Watford 0 Reading 0: Coppell refuses to be lured into false sense of security
Monday 11 December 2006
Throughout last season, even when his team were running away with the Championship, Steve Coppell refused to utter the word promotion in public until it was a mathematical certainty. By the same token, although his Reading side look set to reach the halfway stage of their inaugural Premiership campaign in admirable health, Coppell will not concede that his target of survival has already been achieved.
Kidology? Another word the deep-thinking Royals manager views with suspicion, citing this result as a case in point. Reading may have finished 25 points ahead of Watford when both were promoted in May but for long periods on Saturday, especially in the second half, they struggled to repeat the creative form that had yielded four successive wins until a midweek setback at Newcastle United.
And that, said Coppell, proved why he cannot bring himself to play up his team's fortunes. "It's not a deliberate thing but I've been here before, with Crystal Palace," he recalled. "We were around 10th in November and ended up relegated. This division can strangle you... I'm very mindful that we can be vulnerable."
Not least, according to Coppell, when playing twice a week. "The one thing we have noticed in the Premiership is that every game is more intense. There is, if you like, a layover factor. In the Championship, when you play on a Wednesday it's forgotten about by the weekend. In this division, it's analysed and replayed. Physically and emotionally, it's hovering around."
Hovering around the foot of the table - rock bottom, in fact - is where Watford find themselves. Adrian Boothroyd, as ever, praised his side for their commitment. Yet isn't that what all managers of struggling sides say? "They're not me and they haven't got my team," he responded. "Other teams will go by the wayside but we won't."
Successive goalless draws may not constitute survival form but, having taken a point at Manchester City, Watford had the better of this match. Still, they desperately need at least one proven goalscorer in the January transfer window for, West Bromwich aside, history shows the team bottom at Christmas always goes down. "Stats put ceilings on people's beliefs," Boothroyd said. "We've got a belief we can do it."
One footnote. After his side's recent defeat at Portsmouth, Boothroyd called for underperforming referees to be "put in the stocks and hit with tomatoes". The man in charge that day was Chris Foy, who gave a penalty to Pompey in the dying moments from which they secured victory. Foy was in charge again here and got few, if any, decisions wrong. The only factor Boothroyd could cite for dropping two home points was his team's perpetual lack of firepower.
Watford (4-4-2): Lee; Chambers, DeMerit, Shittu, Stewart; Francis, Bangura, Bouazza, Young; Henderson, Smith (Powell 84). Substitutes not used: Chamberlain (gk), Mariappa, Priskin, Spring.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Bikey, Sonko, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Oster (Little 90), Harper, Sidwell, Hunt; Lita (Long 75), Doyle. Substitutes not used: Federici (gk), Gunnarsson, Sodje.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Booked: Reading Oster.
Man of the match: Hahnemann.
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