be ready for it. It’s an important game for us because we need three points. The good thing is the next game comes quickly so we can get over this and move on from here.”
If it hadn’t been for Hahnemann, Royals would have suffered defeat by a far greater margin on Saturday.
The keeper was again in fine form, making a couple of very good stops to frustrate Southampton’s strike force.
But the American is already looking forward to getting back on track at Ninian Park.
He said: “I hate losing. You don’t have time to think about it, though, because we were back in yesterday, preparing for a game against Cardiff tomorrow night.
“It happens really quickly and that’s good for us because it gives us a chance to put things right.
“It will be a tough game, but we have to perform better than we did on Saturday.”
Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Armstrong, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Harper (Gunnarsson 83mins), Cisse (Matejovsky 55mins), Kebe, S Hunt, Doyle, N Hunt (Long 61mins). Subs not used: Andersen, Henry.
Southampton: Davis, Perry, Wright-Philips, McGoldrick, Robertson (Paterson 75mins), Cork, Skacel, James, Schneiderlin, Surman, Lallana. Subs not used: Bialkowski, Wotton, Mills, Gasmi. Booked: Surman 45mins.
Referee: Lee Probert (Gloucester).