Home against Norwich
16 March 1996
Division One League Game
Att: 8,501

Sheppard, Booty, Bernal, Caskey, A.Williams, Hopkins, Meaker, Gooding, Parkie, Lovell, Gilkes.
On The Bench: Holsgrove, Bass, Quinn

Gunn, Bradshaw, Prior, Newman, Polston, Adams, Crook, Muligan, Goss, Eadie, Fleck.
Subs: Mills, Curritan, O'Neil.

Theres a number of reports here - but starting off with my one...

Utter shite.

The first ten minutes were rather scrappy with neither team being able to break forward. However during the midfield scramble Bernal managed to make his mark on Flecks striking partner with a nice heavy tackle causing the player to limp a bit and O'Neil to start warming up on the Norwich bench. The first real chance of the game came to Reading after about 11 minutes when Reading won a corner on the right.

Gilkes played the corner short but was forced to take it again by the ref. The second attempt was a nice inswinger that caused the Norwich defence to panic a bit and the ball was scrambled to safety by the Norwich central defender. Simon Sheppard, making his comeback in the first team after breaking his arm earlier in the season, had still hardly had a touch of the ball.

Just after 15 minutes Norwich made their first real chance of the game when Bradshaw cut in from the right and blasted the ball goal bound. Shep got to it well to tip the ball over the crossbar. However Norwich then went and scored from the corner to ta ke the lead. The corner was taken from the right, Prior went up in the middle and headed the ball downwards. His header took a deflection on the way and Shep misplaced in the goalmouth fumbled the ball and it was in the back of the net to give Norwich the lead. Bugg er.

Shortly afterwards Norwich could have made it two when they broke down the left, in a great move the ball was played to Fleck who knocked it on to Goss. Goss had just Shep to beat in the Reading goal but struck the shot wide. Shortly after that Norwich could have scored again when a powerful shot hit the top of the bar.

Reading could have equalized when Meaker made a good move and cross from the right side and Booty's header almost went in. Gunn was stranded but Booty's header sailed over. So with thirty minutes gone Norwich still had the advantage although Reading wer e starting to scrap a bit for it after a slow start but Reading seemed to lack any kind of skill.

Reading continued the second half by resorting to the long ball game in a pathetic manner. Caskey is being compeletely wasted in the center. Each time he won the ball it was whacked upfield in the air in an ambitious attempt to find Lovell. Each time p ossesion was lost as the Norwich defence picked up the ball. Why are we playing this long-ball game? It's shite, it doesn't work, and we're not ever going to win games playing it.

Ten minutes before half time Sheppard floored the Norwich centre forward inside the area when he went to kick the ball which had been passed back. He missed the ball completely and took the player out instead. Wonderful stuff. Utter shite from Sheppard which should have been a penalty. A lucky escape for Sheppard and Reading. Where's Mihaylov?? Get him back! The away fans went mental in disbelief, Reading fans went silent.

In the last few minutes of the first half Reading at last started to play a bit and won a succession of corners. However for the first half it was too little too late. Reading could have won a penalty when one corner came over. Williams came forward fo r it and his header was deflected off a Norwich city arm and away for another corner. Reading ended the half in possession. Gooding on the left played the ball to Gilkes in the centre but Gilkes was beaten to the ball. Despite ending the half well the rest of the half was forgettable from Reading and they didn't deserve anything more than to be one goal down at half time.

Reading started the half well when Meaker broke away, Caskey got the ball but Gunn woke up to prevent the equalizer. Another Meaker run won Reading a corner. The corner was taken quickly and short. Gilkes' cross and the ball was tipped over the bar for another corner. Gilkes won the ball on the edge of the area to play the ball back in again to cause a bit more panic in the Norwich area until Gunn picked the ball up to calm it down.

Reading showed signs of playing some decent football on the floor unlike the first half and a good move could have seen Reading score. Booty played it to Caskey, to Bernal and to Gilkes who blew the ball way over the bar into the Norwich supporters.

Then after 55 minutes Norwich increased their lead. The goal came from a Reading defensive cock up. Goss won the ball and played it through to Darren Eadie who legged it down the left with his pace leaving the R's defenders behind. Shep came out and Eadie fired the ball into the net. 0-2 to Norwich and things not looking good.

Meaker continued his good game by a great tackle (foul) which saw the Norwich player go sailing through the air. Meaker got a yellow card for his efforts and the player was stretched off. Parkie left the field and on came Quinn as the substitute.

Holsgrove came on with about 5 minutes left and Bernal trudged off the pitch. O'Neil broke away as Norwich pushed for a third and was pulled down by Hopkins but the ref played on. The ref was shite but in Readings favour if anything. And it didn't help. Holsgrove got a shooting chance but chose to blast the ball towards the corner flag. Then Holsgrove deceided to play a nice little back pass into our own half. Hmmm... about 2 minutes left, we're losing 2-0 and we're going backwards not forwards. Total bollocks.

