1 May 1999
Reading 2 Millwall 0
Howie; Gray, Hunter, Casper, Bernal, Maybury; Parkinson, Caskey (Gurney), Brebner
(Houghton); McIntyre, Scott.
Hunter (for an inspired first full game for years)
At last something to cheer about at the Madejski Stadium. Reading put behind them a run of eight games without a win in a fairly convincing manner - Millwall left as a well beaten side. It wasn't a brilliant game, and there were still all the problems we've all been complaining about all season on display, but two excellent goals, combined with a few other chances that could have seen us stretch our lead, meant it was a decent end to our season at home. The attendance was one of the smallest we've had all season - but it was no suprise since everyone was expecting another dull defeat or bore draw. In the end it was pretty entertaining - which probably shocked more than a few.
After the lack of luck with the four man defence, Tommy Burns reverted to five at the back again, with two wing backs, and two up front. This meant Barry Hunter could make his first start for the Royals in the centre of defence for two years, and also meant that Scott and McIntyre could play together up front. Parkinson, who was awarded player of the season for the second year in a row before the game, teamed up with Brebner and Caskey in midfield. Brebner was to last only about 15 minutes though after going down near the centre of the pitch - on came Houghton off the bench to play the rest of the game and not do too bad a job either.
Although the first half won't go down as the greatest half ever there were definate improvements on show. The most obvious improvement was that we managed to take two of our chances. To bring it back in line with normality for this season the two goals were scored by a midfielder and a full back as Parkinson and Gray put the Royals two goals up. Once again the front line failed to make an impact - surely an area Burns will be looking to strengthen pre-season.
Not much more than 20 minutes after picking up his award for player of the season, Parkinson powered home his fifth goal of the season. And what a goal. Casper played a long ball into the box, Parkinson strode past the defender on the left side of the box to set himself up with just the keeper to beat. He didn't leave it long before curling home a fantastic shot to the keepers left and into the right side of the net.
About ten minutes later Reading made it two. After some good play on the right Caskey chipped in a cross from right against the back line diagonally back into the box - perfectly for Gray to meet. Gray put his head on it to steer it into the top of the net. 2-0. Almost unheard of this season, but Reading were cruising. Milwall were hardly getting a look in.
As Reading continued to stoke it around evading the Millwall tackles McIntyre broke through looking for number three. As McIntyre legged it into the box he was screaming for the ball with his arms in front of his showing exactly where he wanted it played, and Keith Scott in posession duely obliged played the perfect ball along the floor into McIntyre's path. McIntyre found himself in a similar position to Parky - with just the keeper to beat. Instead of driving it into the back of the net, McIntyre's shot flew right across the face of goal and failed to threaten.
Despite the two goal margin the game had failed to pick up much pace in the first half. Millwall hadn't had a single shot on target during the whole half, while Reading had failed to win a single corner. They'd also been very few shots from the Royals - but it was looking good. With Casper and Hunter in the centre of defence we looked very tight, and coming forward we at last seemed to have the extra man - hence the two goals.
So after a fairly sedate first 45 minutes it was good to see the pace pick up into the second half. The first half of the second half was real end to end stuff with Millwall making their first impression on the game. As Millwall broke into the area and put in their first shot on target Howie had to be in top form to make the save - which he did. Moments later they could have pulled one back after winning a free kick a fair few yards outside the box. Again Howie made the save diving to his right just off his goal-line.
After a small amount of Millwall presure Reading got right back into it and again almost made it three. Maybury broke away with a scorching run down the right wing. With Maybury well forward Houghton had been intelligent enough to make the run forward too. As Maybury drew the defenders to him Houghton was left to run free. Maybury finished his run with a great ball into the path of Houghton. Houghton ran towards goal with no defenders near, the keeper came running out of his line, and the keeper got in his way as Houghton missed an easy chance. Houghton had another rebound chance but the defence got back and eventually the chance was gone.
With time ticking away it was clear Reading had won it. With little excitement for the away fans on the pitch we had the predictable bit of trouble that still plagues Millwall. It was clearly only a small segment of the Millwall following, but it's enough to ruin their reputation. Sadly enough Millwall take the unwanted credit of being the worst behaved away fans ever to visit the Madejski Stadium. One idiot ran onto the pitch, walked towards the stewards and then struggled a bit. Moments later a group of twenty or thirty thought it would be clever to rip through the netting and advance a few steps towards the Reading fans. The police reacted quickly enough though. At least it created a bit of atmosphere.
With about ten minutes of the game left Keith Scott had his best chance of the game. Again he was clean through but simply ran into the goalkeeper when he should have stuck it into the back of the net, to end his rather disappointing display.
We probably shouldn't get too excited about winning a game at last. It was a good afternoon but Millwall didn't put up a fight (well not on the pitch anyway), and there was a certain end of season feel to the game with both sides' seasons over well before kick-off. Maybury had a bad first half but improved in the second with some dangerous runs down the right wing. Barry Hunter deserves a special mention, and perhaps a regular starting place next season, after a solid game. He was running all over the place but looked well in control. Perhaps we still have problems up front though.