(Half Time: 1-3)
Reading Scorers: Butler (26 mins), Caskey (72 mins), Forster (88 mins).
Bournemouth Scorers: Elliot (4 mins, 33 mins), Defoe (24 mins).
Date: 5 May 2001
Attendance: 20,589

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Viveash, Whitbread, Robinson, Parkinson (Rougier), Jones (Caskey), Harper, Igoe (Forster), Cureton, Butler. Subs not used: Howie, Hunter.

Bournemouth: Stewart, Broadhurst, Howe, Tindall (O'Connor), Elliott, Carl Fletcher, Hayter (Purches), Hughes, Jorgensen (Feeney), Steve Fletcher, Defoe. Subs not used: Eribenne, Narada.

Bookings: Howe, Jorgensen (Bournemouth).
Referee: U D Rennie (Sheffield)

Although it looked unlikely at half time, this turned out to be the near ideal final match of the league season before Reading face Wigan in the play-offs. The Bournemouth fans went home gutted at losing their play-off place to a late Nicky Forster goal, the Reading fans were jubilant after watching the Royals come back from 1-3 down to draw 3-3. The point was enough to destroy Bournemouth's hopes of finishing sixth, and set up a two-legged play off semi-final over the coming weeks between the Royals, who finish third, and Wigan who finish sixth.

The first ever sold out game at the Madejski Stadium generated the biggest ever crowd of 20,589, with a filled away end of Bournemouth fans hoping to celebrate stealing a play-off position. There were definate gaps in the North Stand which suggested some fans hadn't bothered turning up, but it made no difference. The Madejski Stadium was approaching full and was in party mood with Reading guaranteed to finish third in the table whatever the result. A pre-match show by two army helicopters hovering above the pitch before delivering the match ball to John Madejski was an impressive sight. The stage was set. The game itself matched the atmosphere as both sides battled out a decent match. It might not have been one of the best games ever played at the Madejski Stadium, but it certainly ranked quite high, with plenty of entertainment from both sides.

Reading started with Keith Jones called back into the middle of midfield alongside Parkinson. McIntyre was no where to be seen but Caskey was back on the bench and Harper claimed another start in the first eleven. Right from the start it looked like it might be a repeat of the game played at Dean Court last month - with Reading going straight on the attack only to conceed an early goal. Bournemouth scored on the break after a fast move down the left got the better of the Reading defence. The ball found its way into the middle of the Reading box after a cross from the left wasn't cleared, and bizarrely the ball managed to avoid Viveash and Whitbread in the middle. Elliot seemed to have all the time he wanted in the box to drive it to the right of Whitehead and into the back of the net. 0-1, and the Bournemouth fans went mental.

To Reading's credit, after the disappointment of last week's defeat at Colchester United that ended our automatic promotion dreams, we went straight on the attack. Butler and Cureton looked deadly up front together once again, and it seemed like just a matter of time before one of them would pull the Royals level. Butler set up Cureton for a shot which was blocked, and that was followed up by Butler charging into the area to go flying over after a challenge from a Bournemouth defender. Butler managed to prod the ball through to Cureton but he couldn't get the shot in as the ball was cleared away. Reading probably had quite a strong case for the penalty as Butler went over, but didn't seem to protest too much.

Meanwhile Graeme Murty was playing a complete blinder coming forward from his full back position. Recently he's been critisised for failing to get back, but today put in some excellent challenges to win the ball back as Bournemouth went on the counter attack. He slipped up a couple of times, but otherwise was playing like a man possessed. There's no way Murty could be faulted for effort. Down the wing he was working hard and managed to get in a couple of dangerous crosses that could have created a goal. One swung nicely away from the keeper but there was no one waiting in the area like there probably should have been. Moments after that Murty almost found himself on the score sheet as the ball dropped well outside the area. Murty hit it well, but it fell just over the crossbar.

Martin Butler, having won the club's player of the season award just before kick-off, almost grabbed one with a similar long range effort that dropped onto the top of the net, the wrong side of the crossbar. Reading were looking by far the better side at this point with some fast determined attacking football. We might have been a goal down but we were playing it around exactly the way we should be up front - plenty of nice passing moves at pace and some service to the front men. We look so much better when we're not playing the long ball game. Bournemouth were resorting to long hoofs up the pitch the clear the danger every now and again, and it was Reading that looked much the more likely side.