Reading's bright start to the second half completely fell away. Reading had a good five minutes just before half time and a good five minutes just after half time and then a little push towards the very end of the game as Norwich sat back a little bit with their certain win. But that was it. The rest of the game they did bugger all. 10 minutes out of 90 is just not acceptable.

Then right on the final whistle Norwich got their third. Fleck played a through ball to O'Neil. O'Neil ran down the pitch, rounded Shep and played the ball into the empty net. Norwich deserved their win although would they have beaten a half decent team? It wasn't about how good Norwich were, it was about how crap Reading were. This was Norwich's first win since January.

No passion. A shite long ball game based on Caskey playing the ball forward to no-one. Crap. The only ray of hope came from Meaker who had a brilliant game - on many occasions gliding past players. He almost pulled one back in the dying moments by passing 3 players but was tackled just before he shot. Gooding battled, Gilkes made an effort. Some players might as well not have been there. Did we have a defence?

Hello Division Two.


Heres another report from Gary Deards:

After my rantings earlier in the season about the Meakon, I have to say that he was the best player on the park and now appears to be "too good" for the Royals. Apart from Meaks and Gilksy every one else didn't seem to want to be there. Norwich outplayed, outfaught and were quicker to the ball than us.

The last goal was a joke - Shep changed his mind so many times when the player was through on him, that he could have been Jekyl then Hyde then Jekyl about 10 times over. It was embarrassing watching him! He almost fell flat on his arse after the first change of mind and O'Neil was still 10 yards from the ball! - if he had gone full pelt from the start he would have got to the ball easy. Still, we knew what to expect after the first few minutes when he did exactly the same thing.

My final point is that I know I am biased but we do seem to have had a load of incompetent referees this season. Today's was no better and how he booked Gooding for an innocious challenge when Meaker was scythed down after beating 4 players I will never know. Can anyone remember a decent ref? Please do not mention the idiot who reffed the Millwall game when he bottled it after their fans got to him.

This next report on the game is from Ted Matthewson:

The Norwich game was obviously disappointing to we Reading fans, but what struck me was that Norwich played the way we used to play last season. More often than not we rely on the long punt up the middle presumably looking for Archie to use his height. No-one seems to be looking to pick the ball up from the back and work it forward on the deck.

Players don't become bad players overnight. We still have a core of people who performed exceptionally well last year, and there have been some good acquisitions. Individually they compare well with many squads in the league and ought to have no problems staying up. What is wrong is our style of play, and that must be down to the management and coaching staff. Lets get back to basics and start playing our football again.

This issue is more important than whether we stay up or go down, because there is no long term future in the way we play at the moment. We have visited the Planet Branfoot and were glad to get off alive. Some come on Messrs Quinn, Gooding, and Holder, less of talk about grit and determination, and turning those draws into wins. All that means is untidy scrappy games which turn those draws into defeats. I want to see the team encouraged to play the game the proper way, to feet on the deck, and the rest will sort itself out.

More comments on the game from Pete Langdale:

I remember only one truly good passing move on Saturday, and at the time I remember thinking - Wow! that's what we used to do last year! Why did it seem a surprise? We just don't give and go any more.

What's the point in Caskey playing just in front of the back 4? I want him just behind Nogs and Archie playing perceptive through balls for them to run on to. We seemed scared to give him the ball!

Plus point 1- Meaker. If anyone had any lingering doubts about his return to form, I think he made us look like a 1 man team. Eventually Naaaaarwich had to put 3 (count 'em!) men on him, AND HE STILL BEAT THEM! Absolutely God-like, he went past his 3 Left-backs like they weren't there! I lost count of the number of delicious crosses that had Gunn clueless, but we couldn't convert. We are in trouble when our best scoring chances fall to Booty (better every game) and Williams.

Plus point 2- we actually looked dangerous from corners! I think Gilkes has been practising!

Big minus point- Bernal had another nightmare at left-back. The man's a right back for Christ's sake! Play Swales (what has he done wrong?) there or swap Booty to left back and play Andy on the right, it's just not fair to see him suffer there. Dylan should be back soon. Those free kicks......

Summing up, I believe that Ted has hit the nail on the head, we are falling down in Midfield where everything is laboured and predictable. Parky is a great tackler but wouldn't know a first time pass if it bit him on the bum! It's all pass square, pass square, pass square, knock it into the box, cross your fingers it falls right. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. We have to go back to square 1 and work in training on 1-2's and give and go if we want to return to last year's form where we perfected those arts. This is, ostensibly, a better team than last year's but we're not playing the right way.

Oh, yes, I nearly forgot, I don't think those Shephard apologists can dare show their faces after Sat's episodes. Is there a single Reading fan who didn't think that was a penalty to Norwich?

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