LEAGUE DIVISION TWO
BRISTOL CITY 4 READING 0
(Half Time: 3-0)
Reading Scorers: -
Bristol City Scorers: Peacock 9, 60mins, Murray 18, Bell 30.
Date: 21 October 2000
Attendance: 11,134

Reading: Whitehead, Robinson, Viveash, Williams (Gurney, 44), Murty (Igoe, 62), Newman, Caskey, Jones, McIntyre (Cureton, 45), Butler, Hodges.
Subs not used: Howie, Mackie.

Bristol City: Phillips, Carey, Bell, Millen, Murray, Tinnion, Rodrigues (Thorpe, 45), Burnell, Peacock (Beadle, 71), Hulbert (Brown, 82), Clist.
Subs not used: Hill, Malessa.

Bookings: Carey , Hulbert , Peacock (Bristol City); Hodges (Reading)

After the recent run of form a defeat at Bristol City was always going to be a disappointing result, but a 4-0 stuffing wasn't what we expected against a side that had been without a home league win all season beofre this match. Tactics were probably a big part to play in Reading's downfall - but the biggest problem was coming up against a decent Bristol City side that played like league leaders rather than a side 20th in the table before kick-off. Reading's defence came up against a couple of fantastic attacking wingers that ripped us to pieces - the home side's performance was similar to the punishment the Royals have been dishing out at the Madejski Stadium. In the second half Reading were much improved, but being 0-3 down before half-time killed off any chance we had of taking anything from the match. Reading may have hit back with a goal or two in the second half - but Bristol City were deserving winners.

Apart from the result the other big worry was the injury to Adrian Williams before the break. Williams went down after a challenge on the right as City attacked, and although he appeared on the bench after the half-time break, he was on crutches. Lets hope that ths injury isn't long term. If that was bad there was worse injury news for the home side with play being held up for 10 minutes just before half time and their player eventually leaving the ground on a stretcher and then an ambulance - after a crunching, but fair, tackle from Ricky Newman. Newman wasn't holding back on his tackles and didn't make himself popular with the home fans by putting in full bodied tackles on more than one occassion - but getting away with it because they were almost all compeltely legal. A case of winning the ball and man, rather than just the ball.

With Parkinson still out injured and Pardew wanting to play a more defensive formation away from home, Ricky Newman was moved into midfield with Graeme Murty making a start at right back. Murty was to have a poor first half, but Robinson the other full back was having similar problems dealing with City's impressive wingers as they came forward at pace. Cureton was on the bench as Pardew stuck McIntyre and Butler up front - but despite Butler's never ending running we failed to look dangerous until the second half and the appearance of Cureton in place of Butler.

Thanks to a hold up on the motorway and then a bit of trouble parking we'd only just arrived when Bristol City put in the first in front of a packed Reading away end - and that was only just after Whitehead made a great save diving to his left from a shot inside the box. Viveash appeared to be pulled off the ball in the middle of box and everyone was expecting play to stop, but with no whistle from the referee the ball was fired into the bottom left of Whitehead's net. 0-1. Just ten minutes later and it was 0-2. Bristol City made it 0-3 on the half hour. An attack down their left wing will give Murty nightmares. He was beaten with ease as City's Bell cut inside the area, went straight past him and fired past Whitehead.

After the break with Cureton introduced Reading looked a lot brighter. Despite having most the possession we didn't create as many chances as we have done recently, and with City three goals up already they were happy to defend a bit and then come forward on the counter attack - which they did with great effect on the hour. On the break they came storming down the right wing once more, crossed the ball into the middle of the box where it was stuck past Whitehead to make it 0-4.

Murty almost put one in with an effort from the right, just inside the box, but it was well saved for the corner by the City keeper. It would have been good to score at least one and we really should have done after a great spell of ten minutes when he came flying forward but failed to enough shots in. We seemed a bit scared to shoot in the middle and in the end put in some disappointing shots from too far out. One of Robinson's even went for a throw.

Not Reading's day, but it could still be our season.

Following report from Neil Cole:

Any complacency that may have been setting in among the players and the fans of Reading F.C. was taken away by this hammering at Ashton Gate. We’ve looked unstoppable in recent weeks, but Bristol City’s performance today showed there is still plenty of hard work to be done if promotion is to be achieved this year. The biggest Royals following of the season went home very disappointed, as Reading simply failed to perform at all and were deservedly beaten by such a big scoreline.

While we must accept that we are going to lose some games away from home this year, this performance and the eventual scoreline are hard to take. We know what the management and the players are capable of, but today the tactics were poor and the team was awful. It seems strange that so many players had off days, as not a single Reading player managed to shine in a match that was all about Bristol City’s lively and determined attack.

The team selection by Alan Pardew had to be questioned right from the start. With both Neil Smith and Phil Parkinson out injured, Pardew made the decision to firm up the midfield by switching Ricky Newman into the centre. Newman has been consistently good at right back since taking over from Andy Gurney, and has removed the main weakness that was apparent at the start of the season. However, today he felt Newman was needed in the middle, so Pardew opted to give Graeme Murty a chance in the back four.

