CAMBRIDGE UNITED 3 READING 1 Attendance: 4,630 (approx 1,000 Royals)
Scorers: McIntyre Date: 14 August 1999
Team: Howie, Gray, Polston, Hunter, Gurney, Bernal, Crawford, Brebner, McIntyre, Williams, Scott.
Subs: Casper (for Polston), Brayson (for Williams), Hodges (for Bernal), Caskey, V.D. Kwaak
Audio: 1-0 (Camb.) - 2-0 (Camb.) - 3-1 (McIntyre) Match Hero: My bacon roll

Unfortunately the score does reflect the performance. Reading were well beaten by a team that weren't anything special but had qualities that Reading were sadly missing. As the bloke next to me shouted in the direction of the home fans "You're shit, but we're shiter". True words, although perhaps harsh towards the home side. Cambridge deserved the win and all three of their goals were well worked, whereas Reading's was a scrambled effort that saw the whole team (nearly) attempt to put it into the back of the net, before McIntyre eventually finished it from about 5 centimetres out. Reading were again a poor second best. Similar to Wednesday night - but mostly in terms of lacking the skill and tactics. At least today there were some signs of effort from Reading - particually from Hunter and Scott again, both of whom never stopped battling.

The biggest mystery at Reading Football Club at the moment is the ridiculous number of injuries when the season has only just kicked off. Reading were missing 8 players through injury from a squad of 25. With Sarr mysteriously without work permit Tommy Burns has no choice but to name the 16 players he did, including at least one of the injured ones on the bench. Already missing Parkinson through injury Reading were dealt a huge blow before kick-off with the news that Caskey wasn't fit enough to make a start. As a result at least half of the players out there weren't first choice. With a midfield of Crawford, Bernal and Brebner it was no suprise that we lacked any sort of distribution or creativity in midfield. Coming to think about it it's no suprise we won bugger all balls in the centre of the pitch. Although the defence was solid enough for the first half (Gurney aside) - how we were supposed to score up front with no real wingers (Murty and McLaren injured). Having to play McIntyre and Williams wide is hardly the ideal situation leaving just Scott in the middle.

At the same time there's no way injuries, and a few players having to play outside their ideal position, should be used as an excuse. With a near second choice team out there the team was still far more expensive than Cambridge United's. There must be better to come, and with a fully fit squad things should improve - but there's no doubt something still remains wrong - very wrong - with the way we're playing. We're still dull. Still not moving forward fast enough, and still not penetrating. Today we simply weren't good enough for the Second Division - and that's worrying when we're trying to go up.

The first half was pretty even until the home side took the lead after about half an hour. Neither side managed to string any passes together and as it got scrapier and scrapier it was more often the ball was hoofed into the air than played on the floor. The only real excitement came for the home side every time Benjamin got the ball and took it down the Cambridge left wing. Every time he'd twist and turn past Gurney with ease. I lost count of the number of times Gurney was forced to pull his man to the ground or fly in with a late tackle in desperation. It was a miracle that Gurney lasted the 90 minutes without picking up a red - he did well just to get the single yellow inside the second half. Benjamin almost gave the home side a lead after cutting into the box, past Gurney, and firing a low shot goalbound that needed Howie to get down and push out for the corner.

Down the other end Reading's only shot near on target from the half came from a corner on the right. Scott met the ball in the centre of the box, but his header found the crossbar rather than the back of the net. Reading fans packed in behind the goal were in full voice - Reading couldn't ask for better support considering. But without much happening on the pitch it could only be expected to get a bit quiet after United took the lead. It wasn't really much of a suprise when Benjamin started the move that led to Cambridge taking a 1-0 lead in with them for the half time break. Benjamin headed the ball on to his right, it was headed back into the path of a forward whose shot was saved by Howie at his right post. The ball rebounded out across the face of goal leaving United's Kyd with an empty goal to slide the ball into. A quick effective move. That's the way it should be done - Tommy take note.

The second half saw periods of slight improvement from the Royals with a couple of pacey attacks. Pacey compared to what had been on show before anyway - but still not enough. Although Hunter was winning almost everything at the back in the air and flying in with some superb tackles he was being let down badly by Gurney who remained beaten every single time. Quite how Gurney was substituted I don't know. Polston also seemed keen on being fully involved and was unlucky to get a booking after a foul on the right side of the box. It was even more unlucky that it lead to United's second goal. The ball was crossed into the box, Hunter and Polston were no where to be seen and a diving header found the back of the net to Howie's right. 2-0, and Casper came on to replace Polston. Casper's introduction did nothing to shore up the defence when really we should have been concentrating on pulling the game back round. The third goal came just 10 minutes later and was a near repeat. A corner was played in from the right an a glancing header as the defence crumbled again beat Howie. 3-0.

Paul Brayson was bought on in place of Williams, when the obvious substitution seemed to be to take off McIntyre. To Brayson's credit he did well to work himself into some decent positions. Although he did fall over the ball once his control was good and he was unlucky not to pull a goal back for Reading when his shot from the edge of the box was charged down. However Brayson looked out of match practice and was a little too eager with a long shot that trickled into the keepers arms. At 3-0 down Reading had their best spell. If McIntyre had played a half decent ball it would have found Scott running straight onto it to bang it into the net - but once again our passing was well below standard leaving the home defence to tidy up. Reading did pull a consolation goal back with seven or eight minutes to go.

Reading's goal summed up our performance. Scott fired a cross in from the Reading right, a shot was fired against the keepers right post, another shot found the keeper, and with the area packed out, McIntyre eventually put it in with help from the post from the left of goal. 3-1, and a consolation well below the quality of the previous 3 goals in the match.

However at least some effort was on display, unlike last Wednesday. Hunter never stopped battling. One moment in the second half he went psycho, trailing around the pitch after some bloke who'd obviously upset him. At one point I thought he was just going to pile in and beat the crap out of him right there and then. Brilliant to see - he must have been taking lessons from Parky. This is the kind of determination we need - lets home it spreads across the rest of the squad (and quickly). Hunter would have been my man of the match after looking Primus-wall-like-solid in the first half, but I'm not sure of his whereabouts for the two second half goals. The bacon roll takes the honours for being the true highlight - four extra lean slices of bacon - pure joy that Reading failed to match.

Gurney in defence was shocking and simply couldn't cope with United's impressive Benjamin. Scott "Inspector Gadget" Howie couldn't be blamed for the three goals, but once again did not look comfortable in goal. Crawford and Bernal are not midfielders. Gray was scared to move the ball forwards.

The travelling Reading fans gave full support to begin, but three goals dampened the spirits as the sunshine quite literally turned into thunder and lightning. Bollocks. The only consolation was the number of first team regulars missing. Perhaps there is some hope out there...