27 Feb 1999
Colchester 1 Reading 1
Glasgow (Gray), Casper (Bernal), Polston (Brayson), Primus, Murty, Parkinson,
Caskey, Brebner, Thorpe,
Well before the game kicked off it always seemed likely that the most Reading would get out of this game would be draw. The one all score line will hardly be a suprise to many people. Before the midweek defeat at Fulham Reading had drawn four away games in a row. We're good at this away draw business. Fulham were a class apart but with Colchester below us in the table the scene was set. Add to this the return of Casper in the centre of defence and the unproven striking partnership of McIntyre and Thorpe up front and a goaless draw seemed the most likely outcome.
Unfortunately the first event of the game was the substitution of Chris Casper after just five minutes of play. He'd clearly come back from injury too soon and limped off with hamstring trouble, leaving Reading to quickly change from their 5-3-2 formation to something like 4-4-2, with Bernal moving into midfield. Before Reading could adapt the home side had moved in front. The cross came in from the right, bounced off a defender, and left the forward with a simple shot well inside the box, just left of centre, to put the home side ahead. Which we did with Howie powerless to stop him. 0-1. With Reading's history this season of going a goal behind and almost never coming back it was the worst start possible.
Thorpe had two of Reading's best chances of the first half to get back on level terms, but failed to even get close. His first effort flew right across the face of goal ending up towards the corner flag. The second effort flew well over the crossbar giving the Colchester keeper little to worry about. Reading came closest to scoring when a Colchester defender almost put the ball in his own net. Brebner put over a decent cross which was met by the defender who had no choice but to head it goalbound. The keeper, despite having nothing to do for the whole half, was able to tip it onto the bar and over for a Reading corner.
As the half went on Reading got more and more into the game - but only in terms of keeping hold of the ball and playing it around a bit. Unfortuantely when coming forward Reading didn't really have an idea what to do with the thing. Caskey wasn't having one of his best games with some wayward passing, and with Murty and Glasgow officially playing as full backs we weren't getting enough emphasis on creating chances. Colchester seemed more likely to move further ahead by creating the odd chance here and there. Just before half time Howie needed to get down well to push a low shot from outside the area wide. Also just before the break there was more bad news for Reading as one of the Colchester players went right through Glasgow, picking up a yellow card for his troubles and forcing Reading to make another substitution as Glasgow couldn't continue.
Reading started the second half with Gray coming off the bench to replace the injured Glasgow. Gradually Reading started taking more and more of a grip on the game. But still were almost entirely ineffective. With Brayson coming on to replace Polston, Reading changed tactics yet again to play with a three man front line looking for the equaliser. However the front line of McIntyre, Thorpe and Brayson rarely threatened the Colchester goal.
Brayson almost scored with a rare Reading shot, after being set-up by Thorpe, but the ball was deflected wide. With the game in it's last quarter Reading started to build up the pressure and were at last rewarded with the equaliser with less than ten minutes left. When it came it came from almost nothing and from the boot of man-of-the-match Phil Parkinson. With the keeper off his line Parkinson, covered in blood from his open head wound, shot from the edge of the area. The ball flew over the keeper and into the back of the net. If only we had a couple more people with Parkinson's battling qualities in the squad.
With the game well inside it's last five minutes it looked like we were well set up for the late goal to bring another frustrating defeat. In typical Reading style we suddenly went far too defensive and allowed Colchester to come at us looking for that goal. With two minutes left Colchester really should have grabbed a winner after their forward twisted past Bernal and had just Howie to beat in the Reading goal. Fortunately for Reading his shot was poor and straight at Howie for him to make the save. Moments after that Howie made a great outstretched save to tip the ball wide. And with the last kick of the game Colchester scored from an offside position. At last the final whistle came and Reading had hung on for another 1-1 away draw.
Reading had had most of the play in the second half but failed to make the chances - and as such the draw was all we deserved.