Bournemouth's long hoofs might not have been pretty, but they appeared effective against a poorly organised Reading defence. The second goal was just the kind of goal that if conceeded in the play-offs could end our promotion chances. Perhaps it's good to get these defensive mistakes out of the way so the defence can prepare themselves properly for the games against Wigan. The second goal came from nearly nothing as the ball was pumped forward. Whitbread and Viveash both went for it, and both could have got it, but they ended up confusing each other and they both missed it - leaving a clear run on the Reading goal for Bournemouth forward Defoe. Defoe wasn't going to waste that kind of opportunity, collected the ball on the right, took it to the edge of the area and then fired it past Whitehead to make it 0-2.

The Bournemouth end exploded. Wigan were drawing at home - the ideal result for Bournemouth - and their side looked set for a win. They were in great voice until two minutes later when Butler gave the home fans plenty of reason to celebrate. Reading won a free kick a few yards away from the edge of the area. Butler stood to the left of the free kick in the middle and Igoe pushed it wide. Butler let rip with his left leg to send the ball flying at a million miles an hour into the roof of the net. 1-2.

More defensive problems for Reading saw Bournemouth retake their two goal advantage with a superb solo effort from Elliot for his second of the game. Elliot took the ball down the right and seemed to just walk around the entire Reading defence unchallanged before working his way to the edge of the area and sticking it home. 1-3. A great goal from the Bournemouth player who showed more than a bit of skill, but massively disappointing defending from the Royals. Any one of five Reading players could have made a challenge before he working into a shooting position - but no one got even close to a tackle.

The rest of the half drifted away, and despite some great attacking from the Royals we were looking second best to a Bournemouth side that could have gone on, at that point, to meet us in the play-offs. After the break it failed to look much different. The game seemed to be drifting away from Reading with few goalscoring chances being created at the start of the half. The East Stand seemed more entertained by winding the Bournemouth fans up with fictitious chants about Wigan goals. Wigan were in fact still 0-0 - and it would end that way - Bournemouth just needed to hang onto the win at the Madejski Stadium. A rather large chap in the Bournemouth end exposed his rather large belly to the delight of the East Stand, and for quite a while the entertainment on the pitch seemed non-existant.

Cureton looked like he'd scored after sliding home a rebound from a Keith Jones shot - but it was strangely ruled out for offside. But it was a rare piece of action in a period where the game had cooled off. Thankfully, the game returned fully to life with twenty minutes left. Reading won a free kick right on the edge of the Bournemouth box. Straight away Caskey whipped off his tracksuit as Reading prepared to take off Keith Jones, who had had a determined game in midfield. The ball was in perfect Caskey territory. The crowd knew that Caskey would be taking it, and we had a sneaky suspicion he'd score from there. Jones went off, Caskey ran over and almost instantly the ball was flying off his boot and into the top of the net. A typical, but fantastic, Caskey free kick. 2-3.

And from that moment onwards the game didn't let up as Reading went on the hunt for the equaliser. The away end continued to cheer their team on, but they knew that a goal from the Royals was almost certain. We won corner after corner, but only managed a couple of weak corners straight into the keeper's arms from the right. But we continued to go on the attack. With Rougier, Caskey and Forster all on the pitch we were playing some great passing football. Caskey followed up his goal with a couple of great balls to feet across the park and was rewarded with chants of "give him a contract" from the Reading fans. Time was running out when Cureton got in a decent shot that was well saved by the keeper. Moments later we made up for the earlier poor corners with some great ones taken from the right. Caskey showed that he can take great corners as well as free kicks - eventually providing the one that led to the equaliser - Forster scoring at the far post with just two minutes left. 3-3, and the home fans erupted. "We are going up!"

Bournemouth were devestated - they now had to score to make the play-offs. A couple of minutes into injury time and it looked like the away side had grabbed the winner as the ball was lobbed towards the top left corner of the Reading net with Whitehead beaten. Just as it dropped Murty was on the line to head it over the crossbar for a corner. Bournemouth couldn't make their corner count and it was all over. 3-3. The home fans were more than happy - the season was over for the Bournemouth fans. The second half comeback and the final result will be more than enough to re-build the confidence ready for the play-offs, but the defensive problems displayed throughout the first half will be more than a worry. Wigan are next.

Following report by Neil Cole
One of the most exciting games of the season was a fitting way to end our most successful league campaign for six years, as Reading fought back to get a draw and end Bournemouth’s play-off hopes. In theory the game meant nothing for Reading, with third place guaranteed a long time before kick-off. Yet the team played as we hoped they would, with plenty of effort and some good football. Poor defending in the first half looked like costing us the game, but the second half performance was a credit to the club. At final whistle, the majority of the record attendance went home happy, but with a few thousand Bournemouth fans devastated at the way the game had ended.

