(Half Time: 1-1)
Reading Scorers: Murty (9 mins)
Bristol City Scorers: Thorpe (45), Peacock (54), Matthews (71)
Date: 23 March 2001
Attendance: 15,716

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

Bristol City: Phillips, Hill, Burnell, Bell, Murray, Clist (Hulbert), Carey, Maddison, Brown (Tinnion), Peacock, Thorpe (Matthews). Subs not used: Amankwaah, Malessa.

Bookings: None
Referee: P A Durkin (Portland)

Reading's amazing run of eleven league matches without defeat had to come to an end eventually, but that still didn't stop it being a massive disappointment. The home fans leaving the ground after Reading were beaten 1-3 by Bristol City, in front of the second biggest Madejski Stadium crowd of the season, were far from happy. Everyone knows that if automatic promotion is to be ours this season we just have to keep winning. But it wasn't all bad from the Royals, despite the wrong result. Bristol City may have just about deserved their victory - but they should also consider themselves very fortunate to leave with the full three points after Reading battled hard. Up until we went 1-3 down it always looked like Reading might get something out of the game.

Reading put on a display of maximum effort and created plenty of chances to score, if Butler's or Cureton's attempts on goal had gone in during the second half then it mights have been a different story. Every player was working hard and we were treated to a decent game of football - until it all went seriously wrong with twenty minutes left to play. Bristol City's third goal sealed the result and killed Reading off - it was clear to see the heads drop and from that moment there was no way back for the Royals.

The most notable change in the line up for the Royals was Darren Caskey being left on the bench and Murty being pushed up to play on the wing with Newman and Robinson as full backs. Jamie Cureton was left on the bench in favour of Tony Rougier starting up front alongside Martin Butler. Any doubts about leaving Cureton on the bench were soon forgotten after Reading got off to a great start. It took the Royals just nine minutes to take the lead after Harper fed the ball through to Graeme Murty playing further forward than his usual role. Murty collected the ball and unleashed it from way outside the area it flew in, off the base of the right post and into the back of the net. What a goal, what a start. A packed Madejski Stadium exploded into life.

After the goal Reading briefly looked like they might grab another with Rougier getting himself into a couple of scoring positions up front - but the first half quickly settled into a midfield battle. Phil Parkinson again deserves another special mention. He was nothing short of brilliant throughout the whole game. We've said it a million times before - but it's all to do with effort. He might not be blessed with the skill of someone like Tony Rougier, but he was always there winning the ball and laying it off to someone else to allow us to build up another attacking move. He was flying in all over the place winning back possession whenever it was lost. Every now and again he'd arrive a bit too late leaving the City player knowing he'd been "Parkied" - but there's never any intention apart from to help Reading win the game.

With Reading winning the midfield we looked comfortable right up until City scored the equaliser right on half time. City broke down the left wing and took it right to the line where Murty was beaten. The player cut towards goal and then the ball was played low into the middle and stuck home right in front of Phil Whithead and Matt Robinson. The goal was a real blow - but at half time every home fan would still have been confident of a home win, despite City starting to get more and more into the game.

Right after the break Reading got back into their pattern and went on the hunt for another goal to regain the lead. It looked like we'd got it about five minutes into the half when Rougier stormed through the middle and knocked the ball to his left in the path of Martin Butler. Butler steamed into the left side of the area before shooting across the goal and beating the City keeper. For a minute it looked like it was in before hitting the base of the far post and away to safety. Reading were starting the second half just like the first half - clearly on top. After a couple of attacks Reading earned the first corners of the game with Parkinson getting in a shot on target that was pushed away for the second corner of the game.

With things looking good for the Royals the away side then went and took the lead. It was a simple enough goal after a couple of Reading players all collided just outside the area. The ball was pushed from the middle wide out to the City right. From there the ball was crossed into the middle where there wasn't nearly enough pressure on the attacker. With Reading seemingly a bit short in defence it was an easy header that beat Whitehead to make it 1-2. The Bristol City fans went mental - it was the goal that kept their play-off hopes well and truly alive.

