Team: Hammond, Booty, Bernal, Davies, Swales, Hodges, Parkie, Lambert, Morley, Asaba, Williams (Bowen).
Man Of The Match: Parkie
Complete Pile Of Shite Of The Match: The Referee and Asaba.
Last night was probably the worst refereeing I've seen at Elm Park this season, and that's really saying something. Reading went out of the Coca-Cola Cup under a series of bizarre refeering decisions that threatened to tilt the game either way - until finally giving Middlesbrough the decisive injury time goal that took them to the semi-finals. In a game packed with incident in front of a full house Reading so nearly took it to extra-time and almost stole victory themselves before Hignett's late goal. Onto that goal later.
The first wasn't all that special but both teams could have been ahead before the break. Reading started the strongest winning a string of corners. However several uninventive corners from James Lambert later and it was still 0-0. Reading's best chance of the half came from Williams down the right - he played a low ball into the box into the path of Morley. Morley hit it first time forcing a great save from Schwarzer in the Middlesbrough goal. 'Boro replied with Hammond tipping over and last coming out to deny Beck. Meanwhile Craig Hignett was giving it his best shot at getting sent off before the half was up. He picked up a yellow after a heavy challenge on Parkie and later over the other wing looked like he might extend his card collection. Parkie was playing a blinder tackling all over the place playing a commanding midfield role and Lambert appeared to be playing on both wings. At the same time. Asaba meanwhile was a bag of shite - always feet away from the play and refusing to put in any effort. Complete bollocks. Morley played a couple of nice touches into space where a certain Mr.Asaba really should have been. Williams was looking up for it, Hammond was in fine form, and Davies was winning everything in the air even if it did go off in random directions.
Rather worryingly, just before half time, Williams limped off injured to be replaced on the wing by Jason Bowen.
The second half was more like it. After a quiet start the game burst into life as Reading upped the pace and started looking for a goal. Middlesbrough soaked up the continued pressure to break free, with speed, each time Reading lost the ball in the 'Boro half. And suddenly we had a pretty decent end to end game with Reading taking the majority of the possession. Booty and Swales looked impressive down the wings as Reading pushed forward and Davies was their on the edge of the box waiting for every Reading corner. Asaba, Morley and Bowen all could have given Reading the lead. A Lambert run down the left saw a neat ball to Asaba in the box. Asaba at last got it right and hit a low left foot shot that needed a save. Then Swales played a great cross to Morley whose header flew just over the 'Boro crossbar. And again down the left, where Reading looked the most dangerous, a Swales cross found Bowen on the far post. Bowen hit a good effort towards the post but Schwarzer was there.
But as Reading looked likely to score 'Boro looked more likely as the Reading defence pushed forward. With Booty and Swales running back and Davies still up there looking for a header on the edge of the box Beck twice got runs straight at Nicky Hammond. Despite an earlier goal mouth fumble by Hammond his positioning was excellent. Beck's shots weren't. A long range shot from the left found Hammond stranded but luckily also found the crossbar and righthand post at the same time. Festa looked to have put 'Boro in the lead after sloting the ball through Hammond's legs into the net. However Beck had been offside before playing the ball into Festa's path. Reading were waiting to take the offside while Festa was tangled in the Town End fence removing his clothes. Several minutes later Festa discovered that the hole he'd being trying to put his head through was where his arm should go, and found he'd been wearing a pair of white boxer shorts on his head for the whole first half.
Ok, now lets be all fair and unbiased. The referee did also manage to keep us in the game earlier on with a few bizarre decisions. Amazing but true. Sunday league referee does not go far enough. If Middlesbrough hadn't had their stroke of luck at the end of normal time it would be them claiming they'd been cheated - not that they deserved to win this way. Midway through the second half Andy Bernal found himself beaten leaving a one on one between Hammond and the 'Boro player. Rather than risk it Bernal dived in with a last ditch tackle from behind. I was too busy wondering if it was a yellow card or a red for Skippy and if 'Boro had earned themselves a penalty. But no! Play on appararantly.
With 90 minutes on the clock and the score at 0-0 everything seemed fair enough. Either team looked like they might grab a goal, but extra time seemed a reasonable outcome.
Then strange things happened.
Firstly a bit of a fight in the centre circle. Probably due to the distress caused to both Morley and Parkie at not getting a yellow card so far despite some enthusiastic tackles. Firstly the referee ignores the fight, then leaves the far linesman to pile in. Now on the side near the south bank Maddison has fallen over and getting treated for his injury. At the same time Trevor gets the yellow he's been after for swearing a bit. The referee totally lost control of the game.
Watching it on Meridian later, I'd just like to say that they COMPLETELY MISSED THE POINT. The reason the South Bank went quite so mad was because Maddison refused to get off the pitch. George Cain, the referee, instructed Maddison to leave the field on that FIFA rule about the injury. Lambert is trying to help Maddison off the pitch like the kind chap he is while Morley prepares to take the free kick Cain has awarded to Reading. Oh, hang on, he's changed his mind. All of a sudden the free kick is awared to 'Boro.
Here's an interesting bit. The free kick was awarded and play was stopped because Morley swore apparantly. Well there's a interesting rule. Ok then, lets just accept that for a minute. A free kick to Middlesbrough then. But hold on - who is taking the free kick? Only bloody Maddison who has just been told to get off the pitch. So a player who shouldn't even be on the field takes a free kick that only 2 seconds ago was a Reading free kick midway in the 'Boro half. With the Reading defence pushed forward ready for the Royals free kick 'Boro slide the ball nicely though to Craig "should have got red carded in the first half anyway" Hignett on the left who slides the ball into the right corner of the net. 0-1 to 'Boro and it's all over. Sure, great "initiative" from 'Boro but the most gutting feeling for everyone not wearing red.
Lambert spends a while talking to the linesman - who surely should have made sure Maddison got off the pitch when told and the South Bank are almost rioting. Disgusting refereering. At the whistle Bullivant had to drag Morley off the referee just so that he could have a go himself.
On the plus side we played some half decent stuff at times and were no worse than Middlesbrough - who are, remember, top of the table at the moment. Davies showed enough to convince me he'd make a better centre forward than Asaba too.