(Half Time: 1-0)
Reading Scorers: Igoe (45 mins)
Bury Scorers: Lawson (90 mins)
Date: 29 September 2001
Attendance: 10,035

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Williams, Whitbread, Robinson, Harper, Jones, Igoe, Butler (Henderson 62), Forster (Cureton 77), A Smith (Rougier 32). Subs not used: Ashdown, Viveash.

Bury: Kenny, Swailes, Armstrong, Collins, Redmond, Billy, Reid, Jarrett, Singh, Forrest (Lawson 75), Newby. Subs not used: Seddon, Murphy, Clegg, Borley.
Rougier (Reading); Jarrett (Bury).
D R Crick (Worcester Park)

Report by John Wells
When a team has a run of poor results a lot of unwarranted criticism begins to fly about. Today Pardew pointed the finger of blame at the forwards for letting the bottom team off the hook. Reading took the lead in stoppage time at the end of the first half and threw away two points by conceding a goal in stoppage time at the end of the second half. I respect Pardew. I think his judgement is sound and he has gradually put together a squad which should win promotion, but his post-match view did not in my opinion reflect accurately what went wrong today.

Certainly the forwards are not looking as sharp as they should, but Bury would have scored at least two more goals if not for two superb saves from Whitehead. They also hit the post before Reading went ahead through a well-taken goal from Sammy Igoe. Having ridden their luck Reading should have finished off a Bury side lacking confidence and ambition. Bringing on Henderson and Cureton for Butler and Forster in the second half did freshen up the attack, but tactically they invited the equaliser by defending too deep in the later stages of the game. On several occasions in the last twenty minutes Harper found himself scurrying around after the ball in midfield with very little support defensively from Jones, Igoe and Rougier. I suspect the issue with Jones was that he was tiring having played another generally solid game, but Igoe and Rougier are not really suited to defensive duties.

I also agreed with Pardew when he claimed that the defence was sound - Murty, Williams and Whitbread are very competitive. Robinson however is simply not good enough. I wouldn't want to make him the scapegoat for another poor result, but it is reasonable expect that your left back will be challenging for the ball when a cross arrives at he far post. The ability to concentrate and determination are the crucial qualities of a good full back. Basically he hasn't got either. He is often caught out of position, he is weak in the air, and allows opponents to deliver crosses far too easily.

The fundamental problem is that everyone has seen the damage the forwards can inflict and have adapted their tactics accordingly. Most teams will pack the midfield, close players down quickly, waste time, or try to intimidate. That is price you pay for being favourites and big spenders in this division. Pardew must find the answers soon. He is still tinkering with different combinations up front without appearing to find the best one. Today's pairing seemed to make sense but didn't work either mainly because Butler is really off form at present. I hope the fans will remain positive and not turn on the management or the team. At times like this they need more encouragement to help them raise their game.

One bright spot in the day's proceedings was John Madejski's announcement that he had made a unilateral decision to override club policy and grant Parky a testimonial. It was outrageous to even consider denying him one. He is a model professional - honest loyal and totally committed to his club and his fans. I only hope it is a sell-out it's the least he deserves.

Post Match Opinions

A shot against the post, two great saves by the keeper, a header off the line. All this before the deserved goal which came after dominating play and a good passing movement. Unfortunately, I am not talking about Reading, but the team who were bottom of the league.
Obviously we are not scoring goals at present. We are not missing them either. We are not creating.
I feel desperately sorry for Butler who must have had his worst game ever yesterday. He didn't want the ball, lacked his usual zest for the game and we need him back. He needs players who are going to give him decent service but where is that going to come from? Yesterday I though Forster started well and looked lively, but does anyone know what he is going to do, and does he ever look up? He is at his best running at the opposition cutting the ball back for others to score. Rouggier has all the skill in the world at this level, but he must use it where he can hurt the opposition. Cureton looked the sharpest and Henderson gave us the usual variation, and if he does keep getting better and better then we'll have a very good player.
Which of the midfield players has the ability to slide a ball through? Which of them can play a one-two off the front men and go for the return with confidence? Which of them has the ability (or permission) to make runs beyond the frontmen? It is in this area that we are not able to dominate teams. The record of the strikers shows that they will score, the defence has tightened up and Whitehead was superb again yesterday. It is the midfield that needs an injection of class. The alternative is to go to 5-3-2. We have seen some very poor performances this season.
Against Cardiff we were clueless, against Stoke gutless and yesterday just hopeless. Tactically we were naive. It was impossible to see the pattern that we were trying to play. Some individuals did OK, three of the back four at least. Where was Robinson for their goal?
We were playing the bottom team in the league and our best player was our keeper. That sums it up.
It needs to get better!
-- Ken C