Keith Jones was recalled to the starting eleven, with James Harper moving out wide on the left and taking Jim McIntyre’s position. The back four remained the same, and with Whitbread’s position at the club confirmed, it is likely this is the defence that will start the play-off matches against Wigan next week. However, several uncharacteristic mistakes in the first half saw Bournemouth lead 3-1 at the break, and apparently heading for sixth place and the final play-off position.

Reading had started the game brightly, and it was clear they were doing their best not to play the long-ball stuff to which we have recently become accustomed. Yet some shambolic defending gifted the visitors an early lead. We had four chances to clear the ball after a Bournemouth corner, yet somehow it only got as far as Wade Elliott on the edge of the box, who had far too much time to drill the ball into the goal.

Reading responded well, and when Butler was brought down inside the Cherries’ box it seemed we had won a penalty. However, nothing was given and Bournemouth were back on the attack. It wasn’t long before they doubled their lead, as Whitbread and Viveash stood still as Jermaine Defoe raced behind them onto a through ball. Defoe is one of the division’s best finishers, and once he had found the space he made no mistake in making it 2-0 to Bournemouth.

The scoreline didn’t really reflect the game fairly, as Reading had plenty of possession and looked dangerous on the attack. It was Martin Butler who got the Royals back into the game, with probably the best of his 26 goals this season. After winning a free-kick outside the area, Sammy Igoe rolled the ball to his left. Butler’s shot was hit perfectly, as he fired the ball into the top corner to silence the Bournemouth fans behind the goal.

After taking the initiative with the goal, Reading managed to let it slip soon afterwards as Bournemouth scored again. Elliott was once again given loads of time and space, and he strolled into the Reading box and finished well to make it 3-1 to the Cherries. With Wigan only drawing at home, Bournemouth were looking good to finish in 6th and provide Reading with tough opposition in next week’s play-offs.

Yet Reading achieved an excellent comeback in the second half, and the performance after the break was just what we needed to go into the play-offs full of confidence. The most encouraging part of the second half was the performance of Darren Caskey, whose appearance as a substitute changed the game in Reading’s favour. His first touch was incredible, as he emerged from the bench just as Reading won a free-kick on the edge of the area. Caskey strolled up towards the ball, and it was clear what was in his mind. Barely even pausing from his run from the bench, he hit the ball perfectly and curled it into the net with the keeper nowhere near. That gave Reading the impetus they needed, and this time they didn’t throw it away.

Jamie Cureton had already had a goal disallowed, after he had followed up well from a saved Keith Jones effort. Forster and Rougier were brought on from the bench, replacing Igoe and Parkinson. With such an attacking line-up on the field, there were clearly going to be more goals in the game. Reading were the most likely, as their constant pressure earned a series of corners. Yet they left it late, as the equaliser finally came in the 88th minute. A Caskey corner found its way through to substitute Nicky Forster, who prodded in his first of the season to ruin the day of about 4000 Bournemouth fans. The point wasn’t enough for the Cherries, who finish the season in heart-breaking 7th place. Forster’s goal was well-received at Wigan, and the final whistle brought pitch invasions at both the Madejski and the JJB.

The fans were cleared off the pitch to allow the Reading players a well deserved lap of honour, but everyone knows the hard work is still to come. The league table shows that we are the best team of the four in the play-offs, and with our attack force the envy of the division we are favourites to claim a place in Division One. The potential is there for us to take over the JJB next week, and a decent Reading following could spur the side on to a massive victory, and see us take a big step towards the First Division.

Post Match Opinions

At half time it was head in hands time. A defence that had forgotten the basics and previous reliables as Viveash, Whitbread and Parkinson hardly there. Harper very poor, even Whitehead performed no miracles as we have come to expect. Two goals down against the most in form side in the division, facing them in the playoffs again, season over. And then we had the second half. What did Pardew throw at half time? Tactical changes, gritted teeth determination to fight to the end and by the time the game finished I was disappointed with the draw. A Bournemouth side with everything to play for and they were played off the park in that second half. So, which Reading team will I see in the next two matches?
It's a long wait until Sunday.

