Match Report vs Stoke City

4 April 1998 (League)
READING 2 Stoke City 0

Att: 10,500

Team: Howie, Bernal, Primus, Parkinson, Gray, Crawford, