PAST ENCOUNTERS: READING

New series looking at previous matches down the years

Before we start, just a couple of quick notes; in recognition that content on my site is a little thin from time to time (doing full match previews ends up getting repetitive and time consuming, reacting to away games I haven’t seen seems an exercise in futility and there’s little value in putting up a match verdict for home games when they’ve been televised, so I’m to an extent only feeding back what everyone already knows), I’ve decided to introduce this series which, if this instalment works out, should be in place ahead of most of the remaining away games this season. So hopefully it meets favourably with you…

Secondly, at present I only have team data going back to 1996. This is something I’m working on improving as we speak, but for now I can’t provide that information for any games before the start of the 1996/7 season. But it’s there for the rest of them, so you can marvel out how rubbish our midfield looked year on year.

So without further ado, here we go with a look back at how we’ve performed against Saturday’s opponents Reading:

13 August 1994: Wolves 1-0 Reading

Newly-promoted Reading came to Molineux on the opening day of the season and the expectation, as so often in the 1990s, was that we would brush them aside with our raft of expensively acquired signings. As so often proved to be the case in the 1990s, this was not the reality. After an opening five minutes where Neil Emblen managed to fall over the ball on his debut, we picked up and fellow debutant Steve Froggatt tapped in after 11 minutes after a Darren Ferguson shot was parried away by Shaka Hislop. Steve Bull was injured in the build-up to the goal and replaced by 90s curtains afficionado Lee Mills and our play declined from there. In the end Reading dominated the game and we were indebted to Mike Stowell for a series of saves, including one in the dying moments from future Wolf Simon Osborn.

Goalscorer: Froggatt

More cumbersome than Cedric Roussel.

18 December 1994: Reading 4-2 Wolves

Quite a few notable things from this one, most of which you can see on the video below:

  • Mark McGhee leaving Reading for Leicester in the week preceding this game leading to quite a febrile atmosphere at Elm Park

  • Another future Wolf (there’s a theme here) in Scott Taylor producing a shocking tackle on Steve Froggatt which ruled him out for the rest of the season. As this video is from Reading’s official YouTube channel, they’ve omitted to include it in the highlights. But rest assured, it was terrible

  • Simon Osborn scoring a header. Yes, really. Simon Osborn. A header.

  • Don Goodman having the sheer nerve to claim a goal when he got nowhere near touching it

  • John de Wolf’s lack of mobility being exposed for the first time in a Wolves shirt as Uwe Hartenberger raced away from him

  • Michael Gilkes – guess who he went on to play for – bringing back the days of the playground as he not only robbed Stuart Lovell of a goal, but thundered it in from two inches out

  • Some idiosyncratic co-commentary from Theo Foley

This was our fifth defeat in seven games as our push for the title faltered badly (and we went on to get absolutely thumped in our next game at Boundary Park on Boxing Day).

Goalscorers: Bull, Quinn (OG)

9 March 1996: Wolves 1-1 Reading

McGhee was our manager by this point, giving Reading further incentive to get one over on us. Our results had taken a mild upturn following the arrival of the Scot without seriously threatening to properly bother the top six and this turned out to be a rather drab mid-table draw of little consequence. Ex-Wolf and co-player/manager Mick Gooding gave the visitors the lead after 17 minutes and Premier League winner (yes, it’s still hard to believe) Mark Atkins equalised just before half-time. Worth noting that the attendance for this one in a season that was going nowhere was just under 26,000. Folk were evidently much more easily pleased in the mid 90s.

Goalscorer: Atkins

30 April 1996: Reading 3-0 Wolves

This game was originally due to be played just before Christmas, but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Elm Park. As our season capsized towards the end – we won none of our final eight games and weren’t assured of safety until our penultimate home fixture – this lame capitulation emphasised the need for an overhaul of our squad and thinking. Martin Williams opened the scoring and the result was sealed by a Jimmy Quinn brace. You can get away with being player/manager and picking yourself if you’re still the best player.