-- Bucks Royal

I think that this was one of the more entertaining matches of the season, but I'm worried about the playoffs. Reading are still getting some of the simple stuff wrong which will be essential to our survival should we win the playoffs. I would also like to thank Jason Lunnon for his great crowd work yet again, particularly when he got me to stand up and start a song. He got everyone going in the second half and it seemed to be reflected on the pitch. But there was a real let down at the end of the game from the Reading fans who had been superb throughout the match. I thought the behaviour towards the Bournemouth fans was disgraceful, with chants of "cheerio", and i think that they should have been applauded for thier support and passion which was shown throughout. The Reading players put the crowd to shame when they displayed the sort of behaviour we should have done by making a point of going to the Bournemouth supporters and deliberatley clapping them!
But we do need the support for the play-offs when we destroy Wigan at home and when we pack out Cardiff!
Come on you URZ!

-- Will Gavin, 16, Reading

Great entertainment in the end, and two superb strikes, one from Butler, and one from Caskey gave us some comfort, after some awful defending threatened to embarrass us. What I still can't understand is the apparent lack of self belief. It took the swagger of Caskey to score with his first kick, to make the rest of the team realise that perhaps we weren't there just to roll over and let Bournemouth take the inititative into the play offs. When that belief surfaced, we showed that we are probably the best technical and talented team in the division. (Millwall excluded perhaps). Pardew and Allen must motivate the team better if we are to reach Cardiff, and have any chance of promotion.
We, the fans, know it's possible, I'm not sure some of the players believe it.
Come on Alan and Martin. Rev 'em up!
See you all at the JJB.

-- Kevin Worthing Royal.

After his performance today, Caskey MUST start against Wigan.
-- James Tadley

What a game! For all the wrong reasons ... It must be obvious to all that there is a deficiency in the Rs defensive department .. not just the backs but in the ball winning capabilities of the midfield. To say that the Rs defence went AWOL for the three Bournemouth goals is an understatement ... they emigrated, more like. The chant of the Bournemouth fans "Can we play you every week?" was spot on... they hadn't seen this many gifts since last Christmas!
The Rs attack capability is good - Martin Butler put in another good, honest, 100% effort game, you knew that things were going to happen every time he got the ball. Cureton was just waiting to happen. Rougier made a difference as well the obvious question is why wasn't he starting? Obviously Pards and Mad Dog did something to the team in the interval... would it be too simplistic to ask that they should do it before the match and not half way through? We dare not think that we can give goals away that easy against Wigan and get away with it, let alone doing the same in the final (if we get there)

-- Andy - Leicester Royal and exile Whitley Boy

What an afternoon! This was one of the most entertaining games seen at the Mad House. The festive mood started before the kick off. Butler deservedly picking up player of the season, the chairman (and don't we owe him a lot) getting the ball from a helicopter. The party atmosphere continued as our defence were incredibly generous mood as they gifted an early goal. Our midfield was clearly not balanced and that did not help our confused defence. we conceded three goals and I can't remember Whitehead having to make a save all game. The first goal Murty slipped and there was no cover as the ball came in to the box.
The second was just a plain old fashioned cock up between Whitbread and Viveash for which Whitbread must take most of the blame.
The third we gave their scorer half an hour to run at us and choose his spot. Against all that Butler and Cureton were superb. They looked sharp incisive and liable to score at any time. Bournemouth had a lot to play for, more than we did. If our defence had played like normal we would have won four or five one. What we had was an absolute thriller of a game with a terrific atmosphere and a distraught Red end of the ground at the final whistle. Butler's free kick to bring the game to 2-1 was superb.
Although I was at the wrong end of the ground it looked like he might have had a penalty as well. the turning point for me was the arrival of Caskey. He showed why he should be in the team. His touch on the ball was different class. He is able to feed the ball to the strikers in a way that no other Royal can and so there was less of the long ball scenario. No he can't tackle well, his heading his weak and he won't win any sprint races, but he will create and others should do some of his covering work for him. His first touch of the ball was to put it in the back of the net from a free kick. 3-2 and we still hadn't scored from open play.
We dominated the second half, in fact we were marginally the better team in the first although 3- 1 down. With time running out and Wigan still drawing Bournemouth thought that it was they who would be back to play us in the play offs. The crown erupted when we realised that it was Forster who had knocked the ball in at the far post.
The game was not dead yet. Bournemouth now threw everything at us. The ball was going in to the top corner. suddenly Murty rose to head the ball clear. He seemed to have no right to get there. It was the end of a fine match for him, a brilliant piece of entertainment for us royals fans and a desperate afternoon for the Cherries! We have to fancy ourselves against Wigan. They will be harder to unlock and that is why Caskey must play!

