(Half Time: 2-3)
Reading Scorers: Hughes (2 mins), Forster (5 mins - pen), Watson (14 mins).
Bristol City Scorers: Peacock (6 mins), Bell (13 mins - pen), Robinson (59 mins).
Date: 30 March 2002

Reading: Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Watson, Williams, Forster, Hughes (Harper 64), Cureton (Branch 54 (Rougier 83) ), Parkinson, Mackie, Shorey, Salako.  Subs not used: Talia, Viveash.

Bristol City: Phillips; Bell, Burnell, Carey, Lever, Murray; Tinnion, Doherty, Robinson (Rodrigues 90); Matthews (Thorpe 58), Peacock.. Subs not used: Stowell, Hulbert, Coles.

Bookings: Matthews (City), Watson, Parkinson, Shorey (Reading).
Referee: A Hall (Birmingham).

Report by John Wells
My ears are still ringing from the noise generated by the 3000 Royals fans packed into the Wedlock Blackthorn Stand, before, during, and after this superb game of football. The team were also up for this game and stormed into a two goal lead in four minutes. I think it would be fair to say the referee helped City back into the game with a couple of decisions that would
usually not have been given. Had we not dropped so many points recently, most Reading fans would not have been too unhappy with a draw. The fans and the players deserved a better result today. When the dust settled however what happened today was our huge lead at the top of the league has been whittled away to almost nothing by Brighton and Brentford, and the reality of the situation is that we now have a real fight on our hands to achieve automatic promotion.

Hughes opened the scoring with a header at the far post and before the celebrations had subsided, Forster burst through in typical fashion and was held back by a City defender left trailing in his wake. Forster converted the penalty. Within a minute City had pulled one back, although it looked to me that Matthews had charged the ball down with his arm before blasting the
ball past Whitehead. Just after ten minutes the eagle-eyed referee spotted an infringement that nobody else had noticed and gave City a penalty which Bell tucked away confidently. Three minutes later Forster was fouled again and Watson curled the free-kick inside the post to restore Reading's lead. With fifteen minutes gone I'd already lost my voice and my note pad! The
game had to settle down after that but I can't recall fifteen minutes like it for a long time.

A win was crucial for both teams and the commitment of both teams was evident in the ferocity of the challenges and the speed at which players were closing their opponents down. I felt Reading enjoyed more possession in the first half although the City forwards looked menacing. Murray was providing a threat on their right and Salako was being pulled about by the
runs made from midfield by Robinson. Watson had superb first half - always providing a passing option in midfield and shielding his back four with some solid defensive work. The only blemish on his performance was a harsh booking for not retreating quickly enough when City were awarded a free-kick on the half way line. It was typical of his display that the referee failed to punish a City player for an identical offence in the second half in a far more threatening position.

Cureton nearly increased the lead immediately after half time when a defensive mix-up provided an opportunity to lob the keeper from outside the area but his effort just missed the target. Ten minutes into the second half Cureton was replaced by Branch. I suppose Pardew was thinking that his pace might trouble a City defence that seemed to be keeping Cureton quiet.
Unfortunately it all went horribly wrong. Within four minutes City had equalised through Robinson. (I can't help thinking we should have seen this coming - he had been threatening to break from midfield throughout the first half.)  Branch went off with a hamstring injury, and to be honest, Rougier posed much more of a threat when he replaced him. Harper also looked good
when he replaced Hughes. The points were now up for grabs and both sides had chances to win it. The best chance fell to Forster who saw his effort deflected wide by Phillips.

As we shuffled away after the final whistle Tinnion was declared Man of the Match and we were reminded that we had just seen a great game. We so we had, but in fact it was bad day for both teams as City slipped out of the fourth play-off spot. I only hope that this result has lifted City's spirits before their trip to Brighton on Monday.

As I left, a few frustrated Royals fans were criticising Pardew. I know how they feel - but let us not forget who has got us where we are now. I also happen to think we played well today. I'm sure he is feeling the pressure as much as anyone he doesn't need his own fans adding to that pressure. I travelled to the game today on Wessex Trains - now there is an example of poor management. As I left the station this evening I decided to hang on to the timetable. It gives the times of the trains to Cardiff up to June 1st. I just hope I don't need to use it again!

Post Match Opinions

I'm very depressed. We don't have the ability to kill games off. Yet another occasion when we get an early goal, and leave with a point. What use is that?
So what if the game was entertaining?
On Monday, Brighton will beat Bristol and that will put this result into perspective. Brighton are proving they are not a one man team. Yes we are ahead on goal difference. Tonight.
If we keep drawing and they keep winning, what is that worth?
Our form is crap.
At this rate we will go to Brentford, needing a win to lift us back into automatic promotion.
I don't care what anybody else writes about here, the quality of football, the referee, etc It's all bollocks.
We needed 3 points, we had them on the rack, we fucked it up.
Where is the teams bottle? Where is their fight? Do they like playing in this shit league?
Fact: If we had won all the games where we took the lead, only to draw, we would be up already.
We can't handle the big games. Every away team loves playing at the Madjeski, we have lost points to teams that will go down, teams that will go up, and the rest of the dross that makes up Div 2.
I can't see Brentford or Brighton blowing up. That leaves us in the play offs. Our only hope is we get anybody other than Cardiff, scrape through to the final against Stoke who are the only side capable of disintegrating more than us.
The other option, is wait for the half the league to go bust during the summer, at which point the Football League will restructure and that may pull us up to replace Notts Forest, Sheff Weds etc.
Paul L, Hacked off Thatcham Royal