5 October 1996: Wolves 0-1 Reading

Having shifted to a 3-5-2 system for the 1996/7 season, the motif for the first half of our campaign was “good away, rubbish at home”. We had only won two of our opening five home games before this fixture with the slight mitigation that we had played heavily fancied QPR, Sheffield United and Bolton at Molineux in that sequence; surely this was a chance to put that home record right? As it turned out, no. This was another disjointed performance and with 20 minutes to go, a shocking error from Dean Richards let in Jamie Lambert who tucked away the only goal of the game. This led to Richards being jeered by sections of the crowd which only goes to serve to prove that Bright Enobakhare shouldn’t get too downhearted, we’ve had a small element of dicks hanging around for well over 20 years.

Team: Stowell; Smith (Romano 59), Atkins, Venus, Richards, Froggatt; Thompson, Ferguson, Corica (Emblen 45); Bull, Roberts (Crowe 45)

Time to change tactics? No, let’s carry on with a bottom six home record.

12 April 1997: Reading 2-1 Wolves

Things were getting tense as we approached the climax of the season with us locked in a battle with Barnsley to take second place behind runaway leaders Bolton. Three away defeats in eight days in mid-March had damaged our prospects but not terminally and we travelled to Berkshire in need of a victory. A prosaic game came to life in the final 15 minutes, Atkins scoring at the near post from a corner and it seemed that a scrappy but vital win would be ours. However, as so often was the case with Wolves in this era, if they could kick you in the teeth, they would. 1-0 up after 89 minutes. Lost 2-1 to two Lovell goals. Sake. 

Team: Stowell; Smith, Law, Curle, Froggatt (Thompson 78); Thomas, Ferguson, Atkins; Goodman, Roberts, Gilkes (Venus 87)

Goalscorer: Atkins

Grim.

14 October 1997: Reading 4-2 Wolves (League Cup)

A seriously indifferent start to 1997/8 (three wins in 11 league games) saw disquiet growing towards McGhee whose natural air of arrogance was beginning to grate with seemingly little to back it up. There was little respite in this League Cup game as despite a Bully brace, we were handsomely beaten and to add insult to injury, new signing Adrian Williams put through his own net on his first return to Reading since joining us in 1996. Of course lame early exits from the League Cup would become a familiar theme over the next couple of decades, but at this stage we weren’t so inured to them.

Team: Stowell; Smith, Williams, Curle, Naylor; Robinson, Ferguson (Keane 54), Atkins, Sanjuan (Foley 64); Bull, Paatelainen

Goalscorer: Bull (2)

20 December 1997: Reading 0-0 Wolves

Results had improved as we approached Christmas and off the back of an impressive win against eventual league champions Nottingham Forest, we were looking to push into the top six. This was a grim stalemate notable only for a red card apiece to Paul Bodin and Paul Simpson and for McGhee continuing his record of failing to beat Reading since he departed the club. Not much to see here.

Team: Stowell; Atkins, Curle, Sedgley, Froggatt; Keane, Robinson, Osborn, Simpson; Goodman, Freedman (Ferguson 48)

18 April 1998: Wolves 3-1 Reading

At last, a win for McGhee over his former employers. Alas, it was meaningless by this stage. Reading were already all but relegated and our season was effectively over after the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal and no more than a notional mathematical chance of making the playoffs. Items of interest from a virtual dead rubber; Reading’s goalscorer Paul Brayson notched his first goal for the club following what was becoming a trademark error from Hans Segers. It also proved to be his last goal for them, finishing with a record of one goal in 42 appearances (he’d have fitted in well with our 2016/17 crop of forwards). These were Don Goodman’s final goals at Molineux before he departed for Japan at the end of his contract and this was the first sub-20,000 league attendance at home for us since December 1993.

Team: Segers; Muscat, Curle, Sedgley, Naylor; Slater (Bull 57), Robinson (Atkins 57), Osborn, Simpson; Claridge (Keane 64), Goodman

Goalscorers: Muscat, Goodman (2)

21 September 2002: Wolves 0-1 Reading

There were plenty of parallels here with the corresponding fixture in October 1996. A stuttering start to the season after a playoff failure in the previous campaign. A manager whose natural personality defects were starting to become an issue. And as it turned out, the same scoreline. Andy Hughes’ dipping long range effort was the only goal of the game as the Royals walked away with a deserved victory. We also once more saw boos for one of our own players, though Paul Butler had long since contributed to his own downfall in the favour of fans with a series of poor, seemingly uncommitted displays and being visibly overweight – as it turned out, he would shortly lose his place to Northern Irish youngster Mark Clyde before winning it back in the New Year.

