3 October 1998
Reading 2 Stoke 1
Crawford, McPherson, Primus, Casper, Brebner, Parkinson, Caskey, Brayson (McIntyre),
Yes, this is the way things should be. The best game the Madejski Stadium has ever seen - without a doubt. It was like watching a different team out there. The difference was everything that has been missing up until now. Everyone out there in a hooped shirt wanted to win the game - there was determination and passion - things that have been missing so far this season. There was still the build up, decent passing, but played quick and fast and all over the place. AND FOWARDS.
You also have to remember that Stoke were league leaders on merit. They played their part - but we were just that little bit better to justify the win. This was by no means an easy win - Stoke had come to claim the three points themselves. It'll be interesting to read the Stoke fan's view.
Tommy Burns rewarded Crawford with his impressive performance at Walsall in midweek with another first team start - to play in a wing-back position which he did with quite some style. McPherson, Primus and Casper made up the rest of the defence with Glasgow, who deservedly has become a first team regular this season, playing a full back / winger role. With the superb Brebner partnering captain Caskey and, Phil "2389237% effort" Parkinson in midfield, the only real weak link appeared to be up front with Brayson supporting Williams. Brayson can't really be faulted as he worked his arse off up front, but unfortunately failed to make a real impression - too often being hassled off the ball by a solid Stoke defence and less frequently showing some skillful touches.
The game got off perhaps as expected with Stoke having the upper hand. But less as expected Reading quickly got into the game. We were tackling like nobody's business and we were running all over the park rather than hanging back. The only thing the first half really lacked was clear goalscoring opportunities. If it had stayed at 0-0 noone could have said it was anything but exciting. With the game creeping towards half time Burns was shouting from the bench for Primus to stay back - to keep it nice and tight. A goal conceeded at this time could have been disasterous. But then it was Reading who took the lead right on the stroke of half time. And what a goal. The most satisfying thing was that it was quite clearly a goal out of the Tommy Burns football textbook. A move that started deep in the Reading half saw almost the whole team link together - creating attacking football from the back. Grant Brebner started and finished the move - a move that involved about half of the Reading team. The memory's a little hazy after the post-match celebration beers in the Turtle with Gary the lucky mascot, and alcoholic, but eventually I think it was Glasgow who found Caskey on the right wing. Caskey delivered the cross and Brebner slid in. 1-0 to the Royals and the half time whistle.
Stoke always looked dangerous and as soon as the second half kicked off they looked likely to score. Primus and Casper were doing a fantastic job in the centre of defence winning everything in the air as Stoke pumped high balls into the box. Primus' biggest mistake of the game was one of those fatal back passes we've seen in recent times - luckily Howie came racing out to claim it. After one shakey moment in the first half Howie turned into second half hero. Primus, despite being brilliant for the rest of the game lost out on the far post Howie blocked the close range shot with his body after racing out, the second weak effort found Primus back on the line to hoof the ball behind to safety. Howie was in top form to keep Reading in it claiming god knows how many crosses into the box, and flinging his body in the right directions at the right times...
Of course Stoke eventually equalised. Hey, these things happen! But Reading refused to let it get to them and continued to push forwards looking for the win. We were brilliant in midfield. At last we were controlling it and playing the ball out from midfield with a bit of urgency - but with enough patience not to make mistakes. Reading's greater possession eventually paid off. Reading took the lead again with a Crawford cross from the left, McIntyre meeting the high ball with his head make it 2-1. A deserved goal after Reading continued to run the fantic midfield battle. Glasgow's enthusiasm appears to be rubbing off on the rest of the team. Crawford and Brebner caught on, successfully turning people all over the place.
With normal time coming to a close Stoke won a couple of corners - you could feel the tension across the whole of the East Stand. It was all too good to be true - I could hardly watch as Stoke looked for the late equaliser. A lethal shot from outside the area narrowly missed Howie's right post at about 600 miles an hour. The ref's watch had obviously packed in, as he played a stupid amount of time for injuries. A nice attempt to let Stoke grab a point but the Royals weren't having any of it. For the last five minutes of injury time it was all Reading again - using attack as the best form of defence, to take all 3 points. Fantastic.
All of a sudden it seems Burns has found the winning combination with this combination of players. Brebner was a blinding signing and is just going to get better and better. Glasgow has installed that much needed excitement back into watching the Royals with his pacey runs and willingness to go past players before laying the ball off. With Casper joining Primus and Macca in defence we now have a 3 player wall across the back. All this and with Mass "we're no worthy" Sarr still out suspended!
Lets just hope that we can continue this form after our two week break - when a win over Gillingham should be well within our reach. We all knew Tommy would sort it out given the time.
Heres a report from David Spencer:
It seems a good exercise to liken the fortunes of the Royals this season with that of the new stadium. For example there's great potential with an obviously outstanding facility but not all the parts have been put in place (the food service/program sellers and car park etc). Likewise with the team. You could say that the now defunct steps outside the ground are much like Mr Invisble Reilly, they have no real purpose anymore. Now it seems that the potential of both ground and team are starting to show.
Certainly there have been few signs of encouragement from some of the lacklustre displays this season. This was not one of them. Confidence is an important thing when we're talking about football. Hot on the heels of a good win at Walsall, Reading showed they can be as good and better than the so called favoured teams in the division. The home side took awhile to settle after a slightly shakey start when Stoke, with a large and rowdy following, looked threatening (what is it about Stoke fans?...They stormed the south bank once..they seemed intent on having a go with the East Stand this time).
It was reassuring to see that instead of folding to a strong team Reading kept organised and stiffled the Stoke threat while putting together some good attacks. Just on the stroke of half time good build play on the right saw Caskey cut a ball across the six yard box for Brebner to slot home. It is really that easy. After half time the fear that Reading would once again try and sit on a one goal advantage didn't come true. But the Division Two leaders did start to see more of the ball in the attacking third with Keen (what a mouth he's got) putting in some threatening balls. Then after 69 minutes the Reading defence failed to hear the guy next to me shout "THERE'S TWO GUYS UNMARKED ON THE FAR POST" and Stoke got the equaliser. That meant a new lease of life for the Potteries side's anthem "Delilah"...Not a tribute to the now moved on McGhee era midfielder/referee TOM JONES. Thankfully Reading didn't buckle and again surged forward (well not quite surged) with Glasgow making use of acres of space down the left. And it was from the left that a looping cross managed to get to the far post where Jimmy McIntyre (on for the hard working, if still a bit of a donkey Brayson) nodded home. Chuffed and a bit!!!!
Stoke then hit the woodwork and Reading failed to make use of what looked like a five on one break and then the final whistle and suddenly the doom and gloom has lifted a bit. In a week Reading have beaten the top two sides and beaten them well. Just think soon we will be talking about who to drop. Just think Sarr back from suspension and Murty (we hope) soon back and we may have to look at dropping Williams...the top scorer. Yes Williams...funny player. Strugles to stay on his feet but still works hard despite the touch of Carlton Palmer.
McIntrye looked lively when he come on and could score lots of goals in this division while Casper at the back is ina different class and will be much the same as David Lee...Do you remember him. Scored 3 goals (I think) when on-loan from Chelsea a few seasons ago only to be outpriced. Crawford looks better than Booty but so would a lampost at right back and Glasgow is a revelation. As Jimmy Hill would say 8/10 with still some work to do. And Tommy, you've bought yourself some time. now make use of it!!!