Again Reading responsed with some more attacking football looking to pull level. Rougier, who had started to look a bit tired, was replaced with Cureton. The Cureton and Butler partnership seemed certain to grab a goal at least. Half way through the second half it looked like we'd get the important come back goal. McIntyre crossed from the left deep into the area to find Butler, over the head of Cureton who had worked his way into the middle of the box. For a moment it looked like Butler might stick it in, but instead he headed it back into the middle for Cureton. Cureton met it with his head - but it flew just over the crossbar. If that had gone in perhaps we'd have gone on to get the winner. Unfortunately City had their own plans and after looking dangerous on the break they again made it count as the Reading defence seemed to crumble. The ball was worked quickly into the Reading box and it was 1-3 to City.

Darren Caskey came off the bench with time running out, and his first touch of the ball was a poor ball pumped pointlessly forward straight into the arms of the Bristol City keeper. That was followed by another couple of mistimed passes, and then it was clear we had lost the game and the eleven match unbeaten run was coming to an end. City had been content to play out time at 1-2 up, but a 1-3 it was a suprise they didn't go on and add another. The last twenty minutes might as well not have happened with the away team looking far more dangerous as Reading collapsed - with about five minutes to go they almost made it 1-4, but Whitehead made a good save from a close range effort.

So a huge disappointment, but we had to lose at some point. Another away win at Swindon Town on Tuesday will mend the damage and we can continue to dream of winning the Championship. We're capable of winning the league and now is definately not the time to give up on that dream.

Following report from Neil Cole:
For the second time this season, Bristol City managed to end our fine run of results by comfortably beating the Royals. Reading were out to avenge the 4-0 thrashing we received at Ashton Gate earlier in the season, but instead they were beaten once again by City and missed the chance to close on the league's top two. The only consolation came on Saturday, as Oxford did us a massive favour by beating Rotherham at the Manor. The weekend's results show that none of the top three are infallible, and the end of the season is going to be unbelievably tense.

Surprisingly, Alan Pardew opted to change the side that had won at Wrexham the previous weekend. Darren Caskey can't really argue with being dropped after a number of below-par performances, as Pardew tried to strengthen our attacking options on the right. Ricky Newman returned at full-back, and Graeme Murty was moved forward to take Caskey's role on the right of midfield. Adi Viveash was missing once again, so Barry Hunter kept his place in defence.

One of the biggest crowds of the season turned out, as over 15,000 came along to the Madejski Stadium. The Maurice Evans Stand was sold out, and Bristol City sold most of their allocation of tickets. It was the Reading fans who were cheering first, as Graeme Murty scored his first goal of the season after just nine minutes. It was just the start we needed in such an important game, and should have calmed any nerves the players were feeling. The goal was a brave long-range effort from Murty, who isn't exactly known for his shooting abilities. He didn't hit this one perfectly, but it was enough to beat the City keeper and went in off the post.

Reading looked comfortable for the rest of the first half, but again it seemed like we were lacking something up front. Pardew still hasn't solved the problem of what exactly to do with Anthony Rougier. He is undoubtedly a very talented forward, but when he starts up front with Butler the combination just doesn't seem to work. Rougier always end up out wide, leaving us very few options in the middle at the culmination of an attack. Yet there should be no chance of Rougier returning to left midfield, with Jim McIntyre playing so well.

After defending well in the first half, Reading should have gone it at the break in the lead. However, a lapse in concentration allowed City to equalise on the stroke of half-time. A cross from the left picked out Tony Thorpe, and the ex-Reading loanee was unmarked and had a simple finish. The players went into the break on level terms, and the goal allowed City to take the initiative as the second half commenced.

