Reading 7-1 Bolton Wanderers: No Alf Measures

With the return of Matt Mills, and the obvious painful history with Bolton Wanderers still in the hearts of Reading fans, it promised to be a belter, especially with the Royals having won at Watford last week. Few could have seen the events that unfolded, however, as Adam Le Fondre bagged a hat-trick in a 7-1 rout of the Trotters.

Reading: McCarthy; Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss (Hector 80), Obita; McCleary (Blackman 66), Williams, Akpan, McAnuff; Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre (Taylor 76)

The Royals started on the front foot, looking to capitalise on home advantage and the momentum gained from that critical win at Vicarage Road last week. And with Chris Gunter bombing down the right, Bolton were under the cosh from the outset, as the right-back swung in a cross which Le Fondre got to but couldn't fire on target. But just three minutes later, it was the other man on the right, Garath McCleary, who turned provider for the poacher. He ran at the defence, took some contact in the box and looked for the penalty, but the ball fell to Le Fondre who slammed home at Andy Lonergan's near post.

The rampant Royals, with a new lease of life, piled forward in search of another and Le Fondre beat the offside trap from an Obita clearance - he found Hope Akpan whose drive from the top of the box was narrowly wide. Alex McCarthy was soon called into action for just about the only time all game, as Alex Pearce misjudged a clearance from Tim Ream which let David Ngog in on goal. McCarthy spread himself well to deny the former Liverpool striker.

Half an hour gone and the Royals made it two, with a basic, classic goal. McCleary cleared forward, Pavel Pogrebnyak flicked on, and Le Fondre beat the high Bolton line to find himself in on goal - with aplomb, he fired over Lonergan and into the net. The third took just five more minutes to arrive, as McCleary closed down Ream on the halfway line after a corner for Bolton, and managed to divert the ball towards goal, bearing down on the penalty area with just the keeper to beat. Le Fondre was up with him, and the winger squared for the striker to tap into an empty net for his half-hour hat-trick.

Jordan Obita coped admirably last week when slotting in at left-back and he looked no more out of place this week, like his counterpart on the other flank Gunter getting forward as often as possible. One of his runs forward took him just outside the box, and he clipped in a cross which hit the arm of Alex Baptiste. Not to be outshone, Pavel Pogrebnyak slammed home the penalty past the diving left hand of Lonergan. Whilst a few people muttered about the last time we were 4-0 up at the Mad Stad, there looked little danger of lightning striking twice - and the Reading faithful cheered off their team at half-time.

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The Royals came out of the dressing room at half-time not looking to sit back on the four-goal lead, but instead pushing for even more; goal difference could be all-important come May. Another mazy Obita run took him to the by-line and he crossed for Pogrebnyak in the box. The Russian rose and squared for Le Fondre, who couldn't keep his volley below Lonergan's bar. But on the hour mark the lead grew even larger, as an Obita corner fell to Pearce whose shot was blocked. It deflected into the path of McCleary, who squared from the corner of the six-yard box for Kaspars Gorkss to slide in the fifth.

With the Reading fans baying for blood and yet more net ripples, it was actually Bolton who created a half-chance, as Neil Danns took a pot-shot from 25 yards out which Gorkss did well to get in the way of. One minor problem dealt with, and one more major blow to the hardy Bolton fans who had stuck around, as somewhat inevitably the sixth went in. Jobi McAnuff ran at the back four and squared for Blackman who, in similar fashion to McCleary's run for the opener, went down in the box looking for a spot kick. But just like the opener, someone was there to follow up, and Hope Akpan smashed in from eighteen yards to increase the lead even further.

The Mad Stad saw seven goals go in against the Royals just last season, but never had the men in blue and white hit that perfect number. Now seemed as good a time as any to break that record, and it was Nick Blackman who obliged. Pogrebnyak released the striker in behind the Bolton defence for the umpteenth time on the afternoon, and his shot from 20 yards took a wicked deflection over the despairing Lonergan. Royals fans cried out for eight, but it was Bolton who celebrated their consolation as if it were a last-minute winner, as David Ngog fired through a horde of players after a corner fell at his feet. The slightest of disappointments on an otherwise perfect day for Reading - could it be another typically stunning second half of the season?

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The analysis of this game is very simple. Reading were always pressing, always direct, and always looking like they believed the chances would go in. Le Fondre's hat trick will grab most of the headlines, but almost the whole side would be up for man of the match honours, such was the dominance of the Royals. Aside from ALF, who could have had four or five on another day, there were some other notable performances.

Pogrebnyak deserved more than just a goal from the spot, and he directly set up two goals as well as providing numerous other chances. Danny Williams may not have got a mention in the match report, but he was full of energy and tenacity - and whilst Hope Akpan is still quite raw and unconfident at times, the partnership he has quickly formed with Williams is the most assured we've been in the middle since Jem Karacan and Mikele Leigertwood took us up two years ago. And a special mention for Kaspars Gorkss, who was dominant in the air, and fully deserved his recognition on the score sheet. In particular, his wry smile and laughter after skilfully bamboozling a Bolton winger down by the touchline showed, finally, a team enjoying their football and looking like they belong on the Madejski Stadium pitch.

Fortress Madejski might have been breached too often lately, but no team will fancy their chances of emerging with victory after this performance. The big win, and potential in the team that we have all spoken of, finally arrived and put everything into practice on the pitch today. Seven goals didn't flatter the Royals; there was no luck about this performance. Confidence is high, the players are enjoying themselves, and (at last) Nigel Adkins has found a system to get the best out of his squad. Reading are back in the top six, and if they play like this every week from now until May, that'll be the least we achieve this season.

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