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The Tilehurst End Advent Calendar: December 10

On the tenth day of Advent, we take you back to the “first really dramatic and memorable Mad Stad game”.

Steve Staunton, Nicky Forster

Nicky Forster

  • Position: Striker
  • Nationality: English
  • Total Reading FC appearances: 214
  • Total Reading FC goals: 67

Memorable Moment

Behind door number ten we have one of my favourite-ever Reading players – Nicky Forster.

Blessed with blistering pace, an outstanding set of skills with the ball at his feet and a truly deadly finish, I can honestly say I consider him to be the best “lone-striker” I’ve seen at any level of football.

Snatched from under Preston’s nose in June 1999 for a fee of £650,000 – a big sum for Reading then – he featured prominently in so many key moments as Alan Pardew transformed the club into a fully-focussed and totally professional, promotion-ready outfit.

A classic memory of the time was for Forster to win the ball on or around the half-way line and race forward with it at his feet – and when he did, you knew that the odds were that Nicky would put it away, no matter how many defenders he had to beat. How he would put it away, though, was less sure – he might blast it past the ‘keeper or jink around him and slot the ball into an empty net, or perhaps lob it over the ‘keeper’s head into the goal, or maybe curl it around him.

My favourite Forster goal was the latter, a sublime piece of skill as he swerved the ball around Ipswich ‘keeper Marshall and in off the far post in October 2002 – the second goal in one of two league hattricks he scored that season.

You can see the a great selection of the goals scored for Reading by Forster here:

I thought for a moment about nominating Forster’s goal away at Molineux in the 2003 play-off semi-final – chesting down a Nicky Shorey cross and thrashing it home – because that game is a metaphor for just how integral Forster was to Reading at this time. Forster succumbed to injury after an hour, Reading had no effective attack without him, and conceded two goals in the last twenty minutes to Wolves, and the play-off game was up for the Royals. But I didn’t seriously think about that for too long – there is only one real Nicky Forster memorable moment I could possibly choose.

Wednesday, 16 May, 2001 - Division Two play-off semi-final, second leg. A goal down to Wigan after 26 minutes, Reading toiled and created some decent chances but didn’t seriously trouble Wigan’s Roy Carroll. Until, with just nine minutes left on the clock, Forster came off the bench.

After suffering serious knee ligament injury in a pre-season friendly, Forster hadn’t started a game all year and had only made nine substitute appearances since returning to the team just six weeks earlier. But his impact was immediate. His pace and trickery down the right posed the tiring Wigan defenders all manner of problems, and within three minutes a cross from Forster was put away on the second attempt by Martin Butler to level the scores.

With the MadStad fans still celebrating the game being taken into extra-time, Forster cut in from the right once again and was brought down for an obvious penalty. With nails-being bitten throughout the ground, Jamie Cureton took the penalty and saw Carroll save it, but Forster’s pace got him to the rebound first and he scored to win the game.

Forster was back and had changed the game, Reading were going to the play-off final at Cardiff, and the atmosphere was incredible! That was the first really dramatic and memorable MadStad game, the night Reading fans really felt the stadium was home at last – and all down to Nicky Forster.