Bristol City were the better side for most of the second period, and it was no real surprise when they took the lead. A cross from the right picked out Peacock, whose header flashed past Phil Whitehead in the Reading goal. Yet, Reading could have had the lead themselves shortly before that, when Martin Butler was unlucky enough to see his shot hit the post.

At 2-1 the game was quite open, and the Reading fans were hopeful of an Oxford style comeback. With Jamie Cureton coming on for Rougier we immediately began to make some chances. Cureton himself had the best opening of the second half, but he put his header over the bar. The comeback failed to appear, and when City scored their third the game was over. Again it came from an attack down the City right, and Bristol substitute Matthews finished well to win the points for his side.

Bristol City became only the third side to take all three points from the Madejski Stadium this season, and the result keeps the top few sides very close as we enter the season run-in. With Rotherham losing as well we shouldn't write off the teams below us, as a lot could happen in the next ten games. This defeat makes the Swindon game on Tuesday even more important, and it is vital the Reading players bounce back and beat our local rivals.

Post Match Opinions

Good game, bad result. The team selection was interesting, bringing back Newman and pushing Murty forward in an effort to make us stronger down the right hand side. It wasn't there however that the problems would come. We started well, with Murty hitting a good long range effort to secure the lead and at that time Reading were playing some good neat football. There were chances but we did not capitalise on them. as the half wore on so Bristol started to gain control and their own passing game looked a little sharper than our own. Had we got the second then we would have gone on to win the game comfortably. Never concede just before half time. That is just what we did. It gave them and their fans the lift that they needed and was what they deserved.
The second half was one of Reading pressure for the first twenty minutes with Bristol hitting us on the break. Their passing in the final third was sharper more incisive than ours. We were back to the old problem of leaving too big a gap between the midfield and the strikers. They cannot do it all on their own and yesterday they did not have their finishing boots on. Because of the gap, there was no good interlinking play apart from one move between Bulter and Rougier. Too often, the front two were isolated and having to deal with long straight balls.
Individually people did well. Parky was exceptional. Jimmy Mac was my man of the match. Collectively we did not quite deliver. Bristol City put all their chances away. Both Butler and Cureton should have added to their tallies for this year. That they both failed to do so meant that we lost. We also let three goals in and credit for that goeas to the opposition but Robinson was exposed too easily. He was goog coming forward but when defending got knocked off the ball too easily. However he might have expected a bit more support. It was a great run. On Tuesday we must start another one!

-- Ken C

We have had the run of luck which gave us points we didnt deserve. This time it didnt run in our favour. A couple of great chances which would normally have gone in didn't. But a shame our heads went down with 25 mins to play. Parky was brilliant, Butler ran his heart out, but Robinson looks great going forward but very suspect in defence especially as he so often got caught out against Bristol by being out of position. But its not over, just a blip. But please get Adie Williams back in defence, even half fit he would help the attackers we call full backs to focus.
-- Roger, Wargrave Royal

I agree with Roger. I spoke to Adie Williams before the game. He reckons he is nearly ready. His return can't come quickly enough.
-- Kevin, Worthing Royal

I thought we were actually quite unlucky - until the last 20 minutes we played a lot better than we did against Wigan, and certainly created a lot more chances, but it just wouldn't go in for us. If we had gone two up I think it could have been a very different match. But all credit to City - they came back from a terrible start very impressively. The fact that in the end we have been outplayed four times by Millwall and Bristol City gives us a lot to think about - the speed of their counterattacks and their use of the flanks show what we've still got to learn.
-- Peter Jones

