For all the reticence of Steve Coppell to lavish praise on his Reading team, they are motoring impressively. This was their fourth win in a row, lifting them into sixth place in the Premiership, a position where some managers would launch into auto-babble about Europe. "That is not on our radar," was Coppell's dismissive comment.
However, he did praise the teamwork that gave the base for a victory achieved by the electric Kevin Doyle's eighth goal of the season and his fifth in the past six games. "I couldn't really think of a weakness," said the manager. "Everyone contributed fully. It was a good, strong performance against a team I have immense respect for."
The extent to which Reading's squad graft for each other was exemplified by John Oster. Brought in as replacement for the injured Glen Little, the former Everton and Sunderland man's eager running was the key which unlocked Bolton's back line, and, if there was just one goal in this game, it was indisputably a gem.
Nicky Shorey, whose every move at left-back is accompanied by chants from the crowd of "Shorey for England", started the goal move just after the half-hour with an enterprising burst out of defence which carried him over the halfway line before unleashing a ball the width of the field to Oster. The winger cut inside one defender before lofting his cross to the far post, where Doyle cleverly anticipated Jussi Jaaskelainen's intentions before heading the ball back across his leap and into the far bottom corner.
Bolton, the team Coppell forecast a week ago might end his side's winning run, offered the familiar formula based on progress via throw-ins, free-kicks and corners, all seemingly taken by that indefatigable veteran, Gary Speed. A couple of early opportunities were carved, but Kevin Nolan, put through by Kevin Davies, saw his shot blocked by Marcus Hahnemann before El Hadji Diouf failed to get enough on his header from a Nicky Hunt centre.
Nicolas Anelka, in such electrifying form against Arsenal a week ago, reverted to indolence and ineffectiveness until contributing towards Bolton's late surge in pursuit of an equaliser, when a couple of thundering shots were charged down by a Reading defence clocking up its third successive clean sheet.
With Oster consistently getting the better of his marker, Tal Ben Haim, space started to open with half an hour gone for Doyle's brand of deadliness. Twice the striker got to the byline for crosses; the first was badly mis-timed by Seol Ki-Hyeon and the second escaped Stephen Hunt's rush by inches. With a confidence bred by the victories over Tottenham, Charlton and Fulham, Reading knocked the ball around to great effect, as was shown by the goal, and they continued the good work after the interval, with Seol and Hunt setting up Oster, who ballooned over. Shorey's dipping effort was much closer to the target, but progress became more testing as Bolton upped their commitment in a match of surprisingly few fouls, though Nolan was fortunate to escape with a yellow for chopping down Reading's best midfielder, Steve Sidwell.
Risking being on the wrong end of a breakaway, Bolton pushed forward and might have been punished when the quick-footed substitute Leroy Lita forced a save from Jaaskelainen. Reading's growing maturity in the top flight was displayed at an Ivan Campo free-kick, when the home defence moved upfield in unison, leaving half-a-dozen Bolton men stranded.
In a desperate bid to land that equaliser, Jaaskelainen moved upfield in added time but collected nothning more than a yellow card for obstructing his opposite number. For Bolton, it was that sort of afternoon.Reuse content