Attendance: 4,948
Scorers: Nicholls 2 Date: 24 January 2000
Team: Howie, Gurney, Primus, Polston, Gray, Evers (McIntyre), Caskey, Grant, Williams (Murty), Forster, Nicholls (Scott).

Audio: Supplied by Classic Gold radio.
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Match Hero: Howie

One team second from top and at home, the other second to bottom away from home with a run of thirteen games without victory in the league. Pretty predictable result really? Thankfully not. Bristol Rovers won away at Oxford 5-0 on Saturday and we all expected them to do the same to Reading, who lost 1-3 at Luton at the weekend, tonight. One team made the most of their limited possession, kept it locked up at the back, and played some fast direct football when coming forward on the break to score two beautiful first half goals. Doesn't sound like Reading does it? But tonight it was - for the first half anyway. The second half Reading were really up against it but did everything to hang on for victory. If only this was a league match and three vital league points to pull us up the table.... As it is, it means an area semi-final fixture to come. Bristol Rovers were one of the best teams left in the competition - so there's always a chance of Wembley now to distract from League misery.

After a quiet start Reading took the lead with eleven minutes on the clock with a well worked goal. The ball was played out wide to the right to find Grant, in the team in place of Parkinson, Grant played the cross in where Nicholls was coming in. The keeper didn't come for it, when he probably should have done, and Nicholls beat his defender to head the ball down and into the back of the net for a well taken goal. 1-0 to the Royals. A shock lead indeed.

Bristol Rovers continued to have the vast majority of the ball but do nothing with it - true Reading style - but for a change it wasn't the Royals. Reading kept it nice and tight with Primus winning everything in true Primus style. The home side won plenty of corners but did nothing with them - again in true Reading style. And Reading to their credit held onto the lead without looking like losing it. On the half hour Reading made it two-nil, with Nicholls grabbing his second of the goal in some style - a gorgeous long range volley from the on-loan striker that steamed into the corner of the net with the keeper well beaten. A two goal lead away from home? Almost unheard of. But Reading were looking good, yes good, for it.

And so it continued in the same manner - with Rovers keeping hold of the ball and Reading letting them play it around without creating many chances. Howie had just the one save to make during the first half diving well to tip the ball wide when it might have been sneaking into the corner of the net. Rovers' corner came to nothing. Just before half time it could have been a stunning 3-0 to the Royals when Forster forced a decent save out of the Rovers keeper.

But this couldn't continue could it... and after the break Bristol Rovers changed their formation a bit and instantly looked loads more dangerous with Howie having more to do in the first ten minutes of the second half than in the entire of the first half. Howie made a couple of decent saves until seven minutes into the second half Rovers pulled one back after a period of strong pressure. Gurney stuck his hand on the ball in a rather stupid manner when it was going off wide, and Cureton stuck it home straight past Howie from the penalty spot. Bollocks. Here we go then.... but Reading didn't curl up and tie - they wanted the victory.

On came McIntyre and Murty for Reading - substitutions which meant Reading packed the midfield a bit more and pushed just one man up front. Time to hang on to that goal lead. And as expected it was all Bristol trying to get the equaliser. Rovers had a string of near misses and Howie was all over the place keeping the ball out his net. Instead of the likely Reading collapse we found ourselves still a goal up as the game entered the first of the four minutes of injury time. On came Keith Scott for two goal hero Nicholls to waste a bit more time. Howie came to Reading's rescue in injury time with a great save after a header was going goal-bound from a corner. And so the miracle happened. A totally unpredictable 2-1 away victory for the Royals, and at last some reason for hope.

So, it's not all downhill for Reading - there are promising signs out there still. Yes, it was only an Auto Windscreens Shield tie - but Bristol Rovers were trying to win it - and Reading won it with a whole team battling for victory. This was probably the best result, and performance, of the season so far. Now lets win on Saturday or this miracle result will mean nothing. I don't expect a repeat performance on Saturday - despite tonight a home draw seems near certain. Please do us proud Reading and don't let it happen. The fans deserve the victory which could still save us.

Post Match Opinions

Great fun and so unexpected! I left the office being told (by my Swindon colleague) I was "a brave man" to go at all. Well it was one of those games you will still talk about in two years time ) when we've just finished a season in the First Divn.?! Will we extend Nichols loan? he clearly has the ability to score match winners where no of the others could. Whilest agree it was good all round in the first half apart from Nichols we'd have gone in nil nil and then lost it in the second half. The goals give the others the confidence to fight against a team who to my eyes were clearly more dangerous than Reading once they had reorganised Who's for making a big bid for Roberts then?
-- Gloucester Royal

Being a Reading fan living in Bristol, this was particularly enjoyable. Off to the match I went with two Bristol supporting friends, and stood in the middle of the Rovers end, thinking that it doesn't matter because I won't need to applaud. How wrong I was. We were outstanding in the first half, scored two, and could quite easily have had even more. Forster, Gurney (yes, Gurney) and Williams played some great stuff down the right and my Rovers loving friends asked me how we were bottom (nearly) of the league. I was stunned. Then the second half. Me being just a stupid supporter thought, ok, we played well, looked solid, so lets play the same formation, tactics etc, play a bit safe though not sit back too much like a usual Reading team and we should get a few openings with Rovers having to push forward.
Oh no, that would be far too easy. We left Forster up front and told everyone else to stand not far outside the penalty area and let them come at us. This against a team who scored 5 AWAY! (Have we scored 5 away in total?). It was like the alamo, and we played into their hands.
Shouldn't the manager be telling the team to push up, stop them playing, look slightly dangerous on the break? I just don't understand how we can be so tactically naive. To be perfectly honest, Rovers deserved a draw at the 90 minutes as they had constant pressure, and it was only a hefty slice of luck and good keeping from Howie (apart from his hilarious goal kicking - is one leg shorter than the other?) that saved us.
At the end of the day though, a win is a win, and the team have to be congratulated, though I'm not convinced that our management "team" have the slightest idea tactically. Last point - Primus isn't a "rock" as I keep hearing. He loses his man too easily and his headers away have no direction on them. Ask Jason Roberts if he enjoyed turning him inside out 25 times.
-- Womble.

importantly, the Royals returned from their success at the Memorial Ground without injury for the forthcoming fixture on Saturday against Colchester we appear to have a full squad to choose from is this the wheel of good fortune for a team deserving to do much better
-- tonetred

Although this is an encouraging result it still doesn't account for the downfalls in the teams motivation and attitude. I hope that this positive result will inspire the royals to a WELL overdue home victory on Saturday. There must be higher levels of concentration for overpaid and in some cases third division quality players with the obvious exceptions.
People do want to watch Reading go and play and there is the fringe support in the town to put 12 or 13 thousand people in that stadium every week if only there was something worth watching. Best of luck Reading I'm sure it can only get better.
-- Matt Allen

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