This is turning into a slow prolonged agonising nightmare. I must admit before kick off I'd probably have settled for a point, but that wasn't before seeing Brighton and Brentford winning yet again. It is so hard not to be negative and despondent, I love this bloody club, but the facts are there for all to see, Bournemouth, Oldham and yet again today, not once or twice but three times we throw away a flipping lead (language tempered in case kids are reading!) Supporting this club is like having an frigging ulcer the pain it puts us through. Yet again, had the pleasure of listening on radio, not allowed to go but knackers nearly ok, and once again it's just absolute agony. The time is over for what ifs and buts... its simple, we must win Monday, and we must win at least two of the last three games.
Our current form is not much short of relegation form, Oldham got beat at home by rock bottom Cambridge, what does that say about our current form. If we carry on drawing games its the kamikaze nightmare of the play offs, and we know what that means . Why can't we hold on to a lead? When we went 2-0 up I thought here we go, but no it was not to be. The defence needs a rocket up their arses and need to tighten up so much in the final four games.
Yet again Pardew takes Curo off , with over half an hour to go, I give up! It's about time Pardew stopped defending his players. He should be having them by the throat in the changing room, chucking cups about, screaming murder. Just show some bloody passion man!
Brentford seem unstoppable, if they win at Bury, then I don't think anything may not stop them. Brighton clearly didn't miss Zamora today and also have relatively easy games left. However, unbelievably, we are still top of the league and in the driving seat. I'll be at every game remaining, chewing nails, sweating, panicking, fretting, suffering nervous bouts of depression and this is supposed to be a hobby!
Is it my imagination, or is it only Reading FC who do this to their fans? Talking of which , all those who went to Bristol today, you should be proud of yourselves . The support and sound you made on the radio was truly magnificent. If the players can't do it for fantastic fans like this, then we've no chance.
Finally thanks to Bob for his good wishes after my bollock operation , brought a lump to my throat as well as my groin! Must say with it's shaven look and various colours it's quite fetching! Though tender, all ok now and I'll be there Monday.

-- Nick Newbury

It is evident after yesterday's performance that Adie Williams shouldn't be playing. If every Reading fan of the 3000 who attended were to be honest with themselves it is obvious our defence doesn't look stable with Williams in it. He is constantly relying on others to clear up after him. Had it not been for Mackie, having once again a good game, we would have come away losing and feeling more hacked off. Although City's first goal was debatable, without William's arrogance in trying to cleverly hook the ball back over his head instead of smacking the ball into touch, we would have been 2-0 up for much longer than a minute, and City would have had to work hard to get something out of the game. But of course typical Reading! No sooner than we had got into a strong position we threw it away and Bristol City had the momentum to go on and equalize, although once again their second goal was a dubious decision. At every free kick and every corner there is always pushing and shoving. This was no different, apart from City were awarded a penalty which was duly converted by Mickey Bell. But back to Wiiliams, with his experience he should know better, do something simple instead of flashy, and at this stage of the game it was important to keep it tight...and what does he do. In my opinion, Viveash is the best centre half at the club, his distribution is excellent and is always reliable and consistent with his performances, and along with Shorey, Murty (who has been our best player this season) and Mackie it would make for a much better and stable back line.
-- Nick

I understand that a lot of fans are getting frustrated after seeing an 11 point (I believe) lead over third place slip away. It is also frustrating that when we score an early goal, we seem to take on a complacent attitude and let the game slip and give the momentum to the other team. I don't think it is fair to criticise Alan Pardew for any of this, though. Thanks to Pards, the team goes out there and gets those goals. Somehow the players just don't concentrate enough after that. We should look at individual performances and not at Pards. We now have our backs against the wall and our morale must have taken a massive knock in recent weeks, though we shouldn't forget what we have achieved this season and we should still be proud of our Royals. I still believe we can wrap this season up before we go to Brentford. Even they can't win every game. They're under just as much pressure as we are, don't forget. A win today might see us bump up that cushion to five points again. Bury are also desperate for points and won't give them away without a fight. Keep thinking positive. If we have to go for the playoffs, then we will still get there in the end and maybe earn a few extra pennies whilst doing so. 
- Dylan (a positive Royal)

I'm a city fan and i was sitting adjacent to the penalty incident that led to the royals second goal..The shirt pulling took place outside the box but forster dived when he lost the ball,however that said the defender should have kept his hands to himself ! 
- Vince B. Bristol.

Well Mr Paul L, we are all disappointed, but from the way you are writing, we are in 7th position and not 1st. Yes that's right, after 42 games, we are top, by merit, because we have more points/ a better goal difference than the other 23 clubs. Bottle the big games? You obviously didn't watch either game against Huddersfield this season then. For sure Pardew is nervous, but there is a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, in his first job as a manager, with no one upstairs to turn to for any advice since Maurice departed. The expectation of the fans and the whole town demand there is pressure, but for the last 4 games, let's all get behind the manager and the team and give them a goal start, rather than a millstone around their necks.
As for the game, yes we should not have let a 2 goal lead slip, and maybe we wouldn't if Adie stopped dicking around and the ref got some glasses. But also remember that Bristol City played well and contributed to a fine game of football.

- Simon.

Who is still top? Paul l from thatcham should be getting behind the royals, is he a Brentford or Brighton fan in disguise?
The royals have been top since November and are therefore the best team in div2, with 4 games to go the ROYALS WILL BE CROWNED CHAMPIONS in May.

- Darren S Tilehurst


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