Reading 1 Bolton Wanderers 0: Coppell wary despite Reading's fast ascent

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The queue for buses away from Reading's well appointed but somewhat isolated Madejski Stadium was long, and the night was getting cold. But the group of home fans waiting patiently for their trip back into town had warming memories of yet another enterprising victory from their team, this time against heavyweight opposition.

And joy of joys, one of them was taking a call from a Queen's Park Rangers supporter who had just seen his team lose 3-0 at Crystal Palace. After a few moments of gentle mickey-taking, the Reading caller signed off with a suggestion: "Take a look at the top of the Premiership table." His compadres laughed out loud, as well they might.

Like Wigan last year, Reading are up where they are not supposed to be. Having ended their 135-year wait for top-flight football this season under the guidance of their manager, Steve Coppell, the Berkshire side found themselves in sixth place on Saturday evening - European qualification territory.

It is enough to make a manager feel proud. But in Coppell's case, the overriding emotion is very different. He says he feels vulnerable.

Bolton were the team who frustrated Reading's Premiership aspirations 11 years ago, beating them 4-3 after extra time in the play-off final, and Coppell was careful to register his "immense respect" for the way Sam Allardyce has consolidated his team's rise in status.

Coppell is seeing a similar period of stability for his side, and is doggedly determined not to fall prey to even a hint of hubris. His uncertainty stems from a clear intimation of how quickly things could change for a side that is composed almost entirely of the men whose efforts earned promotion last season.

"We are more vulnerable than most because we have a small squad and if we lose players for whatever reason it affects us more than other teams," Coppell said. "Reading fans understand. We have grown up together, the team and the supporters. I don't think they are talking about getting into Europe. That is not on our radar at the moment. We have got no track record - we don't know how we are going to react as the season progresses."

Well, they are doing nicely just now. Watching them on Saturday was like opening a window and breathing fresh air, and the way in which they fashioned the decisive goal after 33 minutes said everything about their confidence.

Reading's left-back Nicky Shorey produced one of his habitual charges down the wing, rounding a half-hearted challenge from Kevin Davies before sweeping the ball across to find John Oster - in for the injured Glen Little - on the right. The former Everton man produced a feint which left Stelios Giannakopoulos marking space before measuring a cross to the far post which was headed carefully home by Reading's Kevin Doyle, who is now joint top Premiership scorer with Didier Drogba on eight.

Bolton were doubtless fatigued from the midweek defeat by Chelsea. But the excuses of their manager, Sam Allardyce, could not disguise what was a leaden, and at times cynical display.

Goal: Doyle (33) 1-0.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Oster (Gunnarsson, 87), Sidwell, Harper, Hunt; Doyle, Seol Ki-Hyeon (Lita, 76). Substitutes not used: Bikey, Long, Federici (gk).

Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt, Faye, Meite, Ben Haim (Pedersen, 85); Davies, Stelios, Speed (Campo, 60), Nolan, Hadji Diouf (Vaz Te, 60); Anelka. Substitutes not used: Al-Habsi, Tal.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire)

Booked: Bolton Nolan, Jaaskaleinen, Ben Haim.

Man of the match: Oster.

Attendance: 23,556

Comments