Attendance: 4,291
Scorers: McIntyre, Butler Date: 8 February 2000
Team: Howie, Gurney (Bernal), Primus, Hunter, Robinson, Grant, Parkinson, Caskey, McIntyre (Hodges), Butler, Forster.

Audio: Supplied by Classic Gold radio.
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Match Hero: Forster

Another well deserved, hard working victory from the Royals. Reading made the most of the conditions and did everything they needed to do to take all three points home. Blackpool failed to offer much resistance - but this was Reading's fourth win from six games. That's a record a team on top of the league would be proud off. And one of those games we failed to win was Saturday's amazing draw away at table toppers Preston North End. Reading move further clear of the relegation positions - eighteenth - our highest position since November last year.

It seems to be getting better game after game for the Royals, and Saturday should at last see a decent crowd at the Madejski Stadium as Reading look to build their run against Millwall. Martin Butler carried on where he left off on Saturday with another goal to bring him level with the Division's top scorers - tonight his goal sealed victory for the Royals - he's well on the way to paying off that transfer fee. Once again the combination of Butler and Forster up front provded fatal for the opposition - long may it continue.

Full report from Alex Craven:

A small but vocal band of Royals had stayed in/returned to Lancashire for the second game in the county in four games. They braved gale force winds, horizontal rain and the occassional hail storm, so nuff respect (if I do say it myself). Of course, as us residents will tell you, this was just a normal day for these parts :-))

Reading lined up unchanged from Saturday's draw against Blackpool's biggest rivals, Preston North End:

Howie; Gurney (Bernal), Primus, Hunter, Robinson; Caskey, Grant, Parkinson, McIntyre (Hodges); Forster, Butler. Subs un-used: van der Kwaak, Nichols, A N Other

A strong wind was blowing across the pitch, from the right to the left, as the Royals lined up, forcing much of the play down the touchline immediately in front of the away fans.

To be honest, muh of the first half was dire stuff, and little sticks out in my mind. Because of the weather conditions, much of the play was in the air. The swirling wind made it hard to play the ball accurately, and impossible for defenders to judge clearances properly. Blackpool were content to play the ball long and Reading were happy to make sure it was booted out at the first opportunity, so that most of the half was played out in Reading's end. However, neither team created any telling chances. Nicky Forster went closest for Reading. After a good turn, his blistering run through the defence produced a shot that went just wide.

Butler was also worrying the Seasider's defenders, and he almost forced a mistake after confusion between his marker and the keeper. After a good trap, Butler turned and tried to run at the defence, but his marker was able to get to the ball first. The keeper had come running off his line, and expected the back-pass for a clearence. Instead, the marker ran past the bemused goalie, straight at his goal, with Butler dogging his heels. Despite ths pressure, the ball was cleared for a throw. The best chance of the half fell to Blackpool. The ball was played forward for a Blackpool forward to run onto, Howie came off his line and dove for the ball, but appeared to make no contact whilst flooring the opposition striker. Despite huge screams for a penalty, the ref played on, and the Royals quickly cleared their lines.

With the change of ends at half time, the wind was now carrying the ball down to the Royals right hand side, and so bringing Caskey much more into the play. Possibly it was a coincidence, but Reading were much more dominant in this half than the first. Even so, a mistake by Hunter almost proved costly. Chasing a long punt forward, and being closely trailed by a Seasider forward, he tried to play the ball back to Howie. However, he completely missed his pass, and the ball looked like it was headed for an own goal. The Northern Ireland international maintained his compossure, though, made sure he was first to the ball and hacked it clear off the goal. Reading's nerves settled a little after this, and they began to carve out chances. Nicky forster again shot across the front of goal - agonisingly out of the reach of Butler - after another good run through defence. He had an even better chance to score soon after - a shot rebounded off the Blackpool keeper to his feet and he went past the stranded goalie but his shot was blocked on the line.

It seemed inevitable that Reading would score, and they did on the 68th minute, from a well worked move down the left. McIntyre took theball well in space, and started a quick break out of the Reading half. He ran at the defence and then played the ball forward for Butler to race onto. The forward seemed to have wasted another good opportuinty, by taking the ball to far. Yet as he reached the touchline, he turned and played the most delicate of chips over the defender's head for McIntyre to head home from six yards out. It was almost a carbon copy of Butler's goal on Saturday, with the two player's reversing their roles. Reading were forced to make a substitution after Andy Gurney was injured in a challenge. The incident was at the far end of the pitch, and so difficult to see, but the full-back was left seemingly in agony on the floor, and eventually had to be stretchered off the pitch, to be replaced by Skippy.