Team: Murray; Irwin, Butler (Cooper 64), Lescott, Naylor; Ingimarsson; Newton, Ince, Rae; Ndah (Blake 74), Sturridge

Still, at least he’s sorted out his look now.

12 March 2003: Reading 0-1 Wolves

Form had improved by the time we reached spring and we made our first trip to the Madejski Stadium on a run of just one defeat in 10 league games, albeit we had just been knocked out of the FA Cup at Southampton three days prior to this match. With the home side also chasing a playoff spot, we picked up a vital and well-merited win thanks to the supremely in-form Kenny Miller – this being his 14th goal since the start of 2003.

Team: Murray; Irwin, Butler, Lescott, Naylor; Newton, Rae, Cameron (Clyde 89), Kennedy; Blake (Proudlock 79), Miller (Sturridge 87)

Goalscorer: Miller

10 May 2003: Wolves 2-1 Reading (Playoff Semi-final First Leg)

Having never been successful in the playoffs going back to their introduction in 1986/7, there was significant apprehension that our post-Christmas run of form (two defeats in 21 games) that had propelled us into the top six – lest we forget, the absolute minimum we would have been expected to achieve at the start of the season – would come to nothing. This game had a real Sliding Doors moment – in the opening hour of the game, Reading played us totally off the park with goalscorer Nicky Forster being easily the best player on the pitch. But on the hour mark, Forster went off injured. Had he remained on the field for the entire match, the likelihood was that Reading would have gone on to win. However, shorn of their focal point, the visitors allowed us to come back into the game and a Graeme Murty own goal (from a Shaun Newton shot which was going wide) brought the scores level before the oft-maligned Lee Naylor crashed home a winner six minutes from time. Make no mistake, we profited from good fortune here. Credit to us for keeping going after a very poor first two thirds of the game, but it was more than a bit of a smash and grab.

Team: Murray; Irwin, Butler, Lescott, Naylor (Pollet 89); Ndah (Newton 66), Cameron, Ince, Kennedy; Blake, Miller (Sturridge 86)

Goalscorers: Murty (OG), Naylor

14 May 2003: Reading 0-1 Wolves (Playoff semi-final Second Leg)

The tension around this game was simply incredible. Every Reading attack seemed destined to end in a goal (although in reality, Matt Murray wasn’t unduly troubled throughout the match). We seemed to be hanging on for dear life right from the outset. Dave Jones seemed to have set us up with the explicit aim of picking up a 0-0 draw which was never this team’s forté and the approach seemed fraught with danger. And then, nine minutes from time, there it was. A neat piece of play from Colin Cameron on the edge of the box, into the feet of Alex Rae. A trademark little spin away from his marker to work a yard of space. A drilled finish across Marcus Hahnemann. 1-0 and job done. Word is that a minor hurricane was reported across the Wolverhampton area at around 9:20 that evening as tens of thousands of people exhaled deeply at the exact same time. I suspect that a massive proportion of Wolves fans have at one time or another had Rae’s celebration following that goal as their desktop background.

Team: Murray; Irwin, Butler, Lescott, Naylor; Newton (Cooper 89), Cameron, Ince, Kennedy; Blake (Sturridge 85), Miller (Rae 75)

Goalscorer: Rae

4 December 2004: Wolves 4-1 Reading

Quite the contrast here from the euphoria of our previous encounter with Reading. Our sojourn in the Premier League had lasted just a single season. Dave Jones was gone, sacked after a miserable start to life back in the second tier. We were at this point managerless, with Stuart Gray in temporary charge yet with little prospect of taking the reigns permanently. This turned out to be his penultimate game as caretaker as in a surprising (and as it turned out, awful) move, Glenn Hoddle was appointed in the following week. Gray picked up his third win in five games here which given the weaknesses, imbalances and divisions in the squad, wasn’t bad at all. It was, however, a massively flattering scoreline as Michael Oakes was forced into a string of saves before substitute Leon Clarke cashed in with two late goals. This being the brief period where Leon actually tried in a Wolves shirt. Yes, he did, honest.