What a disappointment.
The goal in the 90th minute from a hard working Bury side always looked like it was a possible ending. And so it was. To be honest it was no less than they deserved. They looked streets better than Wycombe last week, and made Reading again look totally inept. So why does this team ebb and flow, and how can the same team that plays some great passing football at times look SO bad at others? It has to be tactics.
I am not one of those who wants to bash Pardew every time things don't go well, but I have to say today's performance cannot be all about lack of effort on the park. Why did we revert to 4-4-2 when the team has been struggling to score, and at last were faced with a team billed as the worst in the division? It beats me. They looked like they had two extra men on the pitch and were up our lads backsides the whole game, giving them no room to create anything. Which of course with their massed formation at the back, they did have. Butler struggled and never looked like scoring even if he stayed on till midnight.
Fozzy's pace worried them a couple of times, but in truth few real chances were created. There was no room for the usual surging runs by Murty and Igoe, and all in all it was diabolical to watch. When Henderson came on I thought the game turned. He at last gave them something to think about and even looked good with the ball at his feet. Rougier ran around a lot but in truth created little. Cureton looked like he would score eventually, and created the only real chances of the game, but there is only so much you can do in 12 minutes at the end! I feel we need a couple more quality players, and some more imaginative tactics to get out of this division, because at the moment we've got no chance whatsoever! I don't know if there is an answer with the side we have, but I felt Henderson and Cureton showed enough in the final section of the game to suggest that they must be first choice, and that we have got to stick with them until they start scoring, and not keep switching the strikers around.
No one builds any confidence that way. After that? Well I hate to say it... is Pardew good enough to get us up? I am sure some other correspondents are going to be less kind... and maybe they are right?

-- Gary - Woking

It seems to me that Alan Pardew is spoilt for choice when it comes to strikers, bit like Fergie at United really, but his excuse is based on Premier and Euro commitments where over the campaign he needs everyone of the four or six he employs. Not so at Reading. Butler and Cureton must be first choice based on their record of last season. Fozzie will fit in just behind the front two to give pace and width. So why do we bring the divisions best goal poacher on with just 23 minutes left against a team like Bury? Sorry Mr Pardew but your team selection leaves a lot to be desired. You play the best team every game without fail or we will be in the same division next year. I would suggest you give Mr Rougier a little shooting practice ( How many goals has he scored since leaving Port Vale)? and Mr Rooster a lesson on keeping the ball on the deck and passing to a Reading Player. We lost our auto promotion slot thanks to Colchester last year. Suggest their fall from from the top of Division two this year should be continued with a good thumping by our boys, that is if Mr P selects the right team.
-- Disappointed Devon life long supporter

Having lived in Newcastle for the last 4 years I have missed the opportunity to watch the Royals in action. So when I finally got the chance yesterday I was hoping to see us destroy a team that had lost its last 9 games! How wrong can you be?? In fact Bury had the chances to win the match, thank god they couldn't finish for toffee. To point at any one problem would be hard so here's a list of what I reckon is going wrong (as I know sod all about football management these may be incorrect!);
1) Robinson is a massive pile of SH@TE. Harsh I know but you should really expect a defender to have some defensive or even attacking qualities.
2) The midfield stays in the middle, there are no players getting wide, thus no variation in attack.
3) Rather than passing to feet we seem to feel the need to hoof the ball up in the air. This is a major problem as we are a top quality side when the ball is on the floor but cannot compete with larger teams in the air.
4) Someone needs to tell Forster that there are 9 other outfield players on the pitch and he's allowed to pass to them.
5) We really need a player who can put his foot on the ball and slow the game down and use the ball sensibly. Preferably the same person would be able to cross the ball from set pieces and maybe even have a shot.
Now I've had my rant, I'd just like to say how nice it was to hear Parky is getting his testomonial and to see Cureton coming back to fitness.

