Match Report vs Portsmouth

21 February 1998 (Division One)
READING 0 Portsmouth 1

Team: Hammond, Booty, Davies, Primus, Legg, Parkie, Houghton, Williams (Lovell), Bowen, Asaba, Morley.

Attendance: 9,900

Oh dear. From mid-table safety a few weeks ago the Royals have managed to plunge themselves deep into relegation trouble with this - the fourth staight league defeat. This was another unimaginative and rather dull performance from the Royals. Ironically Reading controlled the game and had the majority of play - but we never looked like scoring. Given another couple of hours the score would have remained at 0-1. Although Morley was well out of touch of the game it wasn't entirely the front lines fault. It was an all round team performance lacking in any ideas.

A defeat on Tuesday night at Elm Park against fellow strugglers Manchester City and Reading will find it hard to stay in Division One this season.

We need some changes. And fast. Morley, however Godlike he used to be, wasn't in the game. Asaba was much improved - he battled away in the first half but faded in the second. However he lost the ball too easily and his one first half attempt on goal simply isn't enough. Houghton and Parkie played the ball around OK but never made anything from it. No creative play. Andy Legg, Royals new signing, looked pretty useful - although I wouldn't say it was worthy of dropping Swales. His throw-ins were as long as expected but there was no-one on the end of them. Davies worked hard, Primus was OK. The point of this game was that Portsmouth defended well, we didn't push them. We were looking for a 0-0 home draw, which is not acceptable, and Pompey grabbed a late goal. So perhaps they did deserve it more than us.


Report from The Reading Evening Post:

Reading 0 Portsmouth 1

by Clive Baskerville

READING fan Martin Allen is still hopeful the team he's supported since a boy will get out of relegation trouble despite playing a big part in their downfall by Portsmouth last Saturday. The 32-year-old Pompey substitute tried an ambitious 30-yard shot fr om a free kick that looked to be going well wide before Steve Claridge stopped the ball and laid it into the path of centre-back Adrian Whitbread, who drove in his first goal for the club. The goal came with just seven minutes left of a typical derby matc h that doubled as a relegation dog-fight. And Allen admits bottom club Portsmouth were a bit fortunate to score. He said: "Neither side showed much creativity and somebody needed a bit of luck to win it. The manager (Alan Ball) told us to be positive and have belief so when I had a shot I was being positive. It wasn't a very good one, but sometimes fortune favours the brave".

This was a very special day for me because it's the first time I've played a league game at Elm Park and it was almost certainly the last chance I had of doing it. My team-mates didn't believe me when I told them before the game that playing here would co mplete the second of two big ambitions. The first I achieved in 1986 when I played at Wembley in the Milk Cup final for QPR. This club holds a very special place for me because my late father (Dennis) played here and I still try to watch Reading as often as I can.

This win has given Portsmouth a chance of getting out of trouble and put Reading in a difficult position. But I hope we can both get out of it. The defeat was Royals' fourth in a row and despite showing a marked improvement on their defeats against Tranme re and Sunderland, they still looked short of ideas and confidence. With most other sides near the bottom of the Nationwide League, Division 1 picking up points, Reading have suddenly been dragged right back into the drop zone.

Striker Carl Asaba has no doubts what's required. He said: "We've got 14 matches to secure our future in this division and it's down to us to do it. We're not naive enough to think relegation is not a threat, and if we put in any more lacklustre performa nces like that it will be staring us in the face." We've still got a lot of matches against other sides down at the bottom so it's in our hands. We owe it to the fans and the management to get things right. Reading, who played new-signing Andy Legg at le ft-back in place of Steve Swales, certainly showed a lot more determination and spirit than they did against Sunderland. From the start, they forced Portsmouth back on the defensive and dominated possession" With Martin Williams back in the side for Lee H odges, who was relegated to the subs' bench with Stuart Lovell and Keith McPherson, Reading also appeared to have plenty of options when they broke forward.

Royals keeper Nicky Hammond, back in for the injured Sal Bibbo, had little to do in the first half as his team-mates surged forward. Legg was given plenty of opportunities to show his ability to hurl the ball prodigious distances from long throws, while b oth he and Martyn Booty had scope to link-up with the attack and get crosses over. Despite all their possession, Reading rarely threatened to unlock Pompey's rearguard and keeper, Aaron Flahavan only had routine saves to make. Booty twice shot wide in the first four minutes, then Gareth Davies headed wide after Portsmouth failed to clear a corner. Defensive partner Linvoy Primus, who was back to his best, then nodded just wide after Davies had flicked on Jason Bowen's corner.

Trevor Morley, who had one of his least effective games, thumped a left-foot shot just over from 20 yards when Asaba jinked through on the edge of the box before firing weakly at Flahavan. Booty and Morley later hit two more efforts at goal which Flahavan saved comfortably before Claridge shot just over during a rare Ports-mouth raid. The first half ended with Morley receiving a booking for following in on the keeper after Ray Houghton's shot had been fumbled. Reading continued on top in the second half a nd it seemed only a matter of time before they scored. Primus and Williams both put efforts off target, before Portsmouth finally got their first attempt on target a weak header from John Aloisi on 58 minutes. The turning point came on the hour when Bal l brought on Allen and Andy Thomson for the ineffective Jimmy Carter and Sammy Igoe. The fresh legs gave Portsmouth a new lease of life and the tide gradually started to turn against Royals. Claridge and Aloisi both missed the target with efforts, while R eading replied with a shot from Legg that Flahavan grabbed at the second attempt. Ball followed up his double shuffle by pushing third substitute Mathias Svensson up front in an effort to get all three points.

Aloisi hit another effort over before Legg headed off his own line from a Svensson volley after Hammond had mispunched. Reading rather belatedly used a substitute with 12 minutes remaining when Lovell came on for Williams. He almost made a dramatic entry when he fired a volley just over from 20 yards after a Morley lay-off. Portsmouth, urged on by a full quota of visiting supporters, clinched the points on 83 minutes after Svensson had won a free kick after being shoved off the ball by Phil Parkinson. Al len's miskick was pushed into the centre by Claridge and WHITBREAD sent the Pompey fans wild by drilling a low shot wide of Hammond's dive. At this point, some Reading fans took the opportunity to give vent to their feelings, while others unhappi ly walked out. The remainder stayed to try to give their team encouragement, but it was a vain gesture. The nearest they came to an equaliser was when Davies sent a header from a Legg cross straight at Flahavan. Portsmouth looked more dangerous in the clo sing stages as Aloisi (twice) and Svensson went close to adding a second. Legg, who had a sound debut, received a booking for dissent, while Robbie Pethick was yellow-carded for a late tackle on Davies. The final whistle was the signal for big celebration s by Pompey fans. In comparison, Reading's supporters filed disconsolately away to contemplate what looks like a tough finish to the season.

READING: Hammond, Booty, Legg, Davies, Primus, Parkinson, Bowen, Houghton, Morley, Asaba, Williams (Lovell 78 mins). Subs (not used): McPherson, Hodges.

PORTSMOUTH: Flahavan, Pethick, Robinson, McLoughlin (Svensson 73 mins), Whitbread, Awford, Valchos, Claridge, Aloisi, Igoe (Thomson 60 mins), Carter (Allen 60 mins).

Referee: Alan Wiley (Burntwood).

Attendance: 9,928.

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