Photo: Glenn Reigel/Reading United AC
Reading United fell from the ranks of the Premier Development League’s unbeaten teams when bitter rival Jersey Express shocked the home team by a 2–0 scoreline.
On a picture perfect Father’s Day afternoon at Reading’s Shirk Stadium, the soccer on the pitch was ugly and cynical. The result left United frustrated and coach Brendan Burke fuming.
With defender Tolani Ibikunle and central defender and captain Ged Quinn unavailable, Reading United were without two of their regular starters. The match began brightly for United as they opened with a flowing, attacking style of play that had the Jersey defense reeling. Reading’s midfield dictated play and opened up chances for the attacking trio of Paul Wyatt, Pedro Ribeiro and Deshorn Brown.
The first chance of the match fell to Ribeiro in the seventh minute, who took a shot at the Express net from distance. The Jersey keeper, Rafael Diaz, did well to save the stinging drive that looked destined for the net. Deshorn Brown took his turn to test Diaz a minute later, but United’s leading scorer could only his effort into the side netting. Diaz was called on again in the 15th minute as United continued to press for an opener. Off a corner, United forced Diaz to make a series of reflex saves in his area when several Reading players turned shots toward goal. With Jersey finally clearing, United mounted their next charge in the 17th minute when Ribeiro sent Brown in on goal with some cheeky footwork. Brown’s attempt on goal again only found side netting.
The match slowly began to unravel as the match official Ian Bongaardt failed to effectively deal with the lusty challenges and some rather comical simulation committed by Jersey. A clear dive in the 30th minute, in which the referee was out of position to see, resulted in Jersey’s first free kick. Jersey’s dangerous forward Joseph Ovenseri got off a shot that was deflected and well covered by United goalkeeper Keasel Broome.
A series of rough challenges on United players had head coach Brendan Burke off the bench and lobbying the fourth official. The United manager’s pleas fell on deaf ears as Pedro Ribeiro was scythed down in the 40th minute. The physical nature of the match clearly rattled the Reading players and Bongaardt was having none of United’s protests. The first yellow card of the contest was handed out just before halftime when United midfielder Sean Peckham was leveled with what appeared to be a clothesline.
United attempted to shake off the chippiness of the match by working to maintain possession in Jersey’s half of the field. To Jersey’s credit, they remained compact and organized defensively, stymieing United’s thrusts toward goal. Coming into the match Jersey had allowed five goals in eight matches, their keeper Diaz maintaining an impressive 0.428 goals against average.
With United content to maintain possession, Jersey looked to pounce on a counter-attack. That opportunity arrived with a strong counter in the 52nd minute resulting in a drive that Keasel Broome did well to palm wide. United recovered and continued to poke and prod the Express defense, looking for an opening. Brown had a great opportunity to put Reading on the scoreboard in the 55th minute with an effort that Diaz did very well to tip over the crossbar for a corner. With Jersey bunkered down on defense, Reading pushed men forward. Matt Baker floated a cross into the box that found Ribeiro in the 59th minute, but he too was unable to put his shot past Rafael Diaz.
Jersey finally opened the scoring in the 61st minute when they caught Reading on a counter attack that sprung their leading scorer, Joseph Ovenseri, into Reading’s half. He charged toward goal and unleashed a thunderbolt of a shot from thirty yards that Keasel Broome could do nothing to stop, putting Jersey up 1-0. Ovenseri’s celebrated his sixth goal of 2012 by taunting United’s bench and supporters. The goal was very much against the run of play and a sucker punch for United and their faithful.
From that point, the match devolved as Jersey players worked the official and wasted time in any manner they could. Even the slightest touch from a Reading defender would cause a Jersey player to hit the deck, taking valuable time off the clock. With United searching for an equalizer, Burke added South Jersey’s own Ryan Finley into the mix at forward with Paul Wyatt exiting in the 67nd minute. Finley found space near the top of the Express penalty area in the 72nd minute but was crushed tackle football-style by a Jersey defender. Play on, waved the referee, and it was apparent the man in the middle had lost control of the match.
The Express would put the match to bed moments later when Ovenseri found Jerrod Laventure at the top of United’s box and he slotted home to give Jersey a commanding 2–0 lead.
United continued their excellent play through midfield and into the final third over the last quarter of an hour of play but were unable to breach Diaz’s goal.
When the final whistle sounded on Jersey’s 2–0 victory, Burke met Bongaardt and the rest of the officiating crew near midfield and gave them quite an earful. Reading’s faithful supporters also vented their frustrations on the four-man crew that had called the Father’s Day rivalry game.
Though Bongaardt called a questionable match, United was left frustrated by their failure to get on the scoreboard despite the many golden opportunities they created throughout the match. United had a total of twelve shots and eight corners but failed to find the back of the Jersey goal. Rafael Diaz recorded six saves on the day on the way to his PDL-leading sixth clean sheet of the 2012 campaign.
Reading have now gone three consecutive home matches without scoring against the Express. With the victory, Jersey moves ahead of Reading into first place in the PDL’s Mid-Atlantic Division, though United have a match in hand. Reading will look to bounce back to their winning ways on Wednesday evening versus PDL new boys, Baltimore Bohemians.
Reading United starting XI: GK Keasel Broome, D Kyle McCarthy, D Matt Baker, D Greg Cochrane, D Jonny Raj, M Ian Christianson, M Stephan Okai, M Sean Peckham, F Pedro Ribeiro, F Paul Wyatt, F Deshorn Brown
61st – Joseph Ovenseri
79th- Jerrod Laventure