Reading came close to a second when the Blackpool keeper dropped a cross at the feet of a group of Royals. They couldn't force the ball through the legs of the defenders and, after a series of richochets, it was cleared down the field. The insurance marker was finally chalked up with ten minutes to go. After a period of sustained pressure, Caskey delivered a good cross from the right, to Forster on the far post. Instead of heading for goal, he sent the ball back across the area, and it was bundled home. Although it was difficult to tell whether it was Butler or a defender who got the important touch, I'm sure the defender won't be rushing to claim the goal. There were also loud shouts of handball from the Blackpool player's, but the ref allowed the goal to stand. Reading survived a few nervy minutes of pressure from Blackpool to take all three points back to Berkshire.

All in all, this was a good performance and a vital result for Reading. The conditions made it impossible for either team to play real football - measured crosses would suddenly change direction or drop ten feet short, and all the players seemed to find it hard to control their first touch. Credit has to be given to Howie and the defence for keeping a clean sheet in such conditions. The Blackpool number seven looked pretty tricky, but Linvoy had him in his pocket for most of the evening. Primus had to be one of our out-standing players tonight. Barry Hunter was pretty solid but he almost caused a goal from a serious mistake, and several times Linvoy had to clean up behind him. Still, I think his form is improving from the start of the season - which surely is indicative of the change of morale in the Reading camp recently.

I still feel that this formation marginalises Caskey somewhat, and also weakens the team. He is not suited to playing wide right, which leaves Gurney exposed down that flank, and means we cannot exploit opportunities to the same extent. Id' still rather see him come into a more central position. Maybe we could play 4-3-3, with Forster and McIntyre both playing deep and wide? Still, with that said, this formation seems to be working now, so I expect Pardew would be reluctant to tinker with it. Certainly Grant and Parky are what we need right now - it's not pretty, it can be costly, but we have to swap craft for graft just now.

Butler has really impressed me in these two games, not least by maintaining a 100% scoring rate. He seems to be the kind of player we needed. He has the pace and ability to run at defenders and go by them. He's also excellent with his back to goal - winning a good share of headers, or trapping and shielding the ball before linking up with a team-mate. He seems to be the perfect complement to Forster. He will win a lot of quick balls punted forward, protect them and then feed Forster for a run at the defence, and no doubt be in a good position to get on the end of Forster's cross. Butler isn't the prettiest of players, I think, but he's hard working and effective. It's also nice to see that we've finally found a place where Jimmy Mac fits in. Still nice to here him being cheered rather than booed.

Man of the match for me again goes to Forster, who seems to be worth the entrence fee alone. Granted he can be a little selfish or whinging at times, but when he gets the ball at his feet, he's electric. Neither Preston nor Blackpool's defence really knew how to stop him. Had his luck been in, he could have had at least two or three more goals in the last couple of games - he certainly did the work for them. He was a constant thorn to the Blackpool defence, particularly in the second half when he linked up well with Caskey. On the evidence of the last couple of games, it's clear that Caskey is still very much the heart of our attacking play, and we'd be stupid to sell him, especially when we need him so much now. He seems to have a very good understanding with Forster - it was to Nicky that Caskey made a special point of congratulating and celebrating after the goal. I only feel sorry for Nichols, because I can't see any place in our starting line up for him. However, it's always good to have competition at a club, and if we were to lose a player to injury, he's an excellent replacement.

It was easy to see why Blackpool have yet to win under McMahon this season - despite much of the possession, they just didn't know how to score a goal. Their best chance to score came from a failed appeal for a penalty, hardly a sign of prolific strikers. It's hard to see how we only managed a draw against them at home. I'm hoping that this is evidence of the improvement that has taken place recently - indeed since Allen's arrival. At home we had to fight to come back from behind and win a draw. Tonight, we weathered (ha ha) their pressure, and then carved out chance after chance, scoring on two of them and going close several more times. I don't want to start counting swallows to early, but things really seem to be changing. Please, oh please!....

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