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The Oppo: Brighton And Hove Albion

Following on from back-to-back defeats on the road, Reading face high-flyers Brighton at the Mad Stad. Here's Dave Harris' preview.

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The Royals head back to the home comforts of the Madejski on Saturday as they entertain an excellent Brighton side that have hit the ground running after their playoff disappointment last season.

Head to Head

By my reckoning, of the current 92 Premier League and Football League clubs there are only four clubs who Reading have played on more occasions than Saturday's opponents, as the Royals and Seagulls (or Biscuitmen and Dolphins as they were previously nicknamed) meet each other for the 91st time on Saturday. Both Reading and Brighton were elected to the inaugural season of the new Division 3 (South) in 1920, and this 2016/17 season will be the 46th that the clubs have contested for league superiority since then.

As would be expected for two clubs that have played each other on so many occasions, the records are very even, although since Brighton were relegated to the then new Barclays League Division 2 in 1992 Reading have very much had the upper hand with 12 wins from 20 matches, compared to just the three Seagulls wins. Much of the reasoning for such a disparity of results can be placed very much at the feet of the respective club Chairmen in the 1990's. As Reading found their benefactor in Sir John Madejski, Brighton Commander in Chief was chairman, Bill Archer, who oversaw the amassing of huge debts over a short period of time and chose to sell the Goldstone in 1997 to pay the debts off. Brighton were left homeless, and it was only after local businessman and lifelong Brighton fan Dick Knight led sustained pressure on Archer and his board to leave the club that the Seagull's overall fortunes changed direction. Reading, as we know, moved to the Madejski Stadium in 1998 and have sustained Championship football for 19 of the last 23 years mainly under the steady management of Sir John.


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Memorable Match

Having reached the playoffs in their first season back in the second tier, and missed out on the final day of the next season, expectations were as high as ever at the Madejski for the 2004-05 season. The season was Steve Coppell's first full season in charge of the Royals having left League 1 Brighton to take the reins in October 2003, while Brighton were then managed by a familiar face to Reading supporters in the form of Mark McGhee who oversaw the Seagulls promotion via the playoffs the previous May.

And as it is wont to do, the fixture computer threw up an intriguing opening day fixture as Brighton Brighton travelled to Reading. Their supporters travelled in relative numbers as 2,500 made their way north and west on a blisteringly hot day, and any supporter would have regretted not taking their place for kick off as Brighton took the lead after just 14 seconds. From the kick off the ball was immediately played to the Brighton back line who then launched a long ball forward. Adie Williams found himself underneath the pass, and nodded to Glen Little who attempted to launch the ball back upfield, but only managed to plant the ball into Paul Reid's midriff and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Maheta Molango who placed the ball passed Hahnemann from an angle.

The goal stung Reading into action and they equalised within a minute, as their own long ball forward was nodded back to the edge of the area by Steve Sidwell to the onrushing Dave Kitson who smashed in from 16 yards.

After such a frenetic opening the match gradually settled down into an enthralling contest, both sides not giving an inch although the Royals looked the more dangerous of the two sides as they dominated possession and territory, and their supremacy was rewarded on the stroke of half time as James Harper pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area again to volley home. The second took the wind out of Brighton's sails as Reading began the second half in confident mood, stroking the ball around looking for an opening as they denied Brighton the opportunity to build any momentum, and eventually their patience paid off as Nicky Forster ran through on goal after charging down a defensive clearance and smashing past Michel Kuipers from the edge of the area, the Brighton keeper getting hands to it but sheer power preventing him from stopping it hitting the net.

And the Royals should have put the gloss on the performance with a fourth shortly after some Glen Little wizardry on the right. Little's cross finding Kitson whose wonderful header was only a couple of inches away from being perfect as it hit the post and stayed out, however a near three-goal margin became a one-goal margin again as from the next attack Jake Robinson placed a clever layoff past Hahnemann to give Brighton renewed hope.

The remainder of the match was played out in Reading's half as Brighton sought in vain for the equaliser, with Steve Coppell's men looking to break with pace and guile, but the scoring had finished for one day and Reading continued their record of winning their opening home match of the season since the move to the Madejski.

