READING 1 LUTON TOWN 2 Attendance: 8,741 (1,500 away)
Scorers: Williams Date: 21 August 1999
Team: Howie, Gray, Hunter, Casper, Gurney, Smith, Grant, Caskey, Scott, Williams, McIntyre.
Subs: Forster (for McIntyre), Bernal, Haddow, Crawford, V.D. Kwaak
Audio: Nope / Not yet Match Hero: Smith

Report from Steve Rudd:

A vastly changed Reading team took to the field looking to forget last Saturday's woeful defeat at Cambridge. In came Casper for the injured Polston, and new signings Neil Smith and Peter Grant at the expense of Jimmy Crawford and Andy Bernal. Reading started with an attacking looking 4-3-3 formation and went at Luton right from the start. In the first ten minutes it was obvious the way Reading were going to play. It was all out attack with Williams, McIntyre and Scott all having early chances to break the deadlock. Reading pushed all their men forward in the hope of getting the vital breakthrough but it never materialised.

For most of the first half Scott Howie in the Reading goal was purely a spectator whilst Luton's keeper continued to thwart Reading's attempts to breach the Luton defence. To be honest, Reading created very few clear cut opportunities despite dominating the first half. Indeed the only incidents worthy of note were the bookings dished out to Andy Gurney and Stuart Gray. Gurney's booking was his third in as many league games, and at this rate it won't be long before he is suspended.

The end of the first half came, and Luton looked to be relieved to be going in at half time at 0-0, having survived the barrage from the Reading attack. However the second half proved to be a different story.

Whatever Lennie Lawrence said to his team at half time worked wonders. They came out and looked to attack Reading down the wings. Their right winger was giving Gurney a hell of a time. After nine minutes of the second half he beat Gurney one time too many and whipped in a dangerous cross. Casper went for the ball, but the Luton forward managed to nip in in-front of him and had an easy task of heading home from six yards out. 1-0 to Luton, and after all our dominance. However within two minutes we were back level. A long ball in from Casper lead to a knock down by Keith Scott to the hitherto ineffective Martin Williams and he managed to prod home from six yards. 1-1 and surely now we were going to go on and win it.

The biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the introduction of Nicky Forster, and his injection of pace seemed to lift the whole Reading team. Numerous times he got round the back of the Luton defence, which suddenly looked in a state of panic. On one of those occassions he managed to beat three defenders, before firing in a shot that was well saved by the Luton keeper. On other occassions Forster managed to put in decent crosses, only to look up and see them drop to a Luton defender with no Reading player attempting to get into the box.

Then in the final five minutes disaster struck. Reading tried to play the ball out of defence, and needlessly gave it away to the Luton left winger. He put in a cross to the near post, and for the second time in the match Casper got beaten to the ball by the Luton forward who steered the ball goalwards. However there was no power in his shot and it looked and easy save for Howie. But no, he somehow managed to let the ball squirm under his body and trickle into the net. 2-1 to Luton and no time to hit back.

The main plus points of the day were the final appearance of Nicky Forster in the hoops. He looks a decent buy, and his pace should liven up the Reading attack. The other two debutants also had very good games. Neil Smith put himself all over the park, revelling in a Parky type roll and was fully comitted. Peter Grant looks like a useful ball playing central midfield who will be a useful member of Burn's squad as back up to Daz.

The downsides were Tommy's decision to play 4-3-3, a system that once Luton had worked out, was flawed. It left our defence far too exposed, and left us with no width from which to attack Luton. Tommy, please go back to 4-4-2. The other downside was Chris Casper. He today proved himself incapable of playing in a flat back four. Both the goals were down to Chris not attacking the ball when he had the chance, rather waiting for it to come to him and getting beaten by the forward. Casper does look a good player when played as a sweeper, but as a centre back, no.

Overall we now have the squad in place, and players coming back from injury. Nicky Forster looked like the 20 goal a season man we have been crying out for, and in Smith and Grant we have useful back ups to Parky and Caskey. Now all we need is the results to start going our way and Tommy's team will be there or thereabouts come May. Or at least, let's hope so.