This was soon shown to be a big mistake, as Murty simply couldn’t cope with the City left winger. He was torn apart on a number of occasions, as was Matt Robinson on the left. The defensive inadequacies of our full-backs encouraged Bristol to come forward and exploit the weakness. The few times Murty and Robinson were able to attack, all this achieved was to leave huge gaps in our defence, which City exploited with fast and effective counter attacking football.

Bringing Newman into the middle meant Lee Hodges was pushed out onto the left, and Jim McIntyre was moved up front to partner Martin Butler. This meant that Jamie Cureton was left on the bench, as he had been at Wigan. Once again, this team selection by Pardew neutralised most of our attacking threat, as he instead tried to concentrate on defending against a team that hadn’t won at home all season. Why does he insist on taking this philosophy away from home? We all know what the team are capable of when they attack the opposition, as shown by their ruthlessness against teams like Oldham, Swansea and Wrexham. Yet in a game that was there for the taking at the start, the team selection only encouraged Bristol into realising they could beat us.

The performance wasn’t helped by a worrying injury to Adie Williams at the end of the first half. Andy Gurney was chosen to come on as his replacement, leaving us with only one recognised centre-back on the pitch. They reverted to 3 at the back, with Murty pushing forward and Gurney playing on the right of defence. Already 3-0 down, today this made little difference to the match. However, Williams is a vital part of the team, and his absence from any games coming up could leave us weak at the back. If he is ruled out of the trip to Bury on Tuesday, this could force Pardew into playing the inexperienced John Mackie, as Hunter is also injured.

Everyone forgot about the score for a while, as play was held up for ten minutes after a sickening to injury to Bristol’s on-loan Portuguese forward Rodrigues. His broken ankle was clear for everyone to see, including Reading physio Paul Turner who raced on to help with the first aid.

Reading improved in the second half, with the introduction of Sammy Igoe for Murty and Jamie Cureton for McIntyre. The Reading fans didn’t give up, trying to encourage the team into an unlikely comeback. It seemed plausible for a while, as we were the better team at the start of the second half. However, as City caught us on the counter attack once again, Peacock scored his second of the game to make it 4-0 and end the match.

To call this match disappointing would be a huge understatement. It was a performance that we may have expected last season or the year before, but this year is supposed to be different. For once, we really know that we are better than a team that goes to Bristol City and loses 4-0. Luckily, everyone else at the top lost and so no ground was lost on leaders Walsall. We can still go top on Tuesday, if we get past an out-of-form Bury side, and Stoke do us a favour at Walsall. Hopefully, this result is the kick in the arse the players needed, and we should see a different performance on Tuesday night.

Post Match Opinions

Having just got back from Bristol I've had time to cool down and reflect. Of course we are going to lose games but this one was hard to swallow and I'm afraid must go down to Pardew. Why having just come off the best run of form in the league do we revert to such negative tactics away to a team who haven't won at home all season? Murty had a nightmare and should if anywhere be in midfield, Newman's been playing outstanding at full back, why change? Caskey is wasted out on the right and Cureton should have played from the start . So instead of going into a game positive for a win Pard's makes four changes and the rest is history.
The first goal was bizzare, and the second and third our full backs were destroyed by pacey wingers . As soon as Cureton came on we had two good chances and were all over City, but getting the fourth on the counter the game was over. If we would have been attacking from the start and got an early goal they would have crumpled.
To be fair to Pardew, having heard his post match interview, he's holding his hand up and admitting the tactics were not right, interesting he also thought the Reading players were getting to a bit above themselves, and this result will bring them back to earth with a bump.
It's good Bury comes so quickly, I reckon we'll bounce back, this defeat may prove to be a blessing in disguise, I'll be there so come on you Urr'z, top of the league soon!

-- Nick

Seems to me, AP has a distinct lack of confidence as to our ability away from home. The writers of the last 2/3 away games have all said much the same thing. Our tactics seem to be to play Martin Butler up front alone, hoping Jim McIntyre supports him in some way. When that doesn't work, Jamie Cureton comes on, and evidently we start making loads more chances (OK, they've still got to be converted, but do you get my drift?). No offence meant to JM, but surely AP must have the courage of his own convictions. Play our best side from the start, and if that fails, THEN make adjustments. Still, ALL the top 5 lost today, which means today's result is of no real meaning - except that had we won we would have been top!! No matter, I'd still rather be in our position than Bury's!! Let's hope this merely serves as a wake up call for Tuesday's game at Gigg Lane! (Seems like Bristiol City have taken over the old Bury bogey!)
-- Nigel