-- Harvey

It was a very disappointing performance and result. We were unconvincing, unimpressive, but worst of all, boring. I suggested a while ago that we were on the brink of something good. Forget it. On the evidence of this performance, and indeed the other recent debacles, we have a few more seasons in the lower divisions. The management has a responsibility for ensuring some sort of confidence, enthusiasm, and spirit.
All three were sadly missing.

-- Kevin, Worthing Royal.

Oh dear!
The positive news is that with everyone else dropping points we’re within a win or two of getting back up there, the concerning point is will we, confidence is low and the team isn’t clicking. For example, the second half against Wycombe seemed pretty poor to me given we were playing against a 10 man team that were already beaten. We should have put 5 or 6 past them.
Lessons from last season:
We needed a big target man.
We needed a play maker to help Caskey
We should have bought one or two class players around February for the final push to make sure we went up automatically
Caskey should have played in the play off final.
This season:
We’ve got Henderson (but he’s young and can’t be relied on for a whole season)
We haven’t (even) got Caskey
We’ve not bought big…literally, we seem to have a midfield the size of Igoe and when it’s muddy and we’re playing the big cloggers of this division, guess what.
We need to buy now and break out of the division a la Fulham, not muddle along in hope. If we weren’t good enough last season why do we think virtually the same team will do it now. And I remember how Bristol City took us apart twice, and they’re still with us.
Current form:
Harper’s not Caskey and nor will he be consistently, he’s only 19 and too much is expected of him. I watched him on Saturday, he does show himself but the team don’t give it to him and then he disappears.
What we need is one or two class midfield players (Tim Sherwood on loan?), players that know too much for this division. I’d always admired Kavanagh and it’s Cardiff that pay out a million for him, what does that tell you. Defence and Attack are fine what we need is something in midfield and at present we haven’t got it. It’s called class, it doesn’t come cheap but without it, it’s second division again next season. The club can’t afford that and the support, given success on the pitch, is there.
Finally, Pardew. I’ve heard a lot of rubbish about the management team and getting rid of them. Mad Dog it seems to me is the motivator, don’t think on his own he could do it. And Pardew might not be brilliant but once he puts the players out there it’s up to them and at the moment they’re the ones not doing it. Some of our play on Saturday was clueless but is that the Manager’s fault? If I balls it up at work, is it my Manager’s fault? I don’t think so. Changing Pardew now will only set us back and he’s done well to get us where he has, remember how bad we were when he took over. And when it comes to the money we’ve spent, to put it in perspective, how does it compare to Fulham, or even Man City, when they were in Division Two? So whilst he might be good at finding nuggets in the lower leagues let’s not rely on just that.
One point on tactics, if Rooster's not doing it why not go 5:3:2 with the three Adies across the back and the wing backs Murty and, say, Alex Smith.
I’ll go back to my first point. No one seems to be pulling away yet, the league is there for the taking but at the moment we don’t look like doing it at all. We need some class in the middle, get it now and we could be away. And yes I was a Caskey fan. No one else did for us what he did and now he’s gone, no one’s doing it for us now.

-- Chris.

Absolute 100% total bollocks! If we get nothing from Colchester and Swindon, Pardew and Allen must go! I've not seen such crap since the depths of the old Division Four days at Elm Park. Against a team that are on a run of ten consecutive defeats and rock bottom of the league, we were lucky not to get beat 3-1!

