"That's why we're going up," sang the Reading faithful as Steve Coppell's team continued their relentless drive towards the Premiership last night by dismantling Norwich with a performance of style and panache that extended their unbeaten League run to a remarkable 30 games.
Two goals in each half, plus a string of other chances, opened up a 10-point gap at the top of the Championship as a poor Norwich side were swept aside by a combination of pace and penetration that, according to the locals, included their finest opening 20-minute spell of an already thrilling season.
The last time Norwich visited the Madejski stadium, Nigel Worthington's side left with a 1-0 victory on their way to promotion. Last night, the boot was firmly on the other foot and Reading began like a whirlwind. Gary Doherty was shown yellow rather than red after wrestling the last man, Kevin Doyle, to the ground, but Nicky Shorey bent a superb free-kick around the wall and beyond Robert Green.
Green then saved brilliantly to keep out Doyle's close-range effort, but it quickly got worse for him and his team as Glen Little crossed from the right and Steve Sidwell came storming through to plant a header firmly into the net.
If ever a side needed some respite it was Norwich, but although they re-emerged with far more purpose, within 10 minutes of the restart they conceded again when Doyle turned provider and Leroy Lita got the last touch. All that was left was for Bobby Convey to round off the scoring with the goal of the game though there was still time for Green to pull off a couple of fine saves.
If Reading carry on like this, they could be promoted by March but the thoughtful Coppell insists he never even looks at the League table. Being a perfectionist , he was more concerned by the Royals' moments of sloppiness when they were either saved by Marcus Hahnemann or by Norwich's poor finishing.
"They had some really good opportunities and we've got to look into that," Coppell said. "I admit that going forward we were very quick in terms of spreading the play but I have to be demanding of the players and I saw flaws. That's just the way I am. You can't just be satisfied with things, occasionally you have to be constructively critical and push the players which doesn't happen if they just get complimented all the time."
The Norwich manager, Nigel Worthington, admitted Reading had "played like champions", but said that his team gave them far too much space. Worthington has brought in three players in the transfer window, two of whom were on the bench yesterday. The third is the former West Brom striker Robert Earnshaw, bought as a replacement for Dean Ashton for £3.5m. On yesterday's showing, the Canaries certainly need the boost in firepower.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Little (Oster, 60), Harper, Sidwell (Gunnarsson, 71), Convey; Doyle (Long, 74), Lita. Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Hunt.
Norwich City (4-3-3): Green; Colin, Fleming, Doherty, Drury (Jarrett, 45); Hughes, Charlton, Etuhu; Thorne (Johansson, 64), McVeigh (Henderson, 64), Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Gallacher (gk), Rehman.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).Reuse content