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Matches of Yesteryear - Reading v U's 26/01/02
Written by wessex_exile on Friday, 6th Sep 2019 19:25

Reading v Colchester United

Saturday 26th January 2002

Nationwide Division 2 (Tier 3)

Attendance 12,743

Well, it had to happen eventually – a match without a doubt I attended but can’t for the life of me recall a single moment of! I certainly remember the journey over, which included a particularly fraught incident following several tins of lager on the first leg of my train journey, my connection from Basingstoke to Reading having no working toilets, and an empty lager tin – but I’ll leave you to work the rest out!

This wasn’t my first trip to the Madejski Stadium, which opened in 1998, I’d been quite a few times before, including the LDV Vans Trophy game earlier the same season (which we lost 2-1). Alan Pardew was managing the Royals at the time, who following six consecutive wins (all clean sheets) were sat comfortably top of the league, six points ahead of Brighton (albeit Brighton had two games in hand). The U’s were managed by Steve Whitton, and positioned reasonably well in mid-table, six points off the play-offs.

The U’s lined up at the Madejski:

1….Simon Brown

30..John Halls (six-game loan from Arsenal)

19..Alan White (White White)

12..Scott Fitzgerald

7….Karl Duguid

3….Joe Keith (Gavin Johnson 55’)

20..Micky Stockwell

10..Kem Izzet

17..Bobby Bowry (Thomas Pinault 77’)

9….Scott McGleish

11..Graham Barrett

For the Royals that day were two who were destined to become some of the greatest names of the early 21st century for the U’s – Phil Parkinson in the starting line-up (and subbed in the 72nd minute), and Jamie Cureton coming off the bench in the 60th minute. Other names of note included John Mackie (on the front cover of the programme), John Salako, and of course Reading goal-machine Nicky Forster.

I don’t have the stats for the U’s fans in attendance, but I’d reckon it was somewhere between 3-400, in a stadium which was just over half-full on the day – actually quite a decent crowd for Reading at the time, no doubt reflecting their recent success. The matchday facts (courtesy of https://www.coludata.co.uk/) were that Nicky Forster put Reading ahead from the penalty spot a few minutes before half-time, and Andy Hughes doubled the lead not long into the second half. In the 55th minute Steve Whitton replaced Keith with Johnson, and in the 60th minute (presumably tactically), Cureton made his appearance, replacing Tony Rougier. In the 69th minute, Nicky Forster again showed why he was such a renowned striker, putting Reading 3-0 up, and the game out of reach for the U’s. Shortly after, with Parkinson on a yellow card, he was replaced by Keith Jones, and not even the late introduction of Thomas Pinault for Bobby Bowry was enough for the U’s to get anything from the game.

However, in the absence of any meaningful match memories, what I can share is a little glimpse into my working life, and more importantly, how that has a direct bearing on being at the Madejski Stadium. Over the years, my company has provided archaeological services in support of the development of numerous football grounds and associated infrastructure. These have included Melksham Town, Rolvenden FC, Chichester City, Ebbsfleet United, Brentford’s new stadium, Hayes (before they became Hayes & Yeading United), Dorchester Town, Margate, even Southend United’s proposed stadium at Fossett’s Farm, and most notably the St Mary’s stadium at Southampton. This association also includes appointment by Reading FC to carry out archaeological works to clear the site ahead of the development of the Madejski Stadium and associated Reading Gate Retail Park (as it was then known).

Most of the proposed development site was occupied by Smallmead Tip, a household refuse landfill site mainly in use during the late 60s and 70s. The tip covered a vast area south of Foudry Brook, and to the west of what was then a drainage leat and footpath from Hartley Court in the south to Manor Farm in the north. Incidentally, the area around the Madejski still has built-in methane vents to this day because of the landfill still remaining in the surrounding area.

We were appointed in 1996 to evaluate land outside the footprint of the former tip to the east, in 1997 to the carry out a watching brief during removal of all the landfill material, and in 1998 to excavate remains identified during the previous evaluation. The first image below shows the extent of the watching brief overlain on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map of the area, and indeed where the former drainage leats used to run, which we subsequently re-discovered under the landfill, though that was about as exciting as this area got unfortunately.

The evaluation in the ‘lobe’ to the east, however, was a little more productive, identifying three ditches, all containing both 1st/2nd century Romano-British pottery, and some residual prehistoric finds. Two of the ditches (1546 and 1547), though somewhat sinuous, were broadly parallel, and were likely part of a Romano-British enclosure or field system. Though of a similar period, the third ditch (1548) was definitely later, and most likely indicates a rearrangement of the field system at some point (plan and section drawings below).

The residual prehistoric material was interesting, including not only Late Bronze Age (1100-700 BC) pottery, but worked flint of both Early Neolithic (4-3000 BC) and potentially Mesolithic (8500-4000 BC) date. We were already aware of the prehistoric potential of the overall area, and a zone of high prehistoric potential further to the north was subsequently preserved in situ beneath a car park.

Oh yes, and in case you’ve forgotten, the match finished…

Reading 3 (Forster 38’, Hughes 48’, Forster 69’) Colchester United 0

The Reading match was not long after a slump in our form had started, and which was largely going to continue through to the end of the season, only winning another four games in the end. Though we were never in any real danger of relegation, this was a disappointing finish, given we had been around the promotion and play-off spots for the first three months of the season. Reading were eventually overtaken by Brighton & Hove Albion, but were still promoted in second place, with Stoke City going up via the play-offs.

The U’s were captained for this game by Scott Fitzgerald, who had only been given the role in the middle of the week before. Some may recall this was following the sudden and unexpected departure of Simon Clark, who out of the blue had asked for his contract to be terminated with immediate effect, so that he and his family could go out to the Far East. Clark insisted at the time that this was a personal matter and nothing to do with Colchester United. He ended up playing three seasons with Woodlands Wellington in Singapore, and is currently Lead Youth Development Phase coach for Northampton Town.

We were, of course, going to see much more of Phil Parkinson and Jamie Cureton in the years to come, but that will be for another day I expect…

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