Scorers: Forster, Forster, Caskey Date: 2 October 1999
Team: Howie (V.D. Kwaak), Hodges, Bernal, Casper (Hunter), Primus, Gurney, Parkinson, Crawford (Sent Off), Caskey, Williams, Forster.
Audio: Nope / Not yet Match Heros: Forster & Hodges

In the end this was one of the most entertaining games Reading have played this season - despite a terrible first half in which mistakes from Howie had already cost Reading the game - and also probably cost Howie his Reading career. In the second half Reading stepped up a gear, particually after the departure of Crawford for his second booking, and perhaps with eleven men and half decent defending we could have at least stolen a share of the points. Van Der Kwaak may have let in three goals during his second half performance but there was little he could have done as Reading steamed forward looking for goals to close the gap - and left no-one at the back.

It was a depleted Reading that kicked off against a Wycombe side well above Reading in the second division table. Gray, Grant, Smith, and McIntyre were all missing through injury - which gave Parky his chance to make a return to action after being side-lined all season through injury. It also gave Crawford a rare start. Up front Williams started alongside Forster with Scott out injured and watching the game in with the away fans and his family.

The first half may have been a bit shite but it had all the signs of what was to come. Reading weren't too bad coming forward but were horrendous at the back. Poor Scott Howie chose the worst time ever to make a couple of fatal mistakes - right in front of the vocal away support who by half time were almost on the pitch in outrage. After just 5 minutes Howie gifted Wycombe the lead. The ball was played over the top and into the Reading box. Howie came charging out towards the edge of the box, when he should have stayed on his line, towards the defender and forward, and it was no suprise when the ball was headed over his head to drop rather pathetically into the Reading net. Parkinson legged it back but fell backwards into the net as he couldn't save it on the line.

The referee, not wanting to be outdone by Scott Howie, also put in a first half stinker. Ignoring the late decisions and his clear misunderstanding of the offside rule he also bizarrely booked Bernal and Crawford for 50-50 challenges. Phil Parkinson also followed them into the book - but at least he deserved his after sweeping right through a Wycombe player in the centre of the pitch after the ball had gone. Parky was definately a bit off form after injury - but at least it was clear the effort was still there. Parky's determined play might have been responsible for a improvement in Reading's play midway through the half when we really should have grabbed the equaliser.

Reading won a set of corners and almost made a couple of them count. A Caskey corner from the left was played perfectly into the box to be met by a Forster header in the middle. The header found the foot of the right post, looked like it might sneak in, before bouncing out and getting cleared for another corner. From the next corner on the right Bernal came storming into the area from the left side and put in a powerful header that was saved by the keeper. Forster had another decent chance that he created by himself weaving into the area on the left only to fire into the side-netting.

Although we could have scored it was already a disappointing display before Wycombe made it 2-0 in injury time of the first half. There had been far too much pointless hoofing around of the ball and not enough use of the wings and passing the ball around on the floor. Wycombe had created few chances but could have grabbed another but Howie punched clear. It was 2-0 when Wycombe were wrongly awarded a foul on their left, the Reading right. It was a 50-50 challenge once again but the referree again played home advantage. And then the next moment the ball was in the right side of the net with Howie not even close. The only excuse could be that he hadn't seen it coming. But why not? And so the half time whistle came with the Reading fans showing exactly what they thought of both Scott Howie and the referree.

We couldn't replace the ref, but we could replace Scott Howie. And it was clear that was exactly what Alan Pardew had done as Van Der Kwaak took to the pitch from the bench for the second half. A very brave move - put a popular one. Pardew later exaplained that Howie's substitution was to "save him further embarrassment".

The second half was probably the most bizarre half of the season.

Reading were forced to push further forward and left the extent of their defending to attempting to play the offside trap. Unfortunately the offside trap didn't work. Wycombe made it 3-0 not long into the half after two men were left free to run on goal. As Wycombe cut in from the right Van Der Kwaak was forced to race off his line to meet the player and also attempt to block the path of the pass. There was little he could do as the ball was played into the centre leaving a tap in with an empty net.

And then possibly the funniest moment of the match as a group of Reading fans left because they had enough. Idiots. The sending off of Jimmy Crawford helped no end. Crawford should never should have gone for his second booking of the match but it fired Reading up like anything. The ten men may have been open at the back but the football coming forward was a joy to watch. With Crawford off Hodges played down the left wing. But he REALLY played down that left wing - like a man possessed. I'd forgotten just how good Hodges could be.

It was Hodges down the left wing that made it 3-1. He legged it down the wing, crossed to Forster in the middle, and Forster drove in a low shot into the back of the net. For the first time some hope for Reading.

But it appeared short lived. Not long later it was 4-1. Devine on the left burst into the area again beating the off-side trap, leaving just Van Der Kwaak to beat with two spare men in the box. He didn't need the extra men and drove into the far side of the net. More Reading fans left. Idiots.

At this point it really didn't matter and Reading pushed everyone forward. Wycombe were rattled and panicking like anything at the back as Reading made chance after chance after chance. Hodges was at it again staying wide on the left and screaming for the ball which he was promptly given. We almost got our second with a role reversal when Forster weaved all around on the left wing before crossing to Hodges whose header was on target but saved. Moments later the ball was played high into the box, Hodges just left of centre, hooked the ball over his shoulder into the middle and there was Forster again - in the right place at the right time - to pick up Hodges ball and bundle it in. 4-2, and the Reading fans were in full voice spured on by some pulsating Reading football.

It might be fair to say Wycombe still had it under control as they had all afternoon. They just marched it up the other end with some decent football it has to be said and again restored their three goal margin on the break. Devine claimed his hattrick as Wycombe swarmed forward against a non-existant defence.

Reading continued where they left off and with five minutes left Forster's continual trickery inside the area won us a penalty as he was brought down when otherwise he'd have scored. Caskey stepped up, included his usual pause in the middle, but this time fired the ball into the roof of the net with some power. The eighth goal of the game and 5-3 to the home side. But Reading still weren't finished.

It looked like Forster had his hattrick with the game in its final minute. Once again Hodges set up the chance - Forster scorched into the area from the left side, beat his man, and drove the ball towards the goal, - the keeper was beaten but the post wasn't. Even after that we could have had another when the referree ignored a blatant handball inside the area by the home side. It could easily have been 5-5.

Reading were superb coming forwards for the last 35 minutes, in which they scored three decent goals. However terrible defending cost Reading dear. In the second half Reading were forced to come forward leaving no defensive cover for Van Der Kwaak who could do little to stop Devine's hattrick. So a shite first half but simply blinding last 35 minutes from the Royals. It was just a shame the game had already been lost by half time. Forster could have scored four or five, all set up by Hodges, if the goal had been just a centimetre bigger....

We may have lost by two goals but leaving the ground at the end it didn't feel like it. Reading had done their best at the end to entertain and had played some superb football. If only we could do that for the full ninety....