30 Jan 1999
Notts County 1 Reading 1
Bernal, Clement, Primus, Casper (Gurney), Glasgow, Parkinson, Caskey, Brebner,
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Before the game I would have settled for a 1-1 draw taking us to our seventh consecutive undefeated away game in the league. However at the final whistle I couldn't help but look back on a game where we failed to take full advantage of a very poor home side - obviously lacking in any confidence after scoring just one in their last five league games. It was a reasonable enough performance from the Royals, but it was plain to see that if we had taken the game to the home side that bit more we could have got away from Meadow Lane with all three points. In the brief spells where Reading concentrated on moving the ball forward we looked dangerous - the trouble was we tried this only a couple of times during the whole game. Notts County for their part enjoyed almost solid possession throughout the ninety minutes, but were reduced to hit and hope stuff down the centre of the field rather than anything that caused too much panic in the Royals defence.
Notts' poor recent form was reflected in the number of home supporters. In contrast well over a thousand Reading supporters filled the away end of the reasonably impressive Meadow Lane ground. Although not quite the splendour of the Mad House a fantastic ground considering the budget price of around 7 million quid for all four all-seated stands. Unfortunately as County flirt with relegation back to the basement division the main stand looked rather sad with home supporters infrequently dotted around. The easy parking and availability of beer (even if only in cans) got the afternoon off in the right way - unlike Tommy's line up consisting of the single lone striker. It wouldn't be so bad if that striker was a goal scorer, but when it's Brayson you start to worry. All respect to him, but how many goals has he scored this season? With Williams on the bench after a recent case of food poisoning Gray wore the number 10 shirt and Reading's chances of scoring looked slimer than ever. Yes, without doubt playing with a 5-4-1 formation, or a 3-6-1 depending how you look at it, Reading had come for the draw which seemed reasonable enough with Casper in the centre of defence.
It was no great suprise when the game got underway with County well on top. Thankfully it was also no great suprise to see Casper organising the defence so well and the home side failing to progress to anywhere near the Reading goal. County seemed unable to work out any meaningful attack and the Royals looked comfortable letting County hoof the ball around the park. In fact we looked too comfortable - so comfortable that when we won it back we'd simply hoof it back upfield to give County a chance to build again. We'd also mastered the offside trap with the home number 10 getting caught offside almost everytime the ball was hoofed into the Reading half. The home side's greater involvement did win them a couple of corners early on though, which gave Howie his greatest spell of activity in the game. Twice he came well to claim the crosses successfully.
Reading took the lead from their first real attack (unless you count a rather pathetic long range attempt from Caskey that was probably supposed to be a pass) after 15 minutes of County possession. In true away from home style it came on the break. Brayson did extremely well to get down the right wing - such is his determination recently that he completely outpaced the defence before delivering a low cross from the right edge of the box. The keeper and a defender got mixed up in the mud and Glasgow made the most of it and drove the ball into the bottom left of the net, to get the around 1,500 away Royals fans singing, and the Martin Williams' supporters club jumping around in their strange hats.
As the half continued things seemed to look brighter and brighter for the Royals as it seemed possible we might be able to get away with all the points. Although County were given enough opportunities to do something with it they seemed content to play like a side who had lost seven of their last eight league games. Only once County came close after creating a great chance fed through to their forward in a central position just outside the area. He really should have let rip, but stalled, giving Casper enough time to clear up the danger. Clement, otherwise having a reasonable game, seemed to want to help County - twice miskicking the ball directly into the Reading area. But at half time, a very handy 1-0 lead.
As the second half got underway Reading seemed determined, and should have, sealed the three points. Almost straight away it looked like it might become a came of two halves as Reading at last came at the home side with some direct attacking play. The home defence seemed unable to do much as Reading creating some excellent chances with some fast forward on-the-floor stuff. This was more like it. Gray almost put the Royals two goals up but was denied by the post. Glasgow crossed from the Reading right to Gray on the edge of the box. Gray seemed to have taken too long mucking about with the ball before eventually sending the defender the wrong way and placing his shot outside the keepers reach. His shot was almost perfect but failed to get the right side of the post. The follow up shot was prevented as the full back booted it off for the corner. Glasgow continued to cause County problems weaving in and out of players and contributed to another great chance. Brebner this time crossed from the right and appeared to have found Brayson in the middle of the box. Such is the luck of a forward still without a goal that he missed it completely when he really should have buried it. Moments after that again we should have made it 2-0 but Brebner fell over the ball after it bobbled around on the mud just outside the box.
If we'd stuck one of those away we'd have won this game. But we didn't - and our brief spell of looking for a goal ended - and then the game continued like the first half - Reading sitting back - letting County come forward at us. It seemed inevitable that we'd pay the price when Casper was forced to retire with over a quarter of the game remaining. On came Gurney and Bernal drifted into the centre of defence. Almost immeditately it was the turning point and County looked like they might sneak one. For the rest of the game Reading failed to do anything constructive and were all too happy to defend. Williams came on for Gray - but you could tell he was ill as he looked entirely ineffective. County won a succession of free kicks on the edge of the box. Luckily for Reading they'd obviously only worked on the same type of kick on the training ground, and each time blasted it directly into the wall. As County got more and more stressed with their inability to do anything - they scored. The ball was played from the right into the middle and was fired home low to Howie's right - just inside the post. 1-1. And that's how it stayed.
Once again Glasgow looked tricky at times - he didn't have his best game but he gets man of the match for at last getting a goal he so deserves. Parkie also deserves a mention for his 100 percent contribution to the game. And again Casper showed just how vital he is - the defence looked unbeatable with him on the pitch - perhaps his substituion cost us two points.
So another away point. Which is good. But probably not good enough. If Reading have any hopes for this season apart from a midtable finish, this is the kind of game we should be winning. If we'd come to Meadow Lane looking for the win we might have got it.