READING 0 BURNLEY 0 Attendance: 6,149
Scorers: Nope Date: 24 November 1999
Team: Whitehead, Gurney (Gray), Polston, Hunter, Bernal, Murty, Parkinson, Caskey, Evers (Smith), McIntyre, Forster (Brayson).
Audio: Supplied by Classic Gold
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The resulting nil-nil draw was definately the most predictable result before kick-off, but it was a point against a high flying team who might have expected to come to the Mad House and take all three. In the true spirit of nil-nil home draws it wasn't the most pulsating fixture ever witnessed at the Madejski Stadium, but it was certainly an improvement over Saturday's poor FA Cup draw against Halifax. Reading started with the same eleven from Saturday - apart from the single change of McIntyre (who received a great reception from the home fans) starting up front in place of the injured Martin Williams.

Where Reading were different against Burnley was the added battling qualities we've been lacking. Of course there's still plenty wrong, and home draws aren't exactly going to push us up the table, but there was a little more desire out there. Yes we might still be a bit crap, but as long as players start fighting for the game then things are up on the up. In a nutshell, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be after recent performances, the temperature kept up and the crowd was well over a thousand more than I thought it would be - helped out greatly by a large Burnley travelling support.

In the first half particually Reading showed they're capable of bringing themselves to Division Two level physically. Which is probably what we need. Tackles were flying in all over the place, and just the bodies flying everywhere was certainly entertaining. The ref kept good control over the game when it could have easily have got out of hand with a couple of serious challenges that almost lead up to fights breaking out on the pitch.

The first five scrappy minutes made it look like we were in for the same kind of game yet again. Early signs was that it was going to be a game of two shakey defences after a couple of tame balls seemed to cause panic inside the away defence. That soon changed as both sides were limited to just a couple of shots each during the first half. It looked like Burnley had come for the draw - choosing to hold men back to make sure no space opened up for the Royals and being slow to push forward. With Burnley seemingly holding back to begin with it allowed Reading to get more into the game, however Burnley looked far more dangerous when they came forward.

The away side could have taken the lead midway through the first half. The ball was held up inside the box with the Burnley forward with his back to goal. He waited for a run into the right side of the box before tapping it into the path of the advancing player. Luckily Whitehead was ideally placed and when the close range shot came in he was able to block it at the near post. Still, a great stop. A few minutes later Whitehead made an excellent save from another close in shot. He dived quickly to his right to cleanly catch the ball mid-air. Combined with a couple of confident catches from crosses Whitehead looked confident and commanding - which helped in keeping the defence together.

Up the other end Reading failed to trouble the Burnley keeper enough. However he still looked rather shakey after dropping an easy cross from the right. If had fallen slightly differently it would have been Reading taking the lead - but as it was it feel to a Burnley defender to guide back to his keeper. Forster had Reading's best chance after closing down on a defender in possession just outside the Burnley box. The defender was too slow, Forster stole the ball and legged it down the left into the box. The keeper came out as Forster cut diagonally in and Forster's resulting shot was curling the right way but was still wide of the right hand post.

Caskey stired the game up towards the end of the half by elbowing the Burnley number 30 in the back of the head as deliberately as anything. As play continued the number 30 got up, calmly walked over to Caskey, who had his back turned, and shoved him to the floor. Both players were lucky to escape with yellow cards as the game started to heat up. Parky and Gurney picked up the pace a bit more with some violent challenges. Gurney was judged to have tackled fairly as his opponent went flying up in the air forwards the West Stand.

No goals, two shots each, and a mixed reaction from the home fans as Reading left the pitch to applause and boos.

The second half was largely uneventful as the pattern of the first continued with neither team pushing hard enough forward and the midfield battle swinging both ways. Evers was having a disasterous game in the middle - unable to lay on a decent pass and getting beaten to the ball far too often. Caskey was joining him in being pushed off the ball everytime. In the end it was just a case of our midfield trying to keep hold of the ball and tap it on rather than try and create something with it as we desperately tried not to be beaten. Parky excluded of course who continued to fly in all over the place. It was no suprise when Evers was replaced by Smith. Gurney who looked completely knacked was replaced by Stuart Gray at full back.

Forster also had Reading's best effort of the second half - not that there were many - with a cross from the right that sailed onto the top of the Burnley net just over the bar. Forster was also guilty though of wasting a couple of shooting chances after letting rip from way outside the area sending the ball deep into the North Stand. Forster wasn't the only guilty party as Reading came nowhere even close to the target with rather shite long range efforts before from Parky, Evers, and Caskey.

Paul Brayson made a return, coming on four minutes from the end, but he never got a sniff of the ball as Burnley finished the stronger. They won a couple of free-kicks on the edge of the Reading box and it looked like they might well grab all three points with a late winner. But for once Reading didn't conceed the late goal and we won a share of the points. An OK performance from the Royals. Improved after Saturday - but we couldn't have got worse could we? Just a shame that home draws now count as good results. The relegation battle continues.

Post Match Opinions

Quite simply, on the evidence last night, Reading do not have one player with the ability to break down an extremely mediocre defence. They are too slow both in passing and imagination. The forwards play too far away from one another, the midfield does not get forward quickly enough and they just hope that the opposition will eventually gift a goal. -- Paul Sansom

Well, at least there was plenty of spirit on show, which was encouraging. My main worry is Barry Hunter; when are they going to ban him from using his feet out there? His distribution is appalling, so no matter how good he is in the air or at stopping shots, he always goes and gives the ball straight back to the opposition. Caskey didn't have a chance to do anything creative as his marker was practically in his pocket all night. Macintyre was my man of the match for being speedy, creative and even quite strong at times. Quite a revelation. -- Andrea Powell

Last night's game was a bizarre combination of encouraging and depressing. There was a bit of spirit there and it is patently obvious that Forster, even half-fit, is capable of taking on any defence in the divison and beating them. However, Caskey is getting less and less mobile again and Evers looked out of his depth against a combative Burnley midfield. This worries me a lot, given that he was supposed to be one of the players to lead us out this godforsaken division. It is a point against a good team, but shouldn't we be capable of more? -- Morgan Ramsey

On this showing Reading are genuine relegation contenders and Burnley cannot dream of promotion despite moving into third after a sterile 0-0 draw at the Madejski. Reading were lively at the start without causing too many problems. A Nicky Forster cross led to a Darren Caskey corner whoch Jim McIntyre glanced wide. For Burnley John Mullin saw goalkeeper Phil Whitehead beat away his six-yard effort well with his legs before Andy Payton had a shot saved from close range in first-half injury-time. The game was even worse in the second half with late free-kick chances ballooned comedically over by Steve Davis and Paul Cook for Burnley summing up their inadequacies. -- Sky Sports (via Jonathan Cope)

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