Team: Oakes; Lowe, Craddock, Lescott, Kennedy; Cooper, Cameron, Andrews, Olofinjana (Naylor 69); Cort, Sturridge (Clarke 60)

Goalscorers: Cameron, Olofinjana, Clarke (2)

30 April 2005: Reading 1-2 Wolves

Our insane amount of draws under Hoddle put paid to any thoughts of a late push for the top six, although we were unbeaten in 16 games going into our final away game of the season. Reading were still in contention to make the playoffs and took an early lead here through that man Forster. However, from that point we dominated the game. Playing a diamond formation which seemed well-suited to the hotchpotch of central midfielders that we’d somehow acquired, we had the lion’s share of possession and deservedly equalised through Clarke early on in the second half. And then, a moment I can say I was privileged to personally witness. Rohan Ricketts scored. It happened, I saw it with my own eyes. Actually took it quite well too. Never did he score again for us in a subsequent 50 appearances. In fact he never scored again in professional football in England. Quite the record for an attacking midfielder, or playmaker as he styled himself. To add insult to that considerable injury for Reading, this defeat essentially ended their playoff hopes. Ruined by Rohan Ricketts, the sheer indignity of it all.

Team: Oakes; Edwards, Craddock, Lescott, Naylor; Olofinjana, Cameron, Ricketts, Seol; Miller, Clarke (Bischoff 89)

Goalscorers: Clarke, Ricketts

I’m sure it’s not Rohan’s fault that he’s a knobhead. But he is a knobhead.

26 December 2005: Wolves 0-2 Reading

Progress under Hoddle in the following season was limited at best. We still drew far too many games. We’d abandoned the diamond midfield which actually worked and had moved to a front three which invariably involved at least one career striker playing out wide. As he is Glenn Hoddle and was behaving and speaking like Glenn Hoddle, it’s fair to say that opinion of him was mixed at best. Despite all this, we were at least in and around the top six and faced up against the league leaders in a big Boxing Day showdown off the back of a run of seven games unbeaten. This was a chance for us to show that just as in 2002/3, we could turn things around in the second half of the season and really challenge. It’s not a test that we passed. I mentioned that our 4-1 win a year previous to this had been somewhat flattering; this result flattered us too. Reading were far better than a 2-0 scoreline suggests. They totally played us off the park from the first minute and we were never in with any kind of shout of getting anything from the game. It was a game which fundamentally underlined that Hoddle was a man floundering, a footballing pseud who had nothing meaningful to offer, totally outclassed and unable to respond when faced with a challenge. People will still have you believe that he’s some kind of great loss to the game. The only shame in his failure to manage anyone in over a decade is that we’re forced to endure his punditry.

Team: Postma; Edwards, Gyepes (Craddock 73), Lescott, Naylor; Anderton (Ndah 69), Ricketts (Cameron 61), Kennedy; Miller, Ganea, Seol

I haven’t finished with him yet. He’ll get the full treatment next month. Watch this space.

18 March 2006: Reading 1-1 Wolves

Despite the general torpor of Hoddle’s reign, we did occasionally do just enough to suggest that there might be something to work with. Again, we went into this game unbeaten in seven. We were still very much in the hunt for a playoff spot, even if the standard of our football didn’t suggest that we were anything like that good. And this was a creditable result; the soon-to-depart Kenny Miller cancelling out Bobby Convey’s first half opener and a draw being about the right result. Not bad at all against a team who still hold the record for points gained in a season in this division. We subsequently went on to win none of the following five games and having the season (and indeed, Hoddle’s days here) end with a whimper, because of course we did.

Team: Postma; Edwards (Ross 45), Gyepes, Lescott, Naylor; Davies, Ince, Ricketts; Miller (Cort 84), Frankowski, Aliadière

Goalscorer: Miller

30 September 2008: Wolves 0-3 Reading

It’s not often as a Wolves fan that you’re convinced that we’re on to a good thing. However, seven straight league wins speak for themselves and we entered this clash with newly-relegated Reading keen to assert ourselves and put down a bit of a marker that we were the real top dogs in the division. It’s fair to say that fell rather flat. Missing the suspended Chris Iwelumo, we started in the worst possible fashion with a fairly calamitous Wayne Hennessey own goal, looked second best throughout and André Bikey and Kalifa Cissé’s goals in the final 20 minutes were probably a fair reflection of the match. A desperately disappointing evening although as we were to start a further run of seven straight wins in October, it didn’t materially damage us too much.

