(Half Time: 2-1)
Reading Scorers: Igoe (11 mins), Cureton (23 mins), Butler (55, 62 mins).
Bury Scorers: Cramb (8 mins)
Date: 14 April 2001
Attendance: 16,829

Reading: Whitehead, Robinson, Viveash, Whitbread, Newman, Parkinson (Caskey), Jones (Forster), Igoe, Cureton (Harper), Butler, Rougier. Subs not used: Howie, Hunter.

Bury: Kenny, Armstrong, Halford, Hill, Swailes, Unsworth (Peyton), James, Billy, Reid, Cramb (sent off 49 mins), Littlejohn. Subs not used: Nelson, Forrest, Jarrett, Boreley.

Bookings: Halford, Reid (Bury). Sent Off: Cramb (Bury).
Referee: P Rejer (Leamington Spa)

Reading followed up the vital victory over Bournemouth mid-week with another vital victory in front of the biggest Madejski Stadium crowd of the season. Despite only a couple of hundred making the trip from Bury, the Madejski Stadium looked well filled with thousands of extra fans turning up to take advantage of the club's "kid for a quid" scheme and, more importantly, Reading's amazing run of form on the pitch. It was a game we had to win and thankfully we did it in style over a Bury side that put in a good first half before being totally out played in the second half. With Rotherham only drawing Reading now move three points clear in second place with a far better goal difference. Rotherham may have a game in hand, but it's the Royals looking most likely to get the second automatic promotion place now - going by form and simply by the statistics. If we can keep the run of recent results going then we really are going up.

Pardew stuck with the side that was successful in the 2-1 victory at Bournemouth - the only exception was the injured Jimmy McIntyre being replaced by Tony Rougier up front. Keith Jones made another start for the Royals - and put in another excellent performance running all over the place to win the ball in midfield. With Butler and Cureton starting together up front you just know you're due some goals - and we weren't to be disappointed as Cureton scored one and Butler went one better with two second half goals that helped win all three points for the Royals. But it was Bury that got off to the best start by taking the lead after just eight minutes - breaking down the right wing and then cutting into the middle rather than playing it wide to cross into the centre of the box. The cross was met, Whitehead was beaten, and the Royals were a goal down.

On Tuesday night Reading came back from a defensive error that put us a goal down to win 2-1 - and history nearly repeated itself as Reading pulled two goals back to lead 2-1 with just 23 minutes gone. To Reading's credit they went straight on the hunt for a goal after going one down - this was clearly a game we wanted to win. After winning a corner the ball was half cleared and picked up by Sammy Igoe well outside the box. Igoe saw a gap in the defence and had a go - and quite some go as the ball went steaming in off his boot into the roof of the net from way outside the area. The keeper was close - but not close enough. A fantastic goal and 1-1.

At 1-1 Reading looked the most likely. Cureton had a header on target before putting the Royals ahead moments later. Parkinson controlled the ball in midfield and Bury just seemed to stop while appealing for the hand-ball. The referee quickly pointed to his chest and ordered play to continue. With the Bury defence pushed forward, and still complaining, Parky passed it on and the ball found Cureton with just the keeper to beat. The linesman's flag stayed down, and Cureton was on-side to lob the keeper. Once again the ball took ages to dip before hitting the back of the net. 2-1 to the Royals.

The rest of the half wasn't really anything to get excited about as it turned into another hoofing contest combined with some heavy challenges in midfield as both sides battled for possession. There may not have been anything particularly pretty to watch, but at least the pace of the game was fast and we were getting stuck in. Parky was lucky to escape without a booking after a lovely two footed tackle on two players at once with the ball no where in sight. Great.

Reading seemed to have the best of the play, but it was Bury that almost drew level just before the break. The ball was delivered to their forward on the right who legged it into the Reading box. Just as he was about to shoot Robinson and Viveash went sliding in to block the shot. Both players went sliding past and off the pitch, meanwhile the Bury forward didn't shoot and just cut inside instead leaving just Whitehead to beat in the Reading goal. Whitehead was beaten without any problem - but the post wasn't, and his close range effort bounced out to safety. 2-1 to the Royals at half time.

