9 Jan 1999
Reading 4 Wrexham 0
Sarr (Houghton), Casper, Kromheer, Clement, Parkinson, Glasgow, Caskey, Williams,
Brayson (McIntyre), Brebner.
Now that's more like it. After all the doom and gloom following the poor displays over Christmas this was exactly what Tommy Burns needed to silence the critics - possibly the best performance since he took over at Reading. In terms of entertainment this game couldn't have been further away from the complete lack of entertainment the week before against Chesterfield. Those who stayed away, as the attendance was a couple of thousand below average, shouldn't have doubted. Although the game and result were in complete contrast to just seven days earlier there were similarities in the pattern of football. The four goal victory was achieved using Tommy Burns' usual on-the-floor-passing style football. The reason it was so successful is that this time out we had the right players to pull it off and injected speed, passion, and the correct direction (forwards!) to our play. The return of Sarr, Glasgow and Williams to the starting line-up was the difference.
The most disappointing part of last week was the lack of any pace down the wings. With Clement back in a defensive role and Glasgow replacing the out of touch Crawford the difference was there to see. With McIntyre back on the bench Williams was allowed to cause havoc in the Wrexham defence. It was beautiful to see.
Reading looked dangerous right from the start. Sarr and Glasgow immediately linked up down the left wing - racing past players and causing mass panic in the Wrexham defence. Reading took an early lead unsuprisingly after some superb Sarr creative play down the left. After beating his man with ease Sarr crossed to the right. Caskey picked up the ball and delivered a spot on diagonal ball to the feet of Brebner, left of centre inside the area. Brebner touched the ball past the Wrexham keeper and the keeper could do nothing but bring Brebner down for the penalty. Up stepped Williams, and within seconds the ball was in the back of the net for his tenth goal of the season. The keeper dived early to his left and Williams calmly stroked it home in the opposite corner. 1-0.
Reading continued to look well on top despite all of Wrexham's battling efforts trying to win back possession. Defensively Kromheer and Casper looked well in control playing it out to midfield. Caskey's long ball were working a treat - landing in front of players allowing them to run on to deliver crosses. Speed and accuracy from Reading - unlike some games this season. Down the left Sarr was wriggling in and out of players all over the place before laying off the ball and Glasgow was clearly getting more and more confident as he steamed forward combining with the genuis of Sarr. It was a real shame then when Sarr went off limping after just twenty-five minutes, to be replaced by Ray Houghton on his 37th birthday - his first first team game for quite some time.
We really should have made it two well before we did. Brayson looked as determined as ever to get a goal and came close after letting off a decent shot after running across the defence and shooting from the right on the edge of the box. The ball took a touch off the keeper and went for the corner. Moments later Brayson found himself in a similar position but did the right thing to lay the ball off to Brebner advancing down his right. Brebner took a little too long before firing a cheeky ball into the box towards the far post. Williams almost grabbed his second after out-smarting the defender after a long ball was played through the middle. Williams tryed to push the ball to the left of the advancing keeper - who managed to just get down to it right on the edge of the box, to push it off target.
At 1-0 with half time approaching we desperately needed to make our advantage count. So often we've failed to take advantage of our first half superiority and let the game slip in the second half. It was a massive relief then when Brebner made it 2-0 shortly before the break. With Wrexham attempting to play the offside trap with Brayson running back, Williams broke down the left to collect a long ball. Williams was unlucky not to have got the goal himself after a superb curling shot from wide on the left. With the keeper well beaten the shot almost curled in before hitting the centre of the crossbar. But there was Brebner in his usual predatory position to head the ball home. YES! 2-0, and no looking back now.
With that vital goal just before half time we looked as comfortable as anything as the second half got underway and continued to come at Wrexham looking for more goals. Fantastic to see such positive play at home - at last. The whole team seemed confident enough to try and get on the scoresheet: Clement hit a good long shot which flew low and wide of the left post - and another later from a similar distance that was just over the bar. Moments later Parkinson broke into the box on the right and fired high and wide to the right. Reading did make it 3-0 with a potentially controversal second penalty. Williams appeared to be held back inside the box, but play continued, the ball flew out of danger to the right and Williams appeared to be pushed over by the defender. The referee blew straight away but then went over to talk to the linesman for a few moments along with the Wrexham defence. Eventually the penalty was given and Williams stepped up. The keeper dived the way Williams had put the first one and Williams fired low and to the right. 3-0 and the three points were ours.
Moments later Williams was held back in the box again - it looked more like a penalty than the other - but I guess giving Williams the chance for a hattrick of penalties would have been a bit too much - so the referee let it go.
At 3-0 man-of-the-match Glasgow put in a couple of vital touches to keep Reading's three goal margin intact as Wrexham enjoyed their best spell of the game. Wrexham weren't actually a bad side - which made the victory even sweeter. Howie came well for a corner or two and made a couple of clean stops from long shots. But as the game came towards the end Reading looked more in control.
With about 8 minutes left it was 4-0. Williams looked like he might go for another penalty before playing the ball deeper in the area where Parkinson drove in a rebound shot. And then Wrexham collapsed as Reading pushed forward looking for even more goals. With the crowd chanting "we want five" it almost was on a couple of occassions. McIntyre (who had come on with a five minutes to go for Brayson) almost scored with a header following a Brebner cross from the right. Williams almost secured a hattrick after catching the keeper well off his line, he chipped the ball towards the top left corner with the keeper stranded but found one of, or a combination of, two defenders and a crossbar on the line to keep it out.
Brilliant performaces by Sarr (shame it was only for a limited time), Williams, and Glasgow made the difference. Byron Glasgow may have stood out a long way, but his qualities of determination, speed and skill typified the whole team's performance. Lets hope we remember that we can play like this when Bristol Rovers visit the Mad House next Saturday.