Team: Reading: Hammond, Booty, Swales, Lambert (Caskey 77), McPherson,
Davies, Parkinson, Hodges, Asaba, Morley, Williams.
Subs Not Used: Thorp, Lovell.
Goal Scorers: If only!
For those of you who wondered 'What the f**k happened?' Here is the report from Sporting life.
Middlesbrough left it late before strengthening their position as first division leaders with a four-goal flurry. Danish international Mikkel Beck and Craig Hignett, the outstanding player on the field, scored two goals apiece.
Reading battled hard after Middlesbrough had missed first-half scoring chances and the near-capacity crowd at the Riverside became anxious before Hignett opened the floodgates in the 77th minute. Paul Merson, Beck and Emerson all had good opportunities and there were strong appeals for a penalty when Beck went down in the box. Referee Christopher Foy was loudly booed when he waved on play but television evidence showed his decision was right as Beck appeared to dive.
Middlesbrough skipper Nigel Pearson was missing for the second half through injury and sub Steve Baker stepped into the defence, with Jaime Moreno coming on for Phil Stamp in the 70th minute. The Bolivian international was given a warm welcome on his return to English football after a season in America. Moreno, the leading scorer in the United States, had a glorious chance to score within four minutes but he headed wide from a Hignett pass.
However, in the 77th minute Hignett crashed in an unstoppable 25-yard shot and Middlesbrough were on their way to another three points. Beck scored his 11th goal of the season with a shot into the corner of the net and followed up with another goal six minutes later. In the final minutes Hignett capped his brilliant display with another goal to the delight of the crowd.
Reading offered little threat, with only four shots in 90 minutes but at least they provided resistance until Middlesbrough's late scoring burst. There is no doubt Beck is enjoying his second season in English football after having an unhappy partnership with Italian ace Fabrizio Ravanelli.
Reading will be left to seek revenge in the Coca-Cola Cup
quarter-finals at Elm Park in January.
(Mmmm! Looks promising now!)
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Fleming, Whyte, Festa, Pearson (Baker 46), Emerson, Hignett, Townsend (Summerbell 87), Beck, Merson, Stamp (Moreno 70).
Booked: Festa, Hignett.
Goals: Hignett 77, Beck 79, 84, Hignett 90.
Reading: Hammond, Booty, Swales, Lambert (Caskey 77), McPherson, Davies, Parkinson, Hodges, Asaba, Morley, Williams.
Subs Not Used: Thorp, Lovell.
Ref: C J Foy (St Helens).
Report from the Evening Post by Clive BaskervilleMiddlebrough 4 Reading 0 By Clive Baskerville KEITH McPherson offered no excuses as he surveyed the wreckage of Reading's late collapse at leaders Middlesbrough on Saturday. The 34-year-old skipper, who only passed a late fitness test on a pelvic injury to play, said: "I thought we performed admirably until Craig Hignett's 77th-minute opener then we lost our shape and became disorganised. Going into the game the lads felt confident. We competed well and may have nicked a goal on a breakaway before Boro scored. It was disappointing to lose so heavily after working so hard, but there's no excuses. Hignett and Mikkel Beck both scored twice in a four-goal barrage in 13 minutes to seal the points. McPherson was partnered at centre-back by new signing Gareth Davies, 24, who joined from Crystal Palace for £100,000 the day before. Davies was included because Linvoy Primus, who had been an ever-present this term until Saturday, was ruled out with a shin injury". McPherson said: "We haven't had a chance to train together but we did have a chat beforehand about how we play and our intention to keep things tight. "I thought Gareth performed well. McPherson conceded Boro are a good team, but still felt close rivals Nottingham Forest have better strikers in Kevin Campbell and Pierre Van Hooijdonk. However, he was impressed by England's Paul Merson, who had an outstanding game. He said: Merson is a quality player and uses the ball intelligently. It was an observation shared by boss Terry Bulli-vant, who