The break through came a few minutes into the second half before the game had really got going properly again. In an off the ball incident Phil Parkinson was brought down in the middle of the pitch. The referee stopped play - and he clearly had a better view than myself - producing the red card after a twenty man bundle around Parky who stayed laid out on the pitch after receiving a kick from the red carded player. The red card was all Reading needed to really get going - and from that moment Reading dominated against 10 man Bury.

Straight after the sending off Reading started playing proper football again - making the most of the extra man to actually play the ball around on the floor and work it forward with some decent passing. It was back to the Reading of earlier this season that produced some really big home wins - and it looked like the same might happen again. Butler shot from outside the box and put it narrowly over the crossbar - but moments later he made it count after Parkinson played the ball through to Butler on the edge of the box. Butler strode forward and shot to the side of the keeper - the keeper made contact but failed to save as it bounced into the back of the net. 3-1. Then it just seemed like a matter of how many Reading would win by rather than would we win. It was 4-1 minutes later when Igoe went on a run down the right and cut back a spot on cross to Butler in the middle who stuck home his second of the game. Rougier followed this up with a great run into the box and was clearly pulled back after beating his man. If Rougier had gone down it would have been a penalty but he stayed on his feet and could only deliver a poor cross.

Pardew seemed to be well up for getting some more goals to increase the goal difference as Reading pushed forward - the addition of Forster in place of Jones meant Reading had Butler, Cureton, Rougier, and Forster on the pitch. Caskey came on for Parkinson, who had had another decent game alongside Jones in midfield, and slotted in nicely to the way Reading were playing. With his first few chances he managed to lay off some great diagonal balls to Igoe down the right wing - at this point it was just his kind of game. Caskey almost made it five with a free kick in usual Caskey territory - but the ball smacked against the crossbar rather than finding the net.

Although it seemed inevitable we'd grab another it never came. Bury recovered enough to prevent a collapse and even went on a few attacks themselves as both teams played out the remaining time. We may not have gone on to destroy Bury, but the away side were a well beaten side. So another deserved victory and a deserved second place in the table. If we can only keep this form up for four more games then it's Division One football next season without a doubt.

Following report from Neil Cole:
Reading strengthened their hold on second place in Division Two, after comfortably beating Bury despite going behind to an early goal. After a number of low-scoring games Reading were back to their best, and scored four times in their most aggressive performance for months. The partnership of Martin Butler and Jamie Cureton up front took their tally to 49 goals for the Royals this season, and both players seem to have found their best form at the perfect time. With just four games left this season, if they can continue this goal-scoring run then promotion should be secured.

An impressive crowd of just under 17,000 turned out at the Madejski, the biggest attendance of the season. It was a pleasure to see three sides of the ground close to full, and it must have been intimidating for the 200 or so Bury fans that made the trip down. Yet it was the tiny away following that was celebrating first, as Bury took a surprise early lead. The Shakers’ on-loan striker Colin Cramb somehow eluded Adrian Whitbread at the far post, and finished well following a cross from the right.

Prior to Tuesday’s match at Bournemouth, Reading had failed to win a game in which the opposition scored first. It’s now happened twice in a week though, and as had happened at Dean Court Reading equalised very quickly. A cross from Matt Robinson caused some frantic defending as Bury tried to clear the ball. Their clearance could only find Keith Jones though, who worked the ball through to Sammy Igoe on the edge of the area. Igoe went for goal, and his powerful shot was placed to perfection into the top corner of the net. It was our 50th league goal at the Madejski this season, and this was one of the best.

Reading continued to dominate the half, and it wasn’t long before they had the lead. Ricky Newman passed the ball through to Jamie Cureton, who beat the offside trap and was through on goal. As the Bury players protested that Cureton was offside, the Reading striker lobbed the keeper to put Reading in the lead.

Reading were looking at their best going forward, but a mistake at the back almost let Bury in for an equaliser. Cramb was given far too much space as he ran into the box, and as Viveash and Whitbread realised the danger they both went sliding in to try and block the Bury striker’s shot. Cramb instead waited, leaving our two centre-backs on the floor looking very stupid. With only Whitehead to beat, he placed his shot past the Reading keeper, only to see it rebound off the post to safety.