Whilst City did look good at times pushing the ball around, particularly in the final third of the pitch I thought we were the better side and should have won, but that's football. A blatant hand ball led to their equaliser, and Paul Durkin seemed intent on not letting Reading do anything with the stream of corners second half, blowing every time, and making some movement of his arms that looked like he had cramp in his shoulder! It seems that Reading were not actually allowed to challenge for anything knocked in from the corner kick, and that he thought it was intended just as an excercise to allow their keeper have possession of the ball back.
Harper and Butler shone for me, never stopping running. Rougier looked like he had the ball on a bit of string attached to his foot and was superb. It was surprising to see him come off, but to be honest we had to try something up front. It was there that we seemed to freeze, and had some terrible luck. Balls that would normally have been buried were nodded wide or over the bar. But no-one seemed to want to have a shot with any real feeling.
But, again, I was entertained, and it is still oh so much better than the Reading of old. Seeing City fans celebrate as if they had won the cup at the end shows how much respect Reading demand these days, and that can't be bad. Lets hope Oxford can do Reading a favour by turning over Rotherham on Saturday (How they are top goodness knows!) and Millwall have a tough spell of games. Come on you Rrrrr's.

-- Gary, Woking

I guess the run had to come to an end eventually , but not in front of nearly 16,000 on a Friday night with the chance to overtake Millwall please ! Ironically I thought in the first half we played some of the best football we've played for a long time ,and with the first goal coming earlier and City looking very average we all thought here we go !! If only Butlers shot had squeezed in after the break it may have been a different story , but we all know what " IF " achieved..........sweet fa ! What was so worrying was how poor we looked at the back , Murty fannying about for their first goal , Whitehead seems to be super glued to his line and poor 'ol Twizzle Hunter seems to either perform magnificently or like last night be exposed like a Clapham Common flasher . One player who must get credit though is Phil Parkinson , what a player , what commitment , if everybody else showed half as much passion as him we'd have no problems going up . We simply were not good enough last night , perhaps City are a bogey side , but there are plenty of games left starting at Swindon on Tuesday . Someone afterwards said the result was a disaster . The Foot and Mouth epidemic is a disaster , we just lost a football match.

-- Nick Newbury

I know Alan Pardew is still learning his trade,and his managerial career is still in it's infancy,but we shot ourselves in the foot by firstly leaving our best striker on the bench,and secondly by sitting back and inviting the opposition onto us. We hammered them for the first 20 minutes and they didn't get a look in,their fans were silent,everything looked good,then City took over with some excellent football,and well worked goals. But it is Pardew's tactical awareness that worries me,he doesn't seem to be able to read how a game is panning out like shall we say Mark Maghee could. We were the home side ,but we were reduced to counter attacking,which is not good enough for a team supposedly going for the championship. We were torn to sheds by city's pacey wingers just like at Ashton gate earlier in the season,no lessons learned there then! When Cureton finally came on to the pitch,he looked a bit down, but still could have had a hatrick. We are not good enough to go up automatically,we will have to go through the play-off system,i just hope Pardew gets it right,the fan's deserve success, they have been brilliant. Pardew will be helped of course by the imminent return of Fozzie and Adie,with their quality,who knows? City showed us how football should be played,and it was a fitting tribute to their manager,Danny Wilson.
-- Terry P

I heard one of our fans say to his mate after the Walsall game - 'it's going to be one of them seasons... up & down!'.
So it proved again on friday night. I actually didn't feel too downhearted after the result because I thought we actually played some of the best football I've seen at The Madejski in the opening 20 minutes. I've read the other views and agree with a lot of them. In essence I think you could sum up the game like this: Great Start Tactically Pardew was getting it right - Jimmy Mac (who had a great game) stopping Scott Murray from playing.
We let them get back in at 1-0 when if we'd scored a second, we too could have seen a 4-0!
Hunter & Robinson aren't good enough and were exposed again.
Cureton - Out of sorts - but he'll have his day again.
I sat with a mate who's a Bristol City fan and he thought they were good up front but quite lucky to win.
Final scenario for this season (if we don't get in the top two): Play Off Final against Bristol City - Cureton scores, Thorpe doesn't. We win and when Cureton scores he does a nice little SSSSSHHHHH like Thorpe did right in front of The North stand.
Bring on the scum! And thanks a lot the U's yesterday!

-- Dean- Crowthorne Royal.

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