28 November 1998
Reading 2 Lincoln 1
Glasgow, Polston, Primus, Casper, Parkinson, Roach, Caskey, Williams(Brayson),
Sarr (McIntyre), Clement.
Shots on target:
Lincoln City: 4
This was, in the end, a very satisfying victory with two second half goals, from Clement and Sarr, to give Reading the three vital points to send us to our highest league position of the season so far - ninth. However, at half time it looked like it was going to be another one of those frustrating games where despite controlling every aspect of the game we were going to get nothing.
With Brebner out injured after the Northampton game it gave Burns the perfect opportunity to give Polston his Reading debut. Polston came straight into the centre of defence with Clement, making his home debut for the Royals, starting further foward in his prefered wing-back role. Otherwise the team was pretty much as expected - the successful line-up that had done so well at Northampton a week before with that 1-0 victory.
Before kick-off many less-optimistic Reading supporters were predicting a bore draw with Lincoln, bottom of the table, sticking their whole team behind the ball. With that in mind add the fact that Reading have never been able to come back from behind to grab a draw or win so far this season and Lincoln's early goal was the nightmare start we'd been dreading. Nothing had happened yet when Lincoln were the first team to get into their opponents area. Their forward went down in a 50-50 looking situation with, I think, Caskey, and for some reason the referee pointed to the spot. Bugger. To be quite honest I couldn't exactly say why the penalty was given so I wont. Anyway up the Lincoln bloke stepped and fired it high into the net. 0-1.
Before I say this I'd better apologise to Lincoln fans reading this but it has to be said. That penalty kick was Lincoln's contribution to the game over. I could say they were shit but that would be under-stating it. The worst team to set foot inside the Mad House (although some would say Reading's earlier performances this season deserve that award, and of course Richmond are definately more shit than Lincoln will ever be). Which probably explains the frustration within the home fans when we continued to dominate the next 45 minutes but without grabbing the vital goal.
Reading were all over Lincoln and were creating enough chances to put the game beyond doubt. Sarr looked in top form - he continues to improve as each game passes and it well on the way to earning his hero status, and it was Mass who created some of our first chances down the left. Williams should have put Reading level after a strong Sarr drive from the left just inside the area couldn't be held by the keeper. The ball came back out to Williams a few yards out but his header hit the top of the crossbar. Clement and Sarr started to link together beautifully down the wing throughout the half. The best thing about Clement was his unforgiving runs directly forward straight through the midfield - something we've been missing a bit this season. Then at the end of the run he'd put a decent pass on it or later on in the game try a power shot. And so the pattern continued with Reading determined to score and pushing forward. Lincoln rarely broke but when they did Polston, Casper, and Primus were tidying up with ease and playing the back sideways or forward to build up a new move. Howie must have been getting bored.
Their keeper pulled off a couple of fantastic saves to keep Lincoln ahead. He did well to tip over the bar a Caskey shot from outside the area and did well enough from some decent Caskey corners. He saved well from Sarr again, and from Roach. Williams was unlucky not to have stuck in a fair few rebounds.
The Royals were booed off the pitch at half time by some sections of the crowd. Very unfair without a doubt - however that's the way it's going to be this season - it seems Tommy has to bring success or his team will suffer some pretty serious abuse despite the effort shown. Strange but true. If we'd have managed to put a couple of the chances away Reading would have got a standing ovation.
Reading carried on in the same manner as the second half got underway and were last rewarded as Clement pulled one back for Reading. Unfortunately we owed the goal to some fantastically funny goalkeeping from the Lincoln keeper. I'll no longer laugh at the name "Simon Sheppard" in quite the same way again. Clement let rip with a superb power shot from about 785 yards out. It went straight for the keeper who made the save. With the ball almost dead he dropped it, went to grab it and fumbled it through his legs. It trickled over the line to make it 1-1. Not the way we should have scored but it'll do.
About ten minutes later Reading took a deserved lead. This time we can owe the goal to Parkie. Lincoln had possession just inside Reading's half. They didn't count on Parkie though. There he was, made the tackle, won the ball, stepped forward before playing it wide to the left to the advancing Sarr. With the defence missing for the first time in the game, Sarr made the most of it. He took it into the box and fired it past the Lincoln keeper. Massive relief for Sarr who'd been waiting for his first Reading goal all season. It took it's time coming but he's been getting closer with every game.
With the game at 2-1 Reading could have stretchered their lead a fair few times. The best other effort came from a well worked free kick just outside the area to the right of goal. Caskey played the ball short to Clement to his left. Clement shot with amazing accurancy and it would have sneaked in just inside the near post if the Lincoln keeper hadn't redeemed himself with a great save - getting down quickly to push it past the post. Clement almost scored again with a similar long range blast to his goal. Glasgow and Williams both had shots on target but we couldn't get the magic third.
Despite all the pressure there was still time for the normal nervous last five minutes. I was just waiting for the equaliser. Predictably enough Lincoln came at us a bit for the last five minutes for their first bit of pressure of the game. Howie came well to catch cleanly from a corner and needed to make a save to keep Reading in front. When it came the final whistle was a relieft.
Polston did pretty well, after a nervous start, considering a substantial time out through injury. Quality central defenders such as Keith McPherson will probably find it hard to push their way back into the team now. Overall though after this showing I'm convinced we've got the team we need to take us up and do well in Division One. Some would say we need a new keeper and a decent centre forward to work with Williams, and we must sign Clement. But Primus, Polston and Casper must be three of the best central defenders in the division. Parkie is simply essential for the effort. Sarr is one of the most skillful players seen at Reading for quite some time. Add to this Brebner when he's fit and surely this team could successfully take on anyone in this Division? Maybe I'm being too optimistic - however I can't see too much wrong with the way we're playing at the moment now.