A Royal Affair: Game Nine

3 01 2007

A Royal Affair collates my attempts to take relegation-favourites Reading from the lower regions of the Premiership to higher heights. So far results have been encouraging, and the players are working well together as we strive to make our target of forty points by the end of the season. Out last match, a 3-0 victory over Charlton, took the total to 16, but with October now approaching, how will the Royals perform in what is sure to be a tough month?

Aston Villa v Reading

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The convincing three-nil victory over Charlton would have been a great boost to us going into this match, but with a two week break for international fixtures, the momentum was somewhat taken out of the side. To keep the team fresh and fit, Glen Little returned on the right wing, allowing Kevin Doyle to push upfront and replace Shane Long. The rest of the team remained unchanged, although we were able to recall both Dave Kitson and Bobby Convey to the bench following earlier injuries that prevented either player from completing a full match so far this season.

We started lively, almost taking the lead after three minutes when Seol Ki-Hyeon headed over from just outside of the area. However, we didn’t have to wait long before the deadlock was broken. After Steve Sidwell was brought down well outside the area, James Harper stepped up and fired home a cracking free kick – his second goal in as many games. The thirty yard strike was a great start, but we weren’t able to capitalise on it as much as we should have. Villa had six attempts in the remaining minutes of the first half, compared to just two for us, and while we were in the lead, it didn’t look like lasting for much longer. At half time, Kitson and Convey were brought on, ready to take the next step in their return to full fitness.

We created an early chance, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the backfoot again. Pushing forward, our hosts were keeping Marcus Hahnemann busy, but after 70 minutes the American goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net for the first time in five games. Milan Baros had been given way too much space in the penalty area, and wasn’t prepared to waste the chance. Before today we hadn’t conceded since our trip to Fulham – keeping clean sheets against Watford, Burnley, Middlesbrough and Charlton since then.

We couldn’t lose this game now – not after the hard work we had put in – and so in the hope of perhaps stealing a winning goal, we pushed forward more and tried to win the ball in midfield before Villa could attack. With both sides eager to score but more eager to keep a secure defence, the final few minutes of the game descended into a midfield battle. During injury time both sides came close to finding a winner, but with the final whistle, we couldn’t really complain too much about the result. The fact that we feel disapointed to pick up only a point shows how far we’ve come so far this season – from the team tipped to finishing bottom to the team determined to win every game. This was the sort of spirit we would need in order to stay up. Afterall, why aim for 17th when you can finish higher?

The draw was another point towards our target, but more importantly also saw the return of Convey and Kitson. More players are getting fitter now, and with some big games on the horizon we will need the strongest and fittest players available. Up next is the visit of Arsenal to the Madejeski – a match that is sure to be a difficult and challenging encounter.

Aston Villa 1-1 Reading
Goalscorer: James Harper
Current Points Total: 17
Points off target of 40: 23

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Missed any games? You can read all previous reports here!

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