Attendance: 11,707
Scorers: Forster, Caskey Date: 22 March 2000
Team: Howie, Robinson, A.Williams, Primus, Murty, Grant (Newman), Smith, Caskey, Hodges (Gurney), Butler, Forster (Scott).

Match Heroes: Williams

Had Bristol Rovers won this game they would have gone top of the league - but they were way off ever achieving that tonight against a Reading side determined to win. Rovers may have had more of the possession and a ridiculous number of corners, but once again this was a deserved victory for Reading, who now move up to a season record 15th position in the table. Rovers clearly are a skillful side, and remain just a point from the top, but they failed to show it tonight, and instead showed constant frustration at being unable to beat a well organised Reading defence. We didn't give them the time or space to move the ball around and although it might not have been pretty, Reading won with the tactics. The 4,000 traveling fans will go home disappointed that their team failed to get organised, but they wont be as frustrated as the Rovers team and management at being unable to find a way through the Reading defence and showing weakness at the back. This kind of Reading victory would have been unthinkable earlier in the season - even more unthinkable than our current run which now stands at five straight home wins from five games - quite some record.

Adrian Williams made a welcome return to the starting eleven after re-signing on-loan, earlier in the day, until the end of the season, and was a key part of the victory. The combination of Primus and Williams in the centre of defence is as good as it gets in this division, and with Howie looking confident and successfully claiming every ball he came for, we always looked comfortable against one of the best strike forces in the league. Rovers continually found no way through, while Reading were happy to play it safe and hoof it out for the throw or corner - as long as it stopped the attack in it's tracks. Apart from a couple of occasions we always had more men behind the ball and marked up tight enough so that eventually the away side would get desperate and resort to hoofing themselves. Primus was more than happy to hoof the ball clear, and Robinson too found his headers and volleys going any direction - but always forward. Under Burns we used to try and play it out of defence and it always got us into more trouble that it created. Rovers ended up getting tired of their attacks breaking down with the last ball or attempt to pass a player and ended up just hoofing it forward themselves. True Division Two style football, but Reading looking more suited to it.

To begin with it looked like it might become a game dominated by a poor referee. Although there were some pretty heavy challenges going in from both sides he seemed determined to fit in his whole quota of yellow cards for the season in just one game. Forster got booked for kicking the ball away (when he was just returning it to the ball-boy), a decision that not only wound up the home fans but the Rovers number 12 who protested Forster's case and then kicked the ball away himself to make the point. Rovers fans may probably point to the referee as a reason for defeat after they picked up most of the yellow cards and had a penalty decision go against them in the second half. However there's no doubt Reading should have had a first half penalty with the score at 0-0 after their keeper bundled over Butler as obvious as it gets.

Thankfully with Rovers starting to get more and more of the play Reading mounted a couple of decent attacks. Firstly after winning a free kick on the edge of the box, Caskey's free kick was good but direct at the keeper, and shortly after - midway through the first half - we took the lead. Hodges took a free kick wide out on the right and played it diagonally into the middle of box. Forster made his run, stuck his head on it, and it went flying past the keeper into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Royals and no repeating of last years 0-6 humiliation. We almost made it two not long afterwards from a similar free-kick out on the right. As it was played into the box a group of players went for it and it went off a Rovers defender's head, just wide of the far post and out for a corner.

Rovers best chance of the half saw a shot from the centre of the edge of the box fly through a crowd of players and find Howie in the right place at the right time to scoop it over the bar for yet another corner. Williams was another Reading player in the right place at the right time to head a shot on target way over the bar to keep Reading ahead at the break.

The second half was always going to be a difficult one for Reading, but thankfully the pattern of the game never really changed. Rovers seemed to win even more corners, but still failed to get any close range shots on target. Howie continued to collect hopeful balls played into the box, and Primus and Williams kept winning anything else not close enough to the keeper. Reading's direct play coming forward meant we always looked dangerous up front, and we could have had another penalty on seventy minutes when Hodges went storming towards the box only to be hacked down right on the edge for a free-kick. The free-kick was tapped sideways to Caskey, and Caskey let rip with a Caskey special, past the wall, past the keeper, and into the back of the net. 2-0 to Reading, and Caskey's 19th goal of the season.

Again we expected Rovers to really take the game to Reading but instead they got more and more frustrated with time running out and failing to get the ball effectively into the box. Instead they resorted to long range shots that went flying over the bar and even more desperate challenges to get the ball. It all overspilled to the benches where Martin "Mad Dog" Allen was doing his usual touch line job and really winding up the away side's management team. As the referee came over to talk to the linesman Mad Dog leapt into the dugout and hid, eventually emerging in a different tracksuit - while the Rovers lot had to be restrained as their team continued to trail 2-0.

Butler was almost clean through and would have made it 3-0 if the ball had run smoother for him, but it made no difference as Reading recorded a 2-0 home win. And so Reading's form continues with an obvious will to win more clearer than it has been for seasons. Our workrate over the ninety minutes, across the whole team, is amazing, with every player chasing every ball. That's what the fans want to see and it's the foundations of a team that's capable of at last mounting a serious promotion challenge next season.