felt Merson was the difference between the sides. He said: Merson is a great player, he is outstanding in this league". With the exception of Davies, Reading named the same side that beat Charlton 2-0 at home the previous week. But they soon found the threat posed by Boro was much greater. Urged on by a near-capacity 30,000 crowd, Boro surged forward in attacking waves, using the flanks to good effect. Former Arsenal player Merson was at the heart of most of the moves. He sidefooted wide from close range after only five minutes, then Beck shot straight at keeper Nicky Hammond after wrong-footing Davies in the area. Royals were restricted to long-range efforts from Phil Parkinson and Lee Hodges that failed to worry keeper Mark Schwarzer before Boro carved out more chances. The best fell to Emerson on 21 minutes when he ran onto a flick from Beck. But his left-foot shot was deflected wide by the feet of Hammond. Moments later, Hammond saved again, this time from Beck's volley after a cross from Curtis Fleming. Reading's best chance came on 32 minutes when James Lambert tried a left-foot shot from the edge of the area which Schwarzer fumbled before collecting at the second attempt. Boro had a big appeal for a penalty turned down three minutes later when Beck appeared to go down under a challenge from Steve Swales. But, instead of pointing to the spot, referee Chris Foy initially waved play on before going back and booking Beck for alleged diving when there was a break in play. Boro skipper Nigel Pearson was substituted at half-time after picking up a knee injury, but it didn't affect their style of play. Within a minute Stamp's cross had been headed wide by Beck from a good position. Reading responded with an overhead kick from Trevor Morley that went wide after a cross from Martin Williams. Hammond was forced to make another fine save, this time from Beck, when he palmed the Dane's left-foot drive away for a corner after more good work by Merson. Schwarzer, who was rarely extended by Reading, fumbled again on 69 minutes after Carl Asaba had flicked on Swales' free kick. The reason for that was Boro's defence dealt comfortably with most of what Royals' attack had to offer. Asaba and Lambert were too easily dispossessed and that stopped the midfield linking up with any confidence. Just when it seemed Read-ing's stubborn rearguard action was going to earn them a point, the game turned upside down. The introduction of substitute Jaime Moreno for Stamp gave their attack fresh impetus and Reading's overworked defence couldn't cope. Emerson and Moreno both went close before HIGNETT broke the deadlock with a superb 25-yard drive into the top corner. Darren Caskey, who had been waiting to come on, replaced Lambert before the restart. But before he could get into the game, Royals found themselves two down on 79 minutes. BECK turned the ball in after a break from Merson and an attempted challenge by Davies. With the floodgates now open, it just seemed a question of how many more Boro were going to score before the final whistle. Reading pushed forward in an effort to get back into the game, but were frequently caught by Boro's quick counter-attacks that left Reading gasping to keep up with them. BECK made it 3-0 on 85 minutes after a chestdown and cross from Moreno, while HIGNETT burst away on a Merson pass to slot in the fourth goal on 90 minutes. The referee played five minutes of injury-time that had Reading's fans wondering if Boro were going to rub even more salt into their wounds. It was their side's fifth bad defeat this term after the 6-0 drubbing at Tranmere; 4-0 home defeat by Ipswich and the 3-0 losses against Bir-mingham (away) and Brad-ford (home).Beck, Hignett and Gianluca Festa were booked for Boro, while Parkinson was yellow-carded for Reading. MIDDLESBROUGH: Schwarzer, Fleming, Whyte, Festa, Pearson (Baker 46 mins), Emerson, Hignett, Townsend (Summerbell 88 mins), Beck, Merson, Stamp (Moreno 71 mins). READING: Hammond, Booty, Swales, Lambert (Caskey 78 mins), McPherson, Davies, Parkinson, Hodges, Asaba, Morley, Williams. Subs: (not used): Thorp, Lovell. Referee: Chris Foy (St Helens). Attendance: 29,876.