12 Sept 1998
Preston 4 Reading 0
Howie, Booty, Primus, Bernal, Gray, Parkinson, Brebner, Crawford(Fleck), Sarr, Williams, Reilly.
Match Report from Alex:
There will now follow a fairly long report on the match. However, for those who can't be arsed to read the whole lot, I'll just sum up in one word - Bugger :-(
I woke up to a lovely summery day here in Manchester (torrential rain and heavy hail), and took only an hour and a half to cover the 30 miles to Preston (never go through Bury - they don't bother with roadsigns!). Those of you who had wished for Parky in midfield and Parky as Captain got both wishes, as he started alongside Brebner (Caskey was relegated to subs bench). Skippy was also back and in defence. Up front, Williams started alongside Sarr whilst Howie started in nets. Those constant favourites, Grey and Booty, were full-backs.
The game got off to quite
a bright start for Reading (even the sun came out). A good move by the Royals
down the right saw Williams miss a header, but the ball rolled though to Reilly,
who's cross was headed into the arms of Preston's keeper. Reading carried on
in this vein for a while, and actually looked quite promising. Sarr and Williams
linked up well a couple of times, and almost broke through the defence. Sarr
was brought down by a bruising tackle, but the ref refused to call anything,
and a stretcher had
to come on eventually, although Sarr did finally get up. This good play soon disappeared (along with the sun). In the 19th minute, Reading gave away a corner, the ball was floated over the top missed completely by Howie and desperately cleared by a defender. It went only as far as Michael Jackson, though, on the edge of the box, who had no trouble scoring. Reading managed another forey into the Preston Box, which again resulted with the ball in the keeper's hands. Sarr, running from behind him, leaned down and headed the ball out of his hands, rounded him and was about to score. Unfortunately, the ref whistled down the play, and gave Sarr a yellow card. As the play was down the other end, it was pretty hard to tell whether the ball was in both hands or not (although it looked it to me). Two minutes later, and disaster struck. Preston had the ball, and were playing it about in midfield. Sarr made a ridiculous chalange, well after the ball was played, and slid in both feet first taking the guys' legs away. Even without the earlier yellow, the ref would have had no choice, and Sarr rightly walked. Why he challenged like that, when Preston were in their own half and going sideways, I have no idea.
Preston could sense blood now, and charged forward, making excellent use of the spare man. Within a couple of minutes, they doubled their lead. Once again, reading failed to clear their lines, and Michael Jackson (having a Thriller, this lad) was completely unmarked on the far post to nod home. Ridiculous defending, even with one player off the field. Reading completed a disasterous six spell by going three nil down. Once again pressing home the extra man, Preston caused havoc in Reading's box. Howie was able to block a shot, but the rebound was puched out wide where David Eyers was able to tap home from about two yards out. There were a few boos as the team went off at half time.
Into the second, and Preston were attacking again. They went close a couple of times, Howie being called on to make some last ditch saves, and at one point helpless as he watched a deflection slam just wide into the boards. Reading had brought Fleck on for the inconsequential number 7 (who was he?!), but it made little difference. Flecky was willing to run and run (he had little choice with such wee legs), but him and Martin Williams rarely clicked. Several times good play by Flecky found him with the space to turn and play Marty in, but Williams invariabley either wouldn't run for the ball, or just fell over.
The game looked to be heading for a three nil drubbing, but with just over a quarter of an hour left, howie's terrible mistake cost dearly. All day, the defence had been forced to turn and play the ball back to the keeper, and Preston had noticed, because they kept pressing him. Finally, forced to the edge of the box to clear the ball, he mis-struck the ball and played it straight to David Eyers. At only thrity yeards out, and with the keeper stuck nowhere, he had no trouble shooting home for his second of the match. Reading rallied towards the ends, with a couple of good attacks (Preston's goalie was even forced to save at Williams' feet), but to no avail, and so the game finished 4-0 to north End.
So what went wrong? Well, me getting out of bed for a start. The team just don't play like they know each other. Too many passes went to the opposition. This was worsened after Sarr's sending off, as we were forced to defend deep, and so give the ball away whenever we cleared it. Martin just will not run enough, and he has too much of a tendancy to fall over.
Parky might be a ball-winnrer, but he had little effect on the match today. I think that was the problem - Burns deliberately put a "ball-winner" in midfield. However, Parky just had too many opposition players to cover. We actually need ten players who are effective (not necessarily skilled) going forward, and who work and track back off the ball. Parky cannot cover the entire midfield. Reilly and the other winger (didn't catch his name) were totally useless. They didn't do anything until the ball crossed the half way line. Grey and Booty looked out-classed again, although to be fair, most of the game they were being over-lapped by the extra player. That's part of the problem, we never gave each other support. You can't ask Booty or Grey to stop two players from delivering crosses.
Linvoy looked solid, but out-numbered, and Skippy showed his lack of match practice, I thought. Howie had a bit of a night-mare, that one slip coming to play and on his mind towards the end of the geame. In general though, it was bad marking and not goal-keeping that led to the goals. As to bringing in yet more players, well they all look totally unfamiliar with each other as it is, why make that wosre? Plenty of managers have gone into poor clubs and saved them from relegation with the existing squad (Lennie Lawrence is reknowned for it), so why can't we expect Tommy to do that? After all, his job title is Team Manager not Head of Purchasing. As to the person who predicted we'd finish above Stoke, fat chance!
OK, but had little defence in front of him, and was totally at fault for the fourth goal.
Again, looked slow and out-classed, would rarely go forward, although to be fair he was forced to cover an extra man most of the game.
Like Booty, had to cover an extra man. He was slightly more willing to go forward, but didn't do much when he did.
Showed some excellent turns and touches. but had few options up front, and no-one around him on the same wave-length.
Solid, yet again. Rarely beaten, although he rarely needed to be as the PNE players just went past his colleagues instead.
Looked a bit out of practice, came into match later, but at first looked very uncomfortable.
7 ? Missed his name and
couldn't recognise him. Crawford? Murty? Brayson?
Never really came into the match, no surprise when he was subbed at half time. Can't remember him making a significant touch.
Chased back as normal, but out-numbered and, to be honest, pretty insignificant.
Bad. After Sarr was sent off, he rarely moved for position, or chased after balls. Plus, he has an excellent knack of falling over. Wish he'd stop flailing his legs about when he's on the ball, too. Had some good touches at the start and end of the game, but did little for the middle 70 minutes.
He may be God, but can he please stop going over whenever someone goes near him. Absolutely disgraceful tackle, thoroughly deserved snding off. Still, for 32 minutes, he looked our only chance of getting anything, some good touches and runs.
Put in a few crosses, but refused to defend or run backwards.
McPherson (Not used)
Caskey (Not Used)
Fleck (Number 7, 46th min)
Came on to good effect, really ran for the club, tracked back, tackled, won the ball, was always open for a pass. Would have had a more effect if Williams had been willing to run onto his through balls.
My Royals man of the match = Brebner, for being classy.
Anyone still stupid enough to go to Barnsley?