-- Nick Newbury

I have today witnessed a display of such mind boggling ineptitude it defies belief. I must have watched a worse game than this but the only problem is I honestly can't remember when. It really is enough to drive a man to drink, make mine a large one please. There isn't a word in the English Oxford that adequately describes the utter bilge served up yesterday. I know, I looked. Bury arrived at the Mad Stad, going for a club record 10 defeats on the spin, their coach having broken down en-route and with about as much hope as Bin-Laden being awarded the Nobel peace prize. Only to be met by a Royals side, bereft of ideas, imagination, confidence and after this performance, any realistic hope of promotion.
Lets be under know illusions, this was a point salvaged for us, as a very ordinary Bury side had very acceptable chances to have put the game beyond us by half time. Their equaliser on the stroke of full time was the very least their efforts deserved. So what's gone wrong? Pardew blames his strikers, true, Butler seems out of salts but do we need to remind him that Jamie and Butler scored over 60 goals between them last season, so have they suddenly become poor players. I think not. And is it their fault we keep on conceding soft goals? Anne (the weakest link) Robinson was again caught ball watching for the goal and Addie should be dealing with bread and butter crosses like that for a pastime.
I still think we have as strong a squad as anybody in the division. People may say it's easy to point the finger at the manager and the coaching staff. Well, it is easy when they are almost certainly the root cause of the problem. Pardew and Allen may be good motivators (and I'm not entirely sure that's true) but its becoming painfully apparent they have not got the cunning and guile to educate the players on the finer points of tactical awareness and even less idea of how to change things during a game when its so obvious that things are not working. Madejski, change it now before it's too late. It seems certain that the likes of Peter Taylor will soon be available, a man with a proven track history of tactical awareness, an asset so blatantly lacking under the present regime. Pay him whatever he wants, anything to get us out of this crap division. Colchester away next week. Doesn't exactly inspire the imagination does it.
Please somebody save me from this nightmare.

-- Lobby, Thatcham

I really expected a goal-fest, a good game for our strikers to get a bit of confidence back and a big boost after some inconsistent performances... however I witnessed a clueless performance that was so poor that I thought I'd been beamed back in time to the Tommy Burns era! I really thought the Cambridge game was probably one of the worst games of football I have ever witnessed but at least we won that, today was a disgrace and I can't put my finger on the worrying lack of tactics and ideas shown by the players.
I think the Club should stop selling the 'tenacity,spirit,flair' T-shirts, it's getting a bit embarrassing, wearers may get sued under the Trades Description Act. Surely the chance to see Rougier, Butler, Forster AND Cureton in one afternoon should be every Royals fan's dream but the fact is that we are having real problems scoring goals, there doesn't seem to be any confidence, what the hell is going on at the training pitch?
Butler has been a big favourite, his work rate has often been under-rated but yesterday he looked as though he just didn't give a shit, he didn't win one header, in fact he didn't bother jumping half the time, it almost seemed like he was playing poorly on purpose. Cureton looked lively when he came on and if current form is anything to go by, Henderson and Cureton should start and get a few games together under their belts. Henderson has really impressed, I thought he was a real donkey in his few appearances last season, but his touch and distribution has improved and at least he gives 100% and he really deserves his chance, something he probably could not have imagined happening with all the quality strikers at the club.
Igoe and Murty generally have been excellent this season, again like Henderson, they made an effort, and generally contribute to all the best attacking moves. Nothing comes from the middle of the pitch at all, there is no creative midfielder as Caskey was (sometimes)...Harper is very poor, he is still passing backwards instead of trying to prise open defences.
Well done to Bury, they forced a couple of good saves from Whitehead and missed 2 absolute sitters (the "best" of which was so bad that their striker even pretended to be injured because he was so ashamed...great stuff!!) I want to be positive, (I was pissed off with some dickheads shouting for Pardew to resign) but it's up to the Royals to make us positive.
One last thing, it is great that The Club have agreed to Parky's testimonial, but in my opinion it is a disgrace that there was any doubt about it in the first place. The Club says that players earn a reasonable wage already, which is true, but the fans don't think of it like that, it is a chance for The Club AND the fans to show appreciation for his loyalty and commitment to the Royals and I know that every fan would have supported him and organized something if RFC had stood by their decision not to allow one.