Post Match Opinions

This was my first live match at the Mad Stad since the Bradford 2-2 "defeat" and I found myself watching a Reading team largely unrecognisable from last Autumn. I have to say that I regret the hoof it style but can't deny it worked very well against Rovers and it's the points which count at the moment.
I hope we return to playing more football on the deck once we get promoted. I wholly agree with the assessment of the ref - he seemed to have been told it would be a bloodbath local derby and therefore decided to get tough from the off; the first card was quite ridiculous and he managed to escalate quite innocuous situations into serious confrontations. The "ballboy" incident was just the cherry on the cake and why he couldn't backtrack on his decision once both players had explained beats me.
On the plus side it was great to see the Royals defence shut out an in form side fielding Roberts and Cureton as well as ex-Premier leaguers David Hillier and Mark Walters, with very few alarms. Surely Reading must now be taken seriously again after 5 years in the doldrums!
-- Richard, Newbury Royal.

Tremendous another great battling team performance ..all I want to say is Ade Williams !! What an absolutely magnificent colossus of a performance ! At this rate he may get Player of the Year ! He must sign for us next year and get the captaincy . Roll on next year ....
-- Nick Poole

Totally agree with match report, a few months ago we would have rolled over under the Rovers pressure.
Adie Williams makes so much difference at the back, he is a class above Hunter and has a passion about the club which transfers to the others, he will make a great club captain if we can re-sign him permanently. Darren Caskey had one of his less influential games in midfield, but I've never seen him run and cover so much, as for his goal, well pure class. If we do sell him which i feel would be a shame he has got to be worth circa 1.5m, 19 goals from midfield speaks for itself.
Roll on Saturday URRRZZZZ.
-- Andy

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I was that gutted after last years fixture and now I feel so much better! Also, most pleased that Aidie is back - hopefully permanently. All we need is to get Osborn, Scott Taylor and Shaka back (once hes fit of course) and we will have the best of the old guard plus the best of the new and we will be UNSTOPPABLE!
-- Paul C

I was very happy with the win yesterday, and it was a well deserved one at that.
But some of the tactical decisions still amaze me. Why do we stick one of the best passes and most creative players in the league out on the right wing where he gets shown up for lack of pace. Surely with Caskey in the middle either feeding balls to the wingers or the dangerous front two we could be causing teams a lot more trouble.
How does Smith keep getting a run out? All he's got is that long throw. We need someone in central midfield who can put their foot on the ball and start passing it!!!!
-- Paul S

How sweet this victory was.For the first 20 minutes the away bumpkins taunted us about the 6-0 drubbing last season,come the final whistle at least half of those were back in their tractors and already on the road back to their farms.
Not the beautiful game so many of us yearn for but a hard working,hard fought fantastic 3 points.If that is what it takes then so be it. Every Reading player ran their heart out last night and gave their all,the standing ovation at the end was richly deserved,and the players milked it,and quite right too.Williams made a hell of a difference at the back from saturday.He exudes class and confidence which rubs of on the likes of Primus and Murty and improves their game noticeably.Howie pulled off a couple of unbelievable saves and took every cross without panic or concern unlike their keeper Coco the Clown .
Even Mad Dod got in on the act and managed to get their Oompaloompa of a manager sent off, then did his own disappearing act with clever disguise,very innovotive.Nights like that just dont get any better at the Mad House
-- Russ. Essex Royal.

I have been a fan since the about 1991 when my best friend persuaded me to support the Royals despite the fact that I lived about 200 miles away in Lancaster. I have seen the Royals go from 2nd division no-hopers to wembley in 1995 and back again. After the fantastic season that was 1995 there seems to have not been any real spirit at the club, including fans, management and players.
It seems now after four years of dissapointment and listlessness that the R's are finally back on the right track and it's about time.
The Madejski stadium should be a fortress and now it seems to be becoming that. I think that whatever other people say we need to keep Caskey, and with Butler, Forster and Adie back it seems we have the backbone for a real challenge next year.
Come on you RZZZZZZZZ's
-- Chris Lash

One of the least pretty but most satisfying games of the season for the Reading fans. These are the results that inspire confidence amongst the players, management, board, and fans alike. It wasn't a brilliant display by Reading but we're finally sorting out tactics which are suited ot this divison, and as a team we are much stronger in the tackle. Let us not forget that before the game, Bristol Rovers had lost just 6 of 36 league games, and for the best part of the last two seasons, have possessed the most prolific strike force in the division.
Why Wolves want to let Adie Williams go I'll never know. The man was immense. I don't recall even a misplaced pass for the enitre match and there was certainly no getting past him. With Linvoy's strength (I admit Primus didn't quite look as sharp as normal) these two look to be a formidable centre-back pairing.
Let us not forget our other dynamic duo FAB - Butler has come in for some stick recently, but whilst he's not scoring he is creating so many openings for Forster, Caskey, and at times, even full-backs Robinson, Murty, and Gurney. I was impressed by Murty, Robinson was as brilliant as ever, and Gurney is more than adequate cover for either of these two. Also a mention for Howie who is looking more commanding every time I see him. Remember he's conceded just one home goal this year and he made two quite outstanding saves last night. The crowd was quite dissappointing given BRFC brought 4,000 but with Chelsea on the telly what can u expect?
Uuuuuuuuuuu Rrrrrrrrs
-- Mark Brecht

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