9 September 1998
Reading 1 Burnley 1
Howie, Booty, Primus, Parkinson, Gray, Houghton(Reilly), Brebner, Caskey, Fleck (Brayson), Williams, Sarr.
Williams (But only because of the first half)
Possession football, lots of flowing short passes across the field, control of the game, taking it nice and slow and easy. Great, eh? Like bollocks! If there had been any attempt to try and play the ball forward then this could have been dream football. No penetration and seemingly no attempt to score. Very disappointing. Very dull. I bet Burnley couldn't believe just how shit we were tonight. Even more disturbing is that Burnley went a goal behind, got a man sent off, and then came back to get a deserved draw.
Burns had obviously had enough of the poor start to the season and, given 10 days off with two postponments, had come up with the cunning idea of playing three up front. Sounds good. Unfortunately it was Fleck in the middle between Sarr and Williams who was recalled to the team. And Fleck was shit.
The opening five minutes were amoung the best of the game. Burnley came closest first with a cross from the left that Booty had to head off the line. And then down at the other end Sarr almost put Reading ahead. A ball over from the right found Sarr just inside the area, left of centre. He looked suprised to get it but pulled off one of his usual ducking manouvers followed by turning the man once or twice - and the shot was almost there - his low effort just wide of the keeper's left post.
The pattern to the match was already set. Far too much passing across the back four. A very flat back four at that with the ball being played backwards and forwards and sideways between the same four players. Even worse, Howie was soon allowed to join in. We seemed scared to try any balls forward and there was NO running down the wings at all apart from the occasional sprint down the left from Sarr. Thankfully Reading took the lead on the half hour. Houghton played a long ball (not that long, but very long for tonight) forward, the ball ended up in the centre of the area, it was knocked down to Brebner's feet and Brebner let rip. The Burnley keeper blocked it but failed to hold it or to smother it, and there was Williams on the line to prod the ball into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Royals. If that wasn't enough luck, moments later it looked like everything would go Reading's way as Burnley were reduced to ten men. A ridulously late tackle on Williams saw Williams collapse in a heap and the Burnley player get his marching orders. Not that vicious perhaps, but a stupid attempt when the referree was far closer than the ball was ever going to be.
For the rest of the first half it seemed as though Burnley were resigned to defeat. Reading relaxed and Williams and Sarr started to work together up front for Reading's best spell of the game. Reading very nearly made it 2-0 just before the break as Houghton and Sarr linked up down the left. Houghton played it to Sarr and legged it down the left, Sarr played it back, Houghton took it to the side of the box and delivered a great cross, Sarr made contact, and the ball flew off the keeper's right post.
And so ended the first half. Nothing special but enough to keep everyone happy. Shame the second had to start. Burnley got more and more into it. Reading started quite simply by going the wrong direction towards the wrong goal, and one goal was never going to be enough. Sarr and Williams, who had been so good in the first half, did very little in the second. Houghton was impressive - but he too was knackered when he went off to be substituted by Reilly. Relief when Fleck went off, but Brayson who replaced him failed to make an impression. Reading only had two chances in the second half that stick in the mind - a cross from the left that Williams just missed sliding in at the far post, and a great volley from Caskey on the edge of the box in the dying minutes that hit the crossbar. But had Caskey scored that one Burnley would have felt very hard done by.
Reading's defence in the second half was absolute, complete, total shite. As many people have said - PARKIE IS NOT A DEFENDER. A bloody great player he is as we all know. He'd be blinding playing in the midfield of a second division side. I don't want to say he was crap, but he was amazingly crap, but he was out of position. Burnley literally walked it through on a number of occasions. Their number 7 gave us amazing trouble. On one occasion he walked around about 6 of the Reading side before letting off a really weak shot. And again another player walked straight past Parkie but failed to deliver the end product - Howie doing well to get down to his left to make the save. And the equaliser itself was the same. Straight down the middle with no resistance from the Reading defence, a couple of passed down the centre and Howie having no chance with the shot from well inside the area. 1-1.
To start with it seemed Burnley were keen just to keep the score down after their man got his marching orders. However Reading failed to press forward. By the start of the second half Burnley must have worked out that the game was in fact theirs for the taking. And they got better as they went on. It was no suprise when they got the equaliser and then it was a case of if Reading would hang on for the draw. A home draw
Caskey must have been told, along with the rest of the team, to keep it on the floor and keep those short passes flowing. Unfortunately Caskey's skill is in those long looping balls diagonally across the pitch picking out players. So he was shit tonight. But hardly his faulty considering the game plan.
Looking on the bright side: at last the club realise cash sales on the gate are essential and reverted back to that system - with everyone getting straight into the ground. Lets hope that on the pitch we realise we're doing it all wrong and change that system too.