Team: Hennessey; Foley, Stearman, Collins, Ward (Shackell 77); Kightly (Vokes 40), Henry, Jones, Jarvis (Edwards 77); Ebanks-Blake, Keogh

27 January 2009: Reading 1-0 Wolves

Both teams (along with Birmingham City) had set a frantic pace at the top of the Championship before Christmas but were just starting to falter a touch now; Reading had only won one of their previous four games before this fixture, we had failed to win any of our last four. This proved to be a nightmare evening for Neill Collins; in a fairly drab affair, he scored an own goal after two minutes and was sent off in the final seconds for what I believe the FA formally call “throwing a round of fucks at the linesman”. As it turned out, he never played a league match for us again, which I suppose tells you to beware the wrath of Mick McCarthy. Fortunately for us, Reading’s victory did little for their impetus; they won just four of their remaining 17 games and ended up 13 points adrift of us in 4th place, eventually losing out in the playoffs to Burnley. This game was the first instalment of Nigel Quashie’s legendary “three games, three losses” spell at Wolves which doesn’t really bear thinking about at any length.

Team: Hennessey; Foley, Stearman, Collins, Ward; Kightly, Quashie (Edwards 86), Henry, Jarvis (Vokes 86); Keogh (Iwelumo 63), Ebanks-Blake

One of the great loan signings.

28 September 2014: Reading 3-3 Wolves

After a year in self-inflicted purgatory in League One, our return to the Championship had started well with five wins from our opening eight games and just a solitary defeat. This televised fixture started poorly as we trailed at half time to a Michael Hector goal having barely threatened the Reading goal. A small tactical tweak at half-time by Kenny Jackett in pushing Lee Evans further forward drew rewards as first ex-Royal James Henry and then Evans himself scored in the opening ten minutes of the second half, only for Jake Taylor to immediately peg us back. A Nick Blackman own goal six minutes from time seemed to have given us all three points yet we were undone at the last by a deflected Glenn Murray strike. A familiar trope at the time was that our decision to take a short corner and attempt to retain the ball near the corner flag having gone 3-2 up was our undoing; while it was no means a smart play, Reading didn’t exactly go straight up the other end and score, we had time to make a substitution after that passage and there was a good two and a half minutes between us losing the ball and conceding. As it turned out, this game marked the start of our decline into defensive disarray; having only conceded three goals in our opening eight games, the following four alone (including this one) saw us let in 11 and we kept just two further clean sheets until mid-December.

Team: Ikeme; Doherty, Batth, Stearman, Golbourne; McDonald, Saville (Edwards 77), Evans; Henry (van La Parra 79), Clarke (McAlinden 87), Sako

Goalscorers: Henry, Evans, Blackman (OG)

7 February 2015: Wolves 1-2 Reading

Our woes of November and early December (five straight defeats, 16 goals shipped along the way) had been largely rectified by the time Reading arrived at Molineux in early February and we were on a run of eight games unbeaten as we sought to regain our place in the promotion-chasing pack. Unfortunately on a wet afternoon we were strangely off our game against a moderate Reading outfit; Tomasz Kuszczak’s league debut started horribly as he conceded in the first minute to Pavel Pogrebnyak and though Benik Afobe equalised midway through the first half with his second goal for the club following his January move from Arsenal, a quality strike from Danny Williams with 20 minutes to go saw us end up empty-handed. As we eventually missed out on the playoffs by the narrowest of margins, this turned out to be one of a few games where we would have cause to regret turning in a shoddy performance.