-- Steve W

I cant find words to describe the utter crap I witnessed on Saturday, 1 point from 2 games against sides in the bottom four, hardly promotion form. Make no mistake we were lucky to escape with a draw on Saturday. If 'Anne' Robinson is now not the worst left back in the world then I'm the pope, he was again no where to be seen at the far post when Bury equalised. I agree with LOBBY THATCHAM, Pardew out.
-- Bob, Newbury

I have to agree with a lot of what has been said.
If the squad is as good as the manager and chairman say it is then who takes the responsibility for failure? The answer is obvious. It is clear that the manager has a real problem with Cureton and he was hoping and praying that his no.1 choice,Forster,would do the business. All of this is reminiscent of Branfoot-the arrogance where the manager always knows best and the fans know nothing. How fit do players have to be? Many other teams in this league have to resort to patched-up old pros or totally untried youngsters to even put out a side some weeks and yet our players have to be fit enough for the Olympics before they make it to the bench.
Outwardly the players show unity (pre-match huddle etc) but in a game they seldom show the same team ethic-it looks like "Them and Us",i.e defenders and forwards-you play at your end of the pitch and we shall play at ours. How dare the manager call us a footballing side when the 2 Adies and Robbo are obviously told to whack the ball forward at every opportunity-how is it that central defenders are so often asked to play the final pass?That is why they are central defenders, because they aren't good enough to play up front or in midfield.
Like many others I feel that there is so much that is wrong it is possible that we need a wiser old hand to come in and take a fresh look before it is too late-look how Venables and Hoddle reorganised Middlesbrough and Southampton last season using virtually the same players. Venables,Hoddle and Graham are probably regarded as too expensive,but how expensive is it for us to stay in this league?
Just a few more comments about certain players:- Whitehead-one day he will kick or throw to the right areas and assert himself on crosses-shame because his shot-stopping is terrific. Robbo-if ever a player has gone backwards. Started off well but for the last 6 months has totally forgotten hoe to tackle,how to close a man down and how to stop his man crossing the ball. He also now has joined the aimless welly it forward brigade. Jones-so much has already been said. There are some players who suffer from Meaker syndrome,i.e we are so relieved that when they have just an ordinary game (rather than diabolical) that we fall into the trap of thinking that they can actually play a bit-other examples are Neil Smith, Stuart Gray, Jim McIntyre etc. etc.
I even heard someone suggest that Parky's place might be under threat-sick joke or what! The midfield - it's just not working - the manager thinks it is the front men but we all know that it is the lack of quality in the final ball.
After the Bournemouth game it was all the fault of the midfield and after Saturday it was the fault of the front men - was it the fault of the front men that Robbo didn't bother to challenge the wide man against Bury or Bournemouth or at Cardiff in the play-off. What do the manager and all his coaches see? Is there a total blind spot as far as Robbo is concerned? What is it about Reading and left-backs - most other clubs seem to be able to get them and yet we have struggled since Colin Meldrum! I don't want to single out Robbo but he is the best example of the management seemingly not knowing what they are doing. Maybe Pardew uses too many long or difficult words (such as catalyst) for the players to understand and Allen too many short words.
Whatever is going on at our club the players give the impression that they do not know what they are meant to be doing, so whose fault is that?

-- David

Well I kind of expected this. Knowing how poor Bury were, and that they had just been thrashed by Oldham. We were either going to give them a going over, ala Wycombe, or repeat the Bournemouth farce. How we got a point I just don't know.
I disagree with Pardew's defensive analysis. Right from the start we were leaving ourselves wide open. They didn't break often, but when they did, they were clear through. Sad to say but I called the equaliser. As the ball came in I asked a mate, "who's picking him up on the far post?" Answer? bloody nobody. I don't know what's wrong but Butler is clearly out of sorts. He still works his socks off, but there's something not right. Nicky Forster. When will you learn to look up? You aren't the only option.
All through the game we never seemed to take them seriously enough. We just watch them string together an endless stream of passes, while being incapable of completing more than 3 passes ourselves. I can't put my finger on the problem, but I do think that when Pardew says we need to keep people guessing as to how we will play, that shouldn't include his own team. I think we should abandon these constant formation changes. Find a formula that works, and stick to it. It's easier for other players to come in to the side without throwing off the balance of the team.
Sure other teams will learn we always play 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 etc.. So what? If we are good enough and have the ability, we will win more than we lose. As for those who were calling for Pardew's head.. Come on people. We have time to put this right. I'm not ready to throw in the towel on Pardew & Allen yet.

-- Paul, Thatcham Royal

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