Monday, 4 April 2011

Reading - Madjeski Stadium

14th January 2003

Reading 1-1 Walsall (1-4 on pens)

The dim prospect of having to spend a full week in Hungerford on a training course lightened slightly when I noticed an FA Cup replay between nearby Reading and Walsall had been scheduled for the week of my visit.  

Taking the train from Hungerford to Reading, I was rather pleased to note on arrival that the club had laid on free shuttle-buses to take fans to the Madejski Stadium.  I guessed this service was an attempt to entice the good people of Reading out to the fringes of their town where their football club had moved in 1998.

Reading, having recorded a draw at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium 10 days previous, and already having a league win over their opponents under their belt went into the match as favourites.  But Walsall, very clearly, had not read the script and took the game to Reading right from the off, taking the lead after only 7 minutes when Darren WRACK headed in. 

The Reading midfield gradually, but inexorably, began to take a grip on the match, and it a was little surprise when the hosts equalised in 32 minutes, a free-kick from Ricky Newman being diverted into this own goal by Walsall’s Spanish defender Zigor ARANALDE.  The second period was all Reading really, but the Walsall defence limited their hosts to long-range shots by and large.  Visiting ‘keeper James Walker was rarely troubled, but had to look sharp to deal with two such efforts from Nicky Forster and James Harper.

Thus did the match drift to extra-time, and then penalties.  To ensure I caught the last train back to Hungerford, I needed to ensure I was on the first batch of shuttle-buses to leave the ground, so I decided to forego the penalty shoot-out lottery which, for the record, was won by Walsall 4-1.

All in all the trip to the Madejski was interesting rather than exciting, due partly to the general soulless nature of these new identikit grounds, but primarily to the smallish (8767) crowd rattling around in such a huge arena.  I was glad I had taken the opportunity to attend, although mightily pissed off when I realised I had left my good gloves and woolly hat on the train.

Quite why I chose to take a photo of the Madejski Stadium car park
at night I cannot fathom.  But here it is, should anyone be interested in such a thing
Panorama of The Madejski Stadium, Reading.

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