-- Ken C

Those of us in the away corner of the East Stand witnessed the biggest 2 bellies in the ground. The Bournemouth fan who exposed his mighty blubber deserves credit for his sporting gesture. It was huge!! Both sets of fans appreciated it. Years of training and careful over-eating must have gone in to develop such a physique. This was in response to Mr Fatman, the Reading fan, who is becoming the new director of music for the East Stand choir. Once again he spent most of the match urging others to sing. Does he watch the game?
If the play-off games are like this one, then we are in for a fantastic climax to the season. Let's hope it all comes good for us against Wigan, and in Cardiff. Please God!
I am glad not to play AFCB because I honestly think they would beat us. Dafoe was always a threat. Credit to them and their fans, they made it a great day.
C'mon Reading!

-- Telford Royal

Without doubt one of the most exciting moments ever seen at the Madejski... the helicopters coming in before the game! Talk about hairs on the back of the neck standing up! As my mate Buzz was shouting at the Bournemouth fans, "you'd never see that at your dump of a ground". I'd said after we got that result somehow at Bournemouth, that god help us if we needed something against them in the last game of the season, and so it proved.
I think we were all relived that we won't be facing Bournemouth in the play offs, and although we all had a good giggle at their fans, no true fan, can honestly say they don't feel a teeny bit sorry for them.
I thought the way they applauded our players at the end was a great credit to them, and good luck to them next season.
It was important we didn't lose yesterday as we enter the play offs. I've got over the emotions of last week and we now must all get behind all the lads and Pards and back RFC all the way to victory at the home of mutton, Cardiff. I thought the way we came back in the second half was great testimony to the team. It's getting worrying at the back mind, where earlier we've been so solid. Five goals conceded in two games, Ade Viveash continuing to look jaded, and two wing backs who though good going forward, continue to give us all kittens defending, need to be addressed before next week. We will score goals with our wealth of striking talent, but they must get the service.
Which brings me on nicely to Lardy Caskey.
If ever a sub changed a game so much as yesterday I've not seen it. With Caskey in the pitch we are a different side. I'll be the first to put my hands up and eat a good portion of humble pie. I have criticised him in the past, never for ability, but more about effort. I've now concluded ( or what it's worth , sod all I know) that we need Caskey in the team. We play football when he's on and will always create chances . I hate to say it , but Parky and Jones in the midfield will create nothing but battle well. Pards should have the balls to play Caskey and Jones, with Harper supporting and Forster, Butler and Cureton up front. I'm sure he wouldn't play that formation at Wigan, but what a bloody team, I'll say so myself.
Wigan won't be easy, but we do have the squad and set up to do it. This football club is unrecognisable from the one that left Elm Park. We are emerging as arguably, potentially one of the biggest clubs outside the Premiership. If we don't make it this year, we're lucky that its a case of not if but when.
Lets do it this year... come on you ****ing RRRZZSS!

-- Nick Newbury

By the end of the first half I was gutted. Bournemouth was banging it up the middle, and their number 10 was winning it everytime, and getting it to "Deadly Defoe". Our defence lost the plot and any commitment. Parkinson was very quiet. Jones and Harper made no impression in midfiled.But after Murty showed some sloppy play leading to the first goal, he managed to take no prisoners. When Caskey, Rougier and Forster came on, Reading woke up and Bournemouth slowed down. Caskey showed both teams how to play the game, what a pro. Rougier done his dancing feet down the line, and Forster gave us new idea's up front. Before the play-off's, Reading need to sit down and watch the video of the game. First half WRONG. Second half, Division One next season. Everybody deserves it. Play Caskey and not lightweight Jones.
-- Jamie, Woodley Royal

Caskey IN! What a turn around when he came on. Suddenly we had deft touches, vision, subtlety and skill with place kicks. Some of his through balls were sublime-and did you notice how Harper improved as soon as he had Caskey alongside him? I like Keith Jones-an honest hardworking pro if ever there was one but he is not a creator like SuperDaz. Pardew should give Caskey a contract and should be brave enough to build the team around him to compensate for his shortcomings.
Hard luck Bournemouth. Like other fans I feel for you- but I'm damn glad we don't have to meet you in the play-offs!
As this is the time of year for awards I've decided to give one of my own. The Mista Kook award for attitude, enthusiasm, humour, zeal and loyalty goes to....Ladeees an' genl'mennn...let's hear it for... THE READING FANS!! I honestly believe we have made a real difference this year. I know it's traditional for Reading fans to moan and groan but this season we rose above that and you could see how it inspired the team. We've still got a bit to do though. See you at Wigan, the Mad House AND Cardiff. Let's make some NOISE!!

-- Mista Kook

Good to see the Reading fans applauding the Bournemouth players off the pitch. Great end to a great game!
-- David Kerrell

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