Team: Kuszczak; Doherty, Batth, Stearman, Hause; McDonald; Evans (Dicko 62); van La Parra (Henry 71), Edwards (Price 71), Sako; Afobe

Goalscorer: Afobe

26 December 2015: Wolves 1-0 Reading

These were tough times for Kenny Jackett. We’d won just two of our previous 12 games and had conceded seven goals in back-to-back defeats to Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday leading up to this game. His solution was to stop any pretension at playing football whatsoever. Hammer the ball away if it’s anywhere near you. Don’t bother attacking with any more than three players at any given time. Respect the point that a 0-0 gets you. And hope we hang on. Somehow here, we did. I actually have no idea how we won this game. We were horrendous. Reading weren’t a whole lot better and you do have to wonder why Sky chose it as their flagship Championship Boxing Day fixture, but how we ended up with three points will forever remain a mystery. To make matters even more puzzling, James Henry scored with a header. Some things will just be forever unexplained. Such as why we brought on Grant Holt with a minute to go when we sent him back to Wigan about four days later. Or indeed why we signed Grant Holt.

Team: Ikeme; Iorfa, Batth, Ebanks-Landell, Doherty; Coady, McDonald, Edwards; Henry (Byrne 75), Afobe (Holt 89), Graham

Goalscorer: Henry

Nope, I still don’t know.

6 February 2016: Reading 0-0 Wolves

Neither side had much to play for even with three months of the season to go and as if to prove that yes, it was possible for a game to be worse than the corresponding fixture on Boxing Day, what was served up here cannot be classed as entertainment. Practically nothing of any note happened at either end. Despite us creating nothing and not even threatening to score, Ken left recent signing Joe Mason on the bench for the entire game and made just one substitution. This was our fourth 0-0 draw of the season and we would rack up a further four (all at home) before the campaign ended. These aren’t days I look back on especially fondly.

Team: Ikeme; Iorfa, Batth, Ebanks-Landell, Doherty; Coady, McDonald, Saville; Henry, Sigurdarson, van La Parra (Byrne 79)

13 August 2016: Wolves 2-0 Reading

If ever a game was the epitome of a false dawn, then this was it. Walter Zenga’s first home game saw us totally dominate proceedings, with Joao Teixeira sparkling throughout and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson looking like a genuine threat up front. Matt Doherty had a good game at left back and scored a cracking goal. Joe Mason doubled the lead to give the illusion that he might be a useful option. Reading on the other hand seemed wedded to a style totally at odds with the quality of their squad, frequently losing the ball in their own third and looking for all the world like they were in for a season of struggle, with Jaap Stam’s prospects already looking decidedly dicey. Of course we now know that Zenga only lasted just over a couple of months longer in the job, Teixeira didn’t feature for us after November and his loan was terminated halfway through the season, Bodvarsson scored a whole two more goals for us after this game, Doherty is even by his own admission a rubbish full back and Mason is totally hopeless, while Reading went on to come within a penalty shootout of promotion. It’s odd how things work out. Except for Doherty, we knew he was rubbish anyway.

Team: Ikeme; Coady, Batth, Iorfa, Doherty; Evans, Edwards, Saville (Henry 89); Mason (Price 84), Bodvarsson, Teixeira (Wallace 71)

Goalscorers: Doherty, Mason

Just joshing Doc. You’ve been alright this season. To a point. When not playing as a full back.

4 March 2017: Reading 2-1 Wolves

One thing I will never understand about Paul Lambert is that he choked off his own progress at Wolves. We played genuinely well at points in December and January and it seemed that he was getting somewhere. Then he decided to change things around, restore Dave Edwards to the number 10 role and everything fell apart. We went into this game with Reading flying high and us coming off the back of four straight defeats, three of them being utterly dismal performances. We did actually play a little better here as Ben Marshall quickly equalised Yann Kermorgant’s opener with his first Wolves goal and while it was far from champagne football, we did at least seem to be holding our own. However a Paul McShane header from a poorly defended set piece saw us leave empty-handed, Mike Williamson was sent off for a second bookable offence late on and we slipped further into the relegation mire. This wasn’t part of the brochure when we got big time foreign investment. We did of course turn it round to a point after this game, but all the indications are that it was this run of form which did for Lambert as faith towards him from the board evaporated. He’ll forever have no-one but himself to blame for that.

Team: Ikeme; Iorfa, Williamson, Hause, Saville (Bodvarsson 84); Coady, Saiss (Doherty 89); Marshall, Edwards, Costa; Dicko (Weimann 72)

Goalscorer: Marshall

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