Attendance: 7,703
Scorers: - Date: 28 December 1999
Team: Howie, Gurney, Primus, Polston, Potter, Smith, Parkinson, Caskey, Evers (Brayson), Scott, Williams (Sarr).
Audio: Nope.
Match Hero: Caskey

Reading did everything but score against Notts County today. A cliche but true. The first half wasn't up to much, but the second was fantastic entertainment from the Royals as they created chance after chance after chance. We could have walked away with a three or four goals victory, but such is our current run of luck we came away with just a single point shared. There is no justice. Notts County spent the entire second half camped in their end, attempting to play out time as much as possible, and got away with exactly what they were after. Reading threw everything forward but were denied again and again by bits of the woodwork, the keeper and the odd defender. Despite the result - a draw when we desperately needed a home win - the Royals were deservedly applauded off the pitch after playing as hard as they could. We're still not getting results but it's no longer fair to say the players aren't giving it their best shot.

The first half was a much more balanced half, with both teams having chances to take the lead. For the most part it was a bit of a hit and hope type of half with the ball spending most of the time in the air. The vast majority of passes weren't finding targets and every clearance was just booted forward Martin Hicks style. Nothing of massive entertainment, but Reading kept the upper hand. At the back Reading looked pretty solid with the Polston and Primus pairing which would be the envy of any Division Two side. Howie looked reasonably comfortable too claiming a couple of balls played into his area well, and looking nervous on just the odd occassion. Going forward Keith Scott was having a massive battle with the County number five. Every time we'd hoof the ball forward from the boot of Howie or the head of Primus, and Scott and their number five would end up pulling each other all over the place, but being ignored by the referee. It certainly wasn't pretty stuff as neither team put together more than a handful of passes in a row.

Reading almost had grabbed the lead within the first five minutes after the ball was played across from the right. Primus powered his way into the area on the left and rose above his man to head forward. Williams was just ahead of him and put his head on it to send the ball goal direction. The keeper was there though to make a reaction save and keep it out. For the rest of the half we looked most likely to score from the many free kicks we won just outside the box wide on either the left or right. Everytime Caskey would step up and fire a dangerous cross into the box. About midway through the half Keith Scott connected with a perfect ball in from Caskey - his header looked like it should be going in but flew narrowly the wrong side of the County post.

In the first half we'd only really looked dangerous from set pieces. That all changed in the second as the pace of the game picked up and Reading started playing the ball into the box from open attacking play. For the first half the Madejski Stadium had been completely silent with nothing to really warm up the slightly larger than normal near 8,000 crowd. The second half soon got the home fans back into singing mood as Reading's football produced chance after chance. And as the crowd started really getting behind the players we surged forward more to create even more chances. Yes, we were actually looking good on the pitch, and the faithful home crowd were being entertained!

Smith had a couple of chances to put the Royals ahead within the first 15 minutes of the half. His first attempt from just left of centre inside the box beat the keeper and found the crossbar instead of the back of the net. Moments later he shot again from about centre, again sending the ball past the keeper, it looked like it might sneak in but hit the foot of the left post and was hacked away. Martin Williams was started to really enjoy himself too, weaving in and out of defenders and causing general panic inside the County area. Caskey and Gurney were providing decent service from the right with both low and high crosses into the box. Potter was doing well down the left to give the Williams and Scott some further supply. And we did everything but score. The level of panic within the County defence was clear as the ball was crossed low from the right just a few yards from goal. The defender stuck himself in the way and was fortunate to send the ball at some speed to where the keeper was located rather than one or other side of him.

Down the other end Scott Howie was the hero on a rare County foray into the Reading half. He came charging out of his area to intercept a breakaway attack and did enough to stop the shot. As the ball broke loose, and forwards down the County left, Howie went charging back. Just as the second county player was going to drive the ball into the Reading net Howie dived at his feet and successfully held the ball. Full marks to Howie. For the most part though County were happy to waste time - it was clear they'd settle for a point.

At the other end it was clear Reading didn't want to settle for the point. We were after all three. Caskey had a shot narrowly wide, Scott had a header saved, and Williams would have put the ball in the back of the net if Scott had threaded it through to him, when he was through, instead of attempting to shoot himself. The County keeper also made a vital save sticking his arm out at the right moment to deny us. Although it was ultimately frustrating as ever when the ball didn't find the net it was great to see some spirit back out there. Parkie was diving in for challenges at every opportunity and Caskey was as determined as I've seen him play for quite some time. Everytime we lost the ball we were straight in there to win it back and play it forward. There were still plenty of hoofs and passes not finding targets - but we were giving it some at least. Pardew too made it clear he was after the win by bringing on both Brayson and, later, Mass Sarr to inject some more attacking qualities towards the end. Brayson and Sarr didn't make a massive impression unfortunately.

However, if we play like we did in the second half for the rest of the season then we're definately not relegated yet. The last Reading game of the millennium, and some good promising signs.... COME ON YOU RRRrrrsss!

