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Reading 2 Saints 3
11:51am Monday 22nd May 2006 in 03-04 Season
Midfield goals offer reason to be cheerful Saints' 3-2 friendly win over Reading last night proved what goals from midfield can do.
Fabrice Fernandes and Matt Oakley both netted spectacular efforts and James Beattie grabbed the other as Saints defeated last season's Division One play-off semi-finalists at the Madjeski Stadium.
In the last campaign most of the goal-scoring pressure landed firmly on the broad shoulders of Beattie, who responded magnificently.
Other areas of the team failed to contribute adequately and one section that was badly lacking was the midfield.
That needs to be improved upon this season but on the evidence of last night there's no reason to suggest that it can't be.
After some initial Reading pressure, which included Nicky Forster smacking a shot against the bar, Beattie gave Saints the lead on 21 minutes.
A badly underhit backpass from Scott Murray allowed the alert striker to pounce and finish across the keeper.
On 33 minutes there was another goal that will give Royals boss Alan Pardew nightmares but emphasised Fernandes' ability to score goals.
Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann was left to deal with a clearance outside his area on the right-hand side but it was charged down by Beattie.
The ball flew towards Jo Tessem who went to try and finish into the empty net, but fell over.
So the ball continued until it found Fernandes in the centre circle of the Reading half and he hit a high shot first time.
Hahnemann back-peddled and seemed to have the situation under control but the ball dropped, clipped the bar and bounced into the net.
After starting slowly Saints, with all the fit pros at the club in the 17-man squad, looked in control.
The second half started at a much more serene pace with debutant keeper Javier Sanchez Broto remaining largely untroubled.
That was until the 77th minute when sub Martin Butler tried to force his way through to the Saints goal and went down under the challenge of Michael Svensson.
The linesman flagged for the decision and the referee awarded a spot kick.
Nicky Shorey stepped up and saw his first effort dramatically saved by Broto low to his left.
But the referee ordered it to be retaken for encroachment and this time it just beat the new keeper.
There was still plenty more to come though, as the game finished in a real flurry.
On 80 minutes substitute Brett Ormerod crossed deep from the left and Oakley scored the goal of the game, meeting the ball on the top right-hand edge of the area and volleying first time into the opposite top corner. It was an absolute pearler.
With three minutes remaining Graeme Le Saux looked to be well offside but somehow the linesman's flag stayed down.
The new left-back was as surprised as anyone and took a bit too long trying to make the decision to take the ball round Hahnemann and the keeper got down bravely at Le Saux's feet to prevent him.
Just a minute later Reading pulled back one more when John Salako's cross was met first time by a wonderful strike from Darius Henderson that Broto had no chance with.
The game had a bit of everything but most encouragingly from a Saints point of view it had goals from the midfield which will be very much needed this season.