OK so we lost and itís not the end of the worldÖbut 4-0? The second half against Wrexham just got worse. And yes we can bounce back against Bury. And the important thing is to learn and move forward, so we can be positive, provided we learn. And I know that Pards has said we employed the wrong tactics but tactics or not, how do we get stuffed by a team that is at the wrong end of the table?
So what follows is by no means a whinge!
Whilst weíve been winning well recently (and you canít complain - too strong a word - so I didnít) Iíve been tempted to write and say that itís all left me feeling a bit uneasy. Why? Simply this. Prior to Bristol, I felt we looked solid at the back (Viveash has been a rock) and we seemed to be able to score just when we wanted but I never felt that we fully controlled midfield, stifled opponents and killed the game off. We always seemed to leave the opponents with the chance of a goal. In other words, I felt that the scoreline didnít always really reflect the control weíd had on the game (better to have won and say that rather than the other way around!). So whatís wrong or what could be better ?
To my mind the midfield.
I donít feel weíre getting the best out of Caskey. I donít see him as a right sided midfielder, heís not quick enough and heís not in areas where he frequently gets the ball and can hurt the opposition. Heís a player that puts other players in and not one to get beyond the opposition defence himself. Is there any reason why we canít build/structure the side around him (heís one of our, if the not the, most creative players) in much the same way, but at a different level, that Spurs many years ago eventually built a team around Hoddle. In short, if heís going to play, put him where heís going to do the most damage (it would mean supporting him as part of a 5 man midfield). This seemed to be the case towards the end at Bristol, with him at least playing in the hole. Going back to the defence and attack, it seems to me that weíve got an abundance of class (although the balls inside the full backs yesterday were concerning) but I think we need some more class in midfield and in terms of the push towards promotion that might mean another buy. The other top teams all lost, thank goodness, so this hasnít hurt us as much as it might have done. And after the M4 delays, poor seating and half time refreshments, itís not as bad as all that! So Pards and the lads, back to winning ways on Tuesday please!

-- Chris.

I have had the misfortune of following the "Royals" to Northampton, Peterborough and Bristol City this season, and frankly I am watching a completely different side to the all-conquering outfit we are all witnessing every other week at the "Mad Stad". If only the management and players had the same conviction as most of the supporters, we would be "steamrollering" the sub-standard opposition that keep taking three points off us. On each occasion I've watched them away this season, we have tried to play defensively in the first half hour and all this has done is fill the opposition with confidence, and when we have finally woken up the damage has already been done. It would be easy for us to blather on about dodgy refereeing decisions, i.e. Peterborough, or bad luck, but we have lost three away games this season to teams who before the match were "frightened" of us, and who really should have been taught a footballing lesson. All across the park, we now have players of real quality, with others waiting on the bench to join in, and our front line, especially Martin Butler would be the envy of many First Division teams, so let's start playing like a championship winning side and finish off these low table teams in style, home and away.
-- David, Silchester

It's that disgusting yellow Oxford United shirt that did us in - we played just like Oxford too. Please lets ditch it and use blue and white, or the orange.
-- Andy

An appalling result - specially after all our high hopes. But what I want to say is how magnificent the fans were. I don't know how many were there, but the singing, chanting and shouting did not stop, even when we were 3-0 and 4-0 down. And it was the first time except for Liverpool that I have heard the fans whose team have just conceded a goal to come back IMMEDIATELY with never-say-die attitude. At the Mad House none of the teams we have slaughtered have uttered a squeak after we have scored. Brilliant neck-hair raising stuff. Well done Loyals.
-- George Town

As a Bristol-based Royal, I'm still dealing with the taunts from jubilant City fans from colleagues and friends alike. City have every right to be jubilant. They played with confidence which belied their league position. Their pace and vision left Murty and Robinson wanting time and time again. Scott Murray in particular played a blinder. They also defended in numbers when required (which was not often enough). Our ball retention and distribution was poor and except for a brief spell in the second half we didn't really look like scoring.
My day was ruined not by the scoreline , but by a small group of away fans who taunted the injury stricken Rodrigues as he lay on the ground receiving treatment for his horrendous ankle break.
I felt ashamed by their behaviour - great advert for sportsmanship and our club (not). The people involved should be ashamed of themselves.

-- Simon, Bristol

After watching the Royals get beaten by that lot down the M4, the only thing more depressing than the result was the colour of our kit. Lets ditch this awful yellow shirt before it becomes our bogey kit, surely it must be difficult for players to spot each other on the pitch, when our kit blends in with grass, sun, supporters, etc. I say ditch it now, before its too late, we are the Royals after all.
-- Timothy

After taking over two hours to get to Bristol from Newbury and arriving when Bristol were already 1-0 up not a very good afternoon. If we are going to continue our push for promotion we have to show better away performances. I agree with others I thought our defence look shaky especially Robinson and Murty, it seemed nearly every time Bristol attacked they scored. Also our midfield looked in-effective with Caskey playing in the wrong position. At least Pardew acknowledged his tactics were wrong in not having Cureton in the starting line up but not a lot of help to the supporters who had made the journey to Bristol. Lets hope the same mistakes are not made on Tuesday against Bury. Also when are we going to renew Caskeys contract if we are going to push for promotion we need to keep a player of his quality.
-- John

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