It was to be an eventful afternoon for Cramb, who was sent off early in the second half to end any hopes of a Bury comeback. He had looked the Shakers’ best player, but his kick aimed at Phil Parkinson earned him a deserved red card and reduced Bury to ten men. Since Cramb had been Bury’s only threat, they were forced to go all-out defence to try and stop it becoming a rout.

They couldn’t stop Martin Butler though, who scored twice in seven minutes to make it 4-1. His first came following an excellent through ball from Phil Parkinson, which gave him the fairly simple task of slotting it past the Bury keeper. Butler’s second was superb though, as he turned a defender before firing in from the edge of the area.

At three goals up, Alan Pardew made the uncharacteristically aggressive move of bringing on Nicky Forster for Keith Jones, and shortly afterwards Harper came on for Parky. For ten minutes we were playing with Igoe, Rougier and Harper in midfield, behind Butler, Cureton and Forster up front! Surprisingly, such an attacking line-up failed to get any more goals, as Bury desperately tried to stop the scoreline becoming embarrassing. The closest we came to a fifth was after Darren Caskey had come on for Cureton, and almost immediately a free-kick was won on the edge of the area. Caskey put in one of his better efforts, which had the keeper beaten but hit the bar.

This was a great performance from Reading, and with Rotherham drawing at Swansea promotion is now in our own hands. Four wins will guarantee at least second place, but the way Rotherham are dropping points promotion may be achieved with a less than 100% record. Millwall are seemingly back on form, but they only have to lose one of their last three games for us to be able to finish the season as champions.

Post Match Opinions

No doubt the cynics will point to Bury being a mid table side with nothing to play for and down to 10 men but this was a good team performance with defence, midfield and attack playing in a joined up fashion and some outstanding performances. Newman was solid and Igoe's goal spectacular. For once Reading did the business and buried a side they should bury. No sitting back, no suicidal moments in defence and a bit of swaggering by Pardew in bringing on Forster to partner Butler, Cureton and Rougier. This should steady nerves for the final four games with Rotherham now looking the most likely to crack.
-- Bucks Royal

A very good performance by the hoops! I took a friend for the first time in a long time, he loved it. A super turn out, nearly 17,000 saw a great performance. Reading started the better and Bury, against the run of play scored with their first attack. Jones and Igoe were great in the middle of the park. The only performance that could have been better was Rougier, but we can't be perfect all the time. Lets now concentrate on getting 3 points against the O's on Tuesday and really put Ronnie Moores men under pressure. Promotion is now in our own hands.
-- Julian

So close now! Four cup finals left, starting on Tuesday! Just one player to comment on following a great performance today, Phil Parkinson..... may lack the skill of many but has the heart and passion of a rampaging victorious Roman Army! What a man, what a player, what an inspiration!
Sing your hearts out for the lads on Tuesday!

-- Nick Newbury

At last the pendulum seems to be swinging our way with Rotherham (credit to them, on a shoestring budget) seemingly about to lose out. I have this to say to the Moaning Minnies who were sitting behind me in the East stand: it really sticks in my craw that the likes of you seem to twist the knife every time Keith Jones makes a mistake. He is a professional with 15+ years behind him, which does NOT count for nothing. Significantly, while he was on the field we scored 4 goals, and we failed to score another after he went off. In fact we seemed to lose the balance of the team once he was substituted. I have never, and I will never, have any derogatory remarks for any Reading player.
-- Richard, Caversham.

Much better! Confidence seemed to return, and for the first time in ages, we looked like a team chasing promotion. Martin Butler was excellent. He worked tirelessly all over the pitch, and scored two good goals. I am still worried about Pardew's tactics. Parky was obviously injured, and had to go off, but taking off Jones as well could have been very dangerous. I'm sure he will say that the game was already won, but stranger things have happened. We effectively lost all of our bite in midfield, and a better side would have punished us. Can't complain really though. Three points at Oxford, and Northampton taking something at Rotherham will do nicely. What a difference 4 days can make.
-- Kevin, Worthing Royal.

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