They Played For Both Teams

Continuing the theme of players who played for the Royals in the early-mid 90's, Keith McPherson was a steady rock at the heart of the Reading defence for the best part of nine years, having been signed in August 1990 before transferring to Brighton in March 1999 on a free transfer.

An apprentice product of the West Ham United youth team, McPherson made just the one appearance for the Hammers in his six years at Upton Park however an 11-match spell on loan at Cambridge United opened other avenues and a transfer to the County Ground, Northampton. McPherson made 216 appearances in all for the Cobblers, proving his worth in the Northampton side that gained promotion in 1986 and retained Division 3 status until just before his transfer to Reading in August 1990.

And so it was that Ian Porterfield signed the steady defender who was a regular and reliable feature in the Royals defence at both Elm Park and the Madejski Stadium, popping up with the occasional goal, and proving his worth as a key part of the Mark McGhee side that was built over two seasons and won the Division 2 Championship in 1994. After McGhee departed, a change in tactics, but same old McPherson, a key feature of the Quinn and Gooding back three that saw us make the fateful trip to Wembley in 1995. Just two seasons later, of course, Quinn and Gooding departed to make way for the unsuccessful Terry Bullivant era, and still McPherson was a key feature even after all the signings, albeit the season ended with Tommy Burns in charge who proved unable to prevent McPherson's second relegation before the move to the Madejski. Less than a season later, having found himself out of the side for an extended period of time, Brighton came calling and after 316 appearances McPherson made his way south, originally to Priestfield and then the Withdean where he would make a further 39 appearances before calling time on his career after a short spell at Slough Town.

A crowd favourite at both Northampton and Reading, Macca made exactly 500 league appearances and a further 83 cup appearances, scoring 20 goals in the process, perhaps most memorably the fourth in a 4-2 demolition of Mark McGhee's Wolves in the 97/98 League Cup 3rd Round. He will always be highly regarded by Reading fans.

Grudge Moment

December 2005, Brighton arrive at the Madejski hoping to put the brakes on the Royal's spectacular form. The Seagulls, of course, were still managed by Mark McGhee and went home with their feathers well and truly plucked after a 5-1 mauling. And true to form, McGhee couldn't resist but have a pop at the Reading public who he insisted should "take a long hard look at themselves" for the temerity of not filling every seat at the Madejski that day. It was typical of the man to have a pop having been on the receiving end of what he considered unwarranted stick after his ignominious departure in December 94.

And in similar fashion, the Brighton supporters also seem to have this obsession with match attendances, shamefacedly insisting that their own level of support is far superior to that of Royals fans and would never diminish in the face of less than successful seasons, using the comparison of the opening 2-3 seasons against the same period at the Amex as their evidence (as if a side just relegated to a division lower than their own before their move is going to achieve higher gates than a side promoted to the higher level). Lo and behold, Sami Hyypia arrives as manager and a Monday evening defeat at the Amex to Millwall showed vast swathes of empty seats as the Brighton support diminished superbly. Brighton's supporters really are no different to those of Reading's, and those of whom were around at the time remember the early 80's and our own fight to maintain our very identity. It is an irritating facet of a club that needs to get over its inferiority complex and know their place in the historical footballing pecking order -€” 46 years of which has been alongside the Royals.

Fact, Interesting or Otherwise

As mentioned previously, this season will see the Seagulls and Royals meet for the 91st and 92nd times in the leagues. Just AFC Bournemouth (104), Watford (100), Millwall and Swindon Town (both 92) exceed the 90 matches played so far between Brighton and Reading, and having played each other on so many occasions the occasional freak scores tend to stand out. Those in attendance at Fratton Park in October 2007 will no doubt recall the 11-goal "thriller" (annihilation) as Portsmouth ran out 7-4 winners, however older supporters of both Reading and Brighton may recall a thrashing of Reading at the Goldstone as Brighton won 8-3 some 50 years earlier.

And just a few seasons later the clubs shared 15 goals across two games as Reading won 4-2 at the Goldstone in October 1962, before a 5-4 defeat at Elm Park the following February. In total there are 15 matches in which five or more goals have been scored between the sides, totalling 99 goals alone, which goes some way to increasing the average number of goals in matches between the sides. Currently standing at 2.79 goals per game, take away the 99 goals across the 15 matches, the average reduces  to just 2.03.