Post Match Opinions

Certainly an improved performance. However you mentioned in your report that Reading "gave it their best shot". Unfortunately their best shot is just not good enough. Losing games away from home and drawing your home games means one thing and that is relegation. Either Mr M needs to shell out more money on top of the 230,000 per month bail out money which is keeping Reading afloat or else we may be playing Hartlepool in front of 3500 people at the Madhouse. next season. My suggestion is that no money is given to our existing management, who's track record is worse than Burns. They should be replaced by a manager who can make things happen. Parkes, Robson & even Sanchez have turned around their team without spending on new players. I am afraid our current duo are not up to speed and why Mr M gave them a two year contract god only knows. It's time for them to depart. Let's speculate with a new management team and take decisive action before the end of January. Headhunt now and make it happen quickly.
-- Roger Scott

What a difference two days make !. Cardiff saw Reading try hard but but our attacking play was just too slow and predictable allowing Cardiff to re-group their defence everytime we pressed forward. But the game was predictable as the teams ran out and Carfdiff seemed to field 11 players 7 of whom must have been about 6'5" and above. And sure enough Reading lost the game to a team lacking skill but plentifull in presence to a goal scored from a set piece. Notts County:- Readings attacks were quick we and hit the woodwork two or three times added to a brilliant reflex save by their keeper and and a goal line clearance. The stats at the end sumed it up, 15 shots from the Royals and only 3 from County. But luck deserted us and we had to share two points. We miss the likes of Brebner, a decent attacking midfielder who can link attack and midfield. Maybe Sarr can fill this role. If we can play like we did today and get a decent attacking midfielder at the club we will soon be making our way up the table.
-- Deano

Did someone stick a rocket up his arse ? I'd say it was his best game since the Bournemouth Home game last season!!! C'mon lads - Keep going!!
-- Hunty

First rate match report! Clear description of the game I saw and the harder we try the better our luck will become. Great to see effort, application and spirit in abundance
-- Terry Reynolds

This was the first occasion for some time that I have left a Reading game not feeling acutely depressed. Sure the first half was pretty grim with Reading showing why they have scored so few goals in recent games, there were lots of long diagonal crosses in the general direction of the penalty area, even Dennis Bergkamp and Andy Cole would have failed to score with that sort of service. In the second half however things improved considerably, Reading stepped up a gear and created several good goal scoring chances which were sadly saved, hit the woodwork, just missed etc. On another day Reading would have deservedly won this game two or three nil. However there was plenty of commitment in the second half and if Reading can keep this up the results will come, its a big if however.
-- Adam Kirkwood

I've got plenty of opinion. Most of your report is accurate, however, I sometimes think I must be watching a slightly different match. The game started, as usual, with lots of tough hustle and bustle with the ball being airborne throughout most of the first half. I suppose you can justify awarding Reading a points win for the first half on the basis they created the better chances, Scott's near post header being the best. For me, his name would be the first on the team sheet. He's a bit old now and a bit slow but only in the sense he can't out pace a defender, he can keep up with a defender but can't get past. That for me though doesn't matter because the guy gives his all. With Scott up front, opposing central defenders can never relax. It's probable he will never score lots of goals but he can cause so much mayhem a good striker alongside him would have a field day. At this point, I have to say Williams is not a good striker. The second half did not belong to the first it was as if a second match had started.
I can't imagine what Pardew said at half time or where the team talk took place. My guess is he ushered his men straight up to the bar for drinks all round and a pat on the back followed by the issue of exrelax pills. The football played in the second half was relaxed, skilful and extremely direct, a pleasure to watch. The defence didn't look that comfortable during the first half but it started to look better and better as the second half progressed. I attribute this entirely to the fact that the pressure was taken off by our attacking football, no late minute equaliser here, nor did it look as if there would be one, a lesson to be learned perhaps? As for the match hero "Caskey" I can't agree. From my seat Evers was the man of the match. He plays very much in the style of Brebner, loads of work, good support, quick movement, quick passing. The kind of player you rarely notice until he is not there.
The biggest mistake Burns made was to sell Brebner, once he was gone the backbone of the team was gone. Caskey is very skilful but very slow. He needs someone to firstly, win the ball for him and then to be quickly in position for him to make his passes. Caskey knows where to pass the ball but makes no allowance for changing circumstances i.e.. players no longer where he first saw them. It sometimes takes Caskey so long to make a pass you could nip down to the bar, get a drink buy your Lottery ticket and be back in your seat before the play moves on.
If the lads can play like this consistently we should be alright but can someone please tell me why any player should be substituted inside the last 15 minutes unless he is injured? Is this not a case of the manager "playing manager"?
-- Chris Maskell

I do believe that Pants Day achieved its aim - the players have realised it's not good enough to just go through the motions or feel sorry for themselves. They are now making a real effort, and playing some decent football. I have actually enjoyed the last three matches, which is something I'd stopped expecting. As for this match, 3-0 to Reading would have been a fairer reflection of the respective contributions of the teams. If we can keep playing like this we'll be OK. Once Forster, Murty and the left-sided players come back the goals will start going in.
-- Peter Jones

For once it was an entertaining game at the weekend, and it is a long time since I have been able to say that being a Royal, and yet we only drew, our old problem coming back to trouble us again. 'Why can't we score?' The amount of cances that we had in the game should have resulted in at least a 4-0 scoreline, but no, and it wasn't as if their keeper played a blinder either. We need a fit Nicky Forster, and fast, and then the purchase of a quality stricker to partener him up-front, though who knows of a quality striker that wants to join a failing club at the bottom of the 2nd Division. One of the many good points to come out of the game, was the quality of our free kicks, the dilivery from Caskey was of quality, and for once we were winning some headers from corners and free kicks. Though one alarming aspect of the game was the lack of speed that we had in our team, apart from Williams, maybe that is just the result of the festive season, but i doubt it very much. Lets hope the new loan signing from chelsea, Mark Nichols, can finish off the chances that we have been making, and we get to some osrt of mid-table sercurity, well, I will settle for anything above Oxford and above the relegation zone. Come on URZ !!!!!!!
-- Sam Sargant


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