Hob Nob Match Report

6 March 1999
Reading 1 Macclesfield 0


Howie, Gray, Bernal, Primus, Murty, Parkinson, Caskey, Brebner (Houghton), Brayson (Gurney), Thorpe, McIntyre.


Match Audio
GOAL: Caskey Scores
FINAL WHISTLE: Match Summary
  Caskey Speaks
Tommy Burns' Verdict
All samples are Real Audio format - you'll need Real Player.

At the end of the day it's always the result that counts, and three points is three points. But as the one-nil score line suggests this was hardly a convincing victory for the Royals - playing at home against a side rooted to the foot of the Second Division table. Macclesfield were unlucky not to be a goal up at the end of the first half, and it took an improved second half from the Royals, and a lack of confidence from the away side, to pull the game Reading's way. More disturbingly the apathy shown on the pitch this season has well and truly spread to the stands. There wasn't a sound made throughout the first half, and as the teams left the pitch after 45 minutes there were only a few half hearted boos. Only Caskey's second half goal caused a ripple throughout the ground, and the number of people who take to leaving with five minutes of the game left this season is stunning. We may have won today, but we won in a ground less than a third full, and we failed to look much better than a team who will be playing in Division Three next season. Tommy Burns still has a lot of work to do.

In other twist to Tommy Burns' tactical decisions this season, Reading started with a clearly 4-3-3 formation, choosing to play Thorpe, Brayson, and McIntyre all up front. With Casper and Polston both out injured, and Burns refusing to recall Hunter from this loan at Southend for reasons unknown, in stepped Andy Bernal to partner Primus in the centre of defence. From some early chances it looked like this weakened defence might cost Reading the game. A couple of times both Bernal and Primus seemed unsure of themselves and made a couple of bad mistakes. Thankfully for Reading as the game progressed they started playing well together and made some vital challanges. What it did mean however was a completely different Reading game plan. Primus is a fantastic ball winner in the centre of defence, but can't pass the ball. Bernal too isn't known for his pinpoint passing. So Reading lost the usual play it out on the floor from defence style of play and adopted hoofing it around all over the place - and it was even less effective than usual and even less entertaining.

Scott Howie was definately the busiest of the keepers for the first half but this team mates weren't helping out too much with some rather dodgy back passes. Thankfully Howie was quick each time to beat the forward to the ball. He followed this up with another confident ball catching display. Although we gave away a fair few corners, Howie commanded his area well and continued to make some clean catches.

Macclesfield made the best chances of the half and could have taken the lead on a number of occasions if their shooting had been a bit more accurate. They shot into the side netting from the left of the box and followed that up with a low shot that was narrowly wide of Howie's right post after the forward had twisted past Bernal to create a clear shooting opportunity.

Reading's best chance came from a quickly taken free kick just outside the box right of centre. Caskey played a short ball to Brayson who legged it into the area before crossing to McIntyre - who was beaten to the ball by the defence. Caskey and Brayson were also responsible for Reading's over chances of the half - Caskey blasting over and Brayson firing in a low shot that needed to be cleared over the bar. In truth though attacking football from the Royals was pretty thin on the ground - just like the grass. It was a very dull first half with Macclesfield on top. Reading were slow, predictable and almost completely non-creative.

It could only get better in the second half - and luckily it did.

When Reading came out for the second half there were two changes - Brebner, who'd played the second part of the first half with a slight hamstring injury, and Brayson leaving the field with Houghton and Gurney coming on. All of a sudden Reading appeared to switch to 4-4-2 and after a while it appeared to make a difference with Reading at last coming forward a bit more.

After a slow start Reading created the first real bit of excitement of the afternoon with a couple of decent shots. Gray almost managed to sneak the ball in between the keeper and the post with a powerful volley from the left inside the area. After that McIntyre was presented with a great chance to put Reading ahead but took far too long to control the ball, his first touch yet again let him down and by the time he came to shoot the defender was there to block it. Reading's period of pressure eventually paid off 15 minutes into the half.

McIntyre did well on the left to get past his marker and play the ball into the centre. It bounced off a player or two and came right out to Caskey just inside the area and central to goal. With a clear shot Caskey was never going to miss that and he drove the ball high into the top of the net to put Reading 1-0 up.

For a moment or two it looked like the game was really going to come to life. Macclesfield took it straight down our end and almost put the scores level again. A great cross from the Macclesfield right was met with a decent header in the middle which was just over the Reading crossbar. Following that Gurney almost put the Royals two goals up with a great shot from the right which found the side netting when he probably should have scored. Thorpe set up McIntyre with a cunning pass when he looked like he was going to play it wide, but again McIntyre took too long on the ball and the chance was gone.

And then that was it. With 15 minutes to go Reading slowed right back down again and did their usual of hanging onto a single goal lead and stopped coming forward. Against a team with a goal scoring record and a bit more confidence the usual late equaliser would almost certainly have come. With Macclesfield's season going the way it is, the victory was a safe bet. Reading hoofed the clearances more than ever, played with everyone in our half of the pitch and stopped looking for openings. This time it worked and Reading had won 1-0. Three points, yes. Great entertainment, no.

It's the same old story though. No strikers capable of putting the ball in the net, and once again we relied on a midfield player scoring the vital goal. Last week it was Parkie this week it was Caskey. This was Thorpe's last game for Reading - I won't be sorry to see him leave. A couple of players deserving of credit were Murty and Houghton. Houghton probably improved things a bit and was putting in as much effort as you'd expect from a player long past his peak. Murty showed some great flashes of skill and speed. What we need to do is play Murty further forward - he'd pass defenders with ease and at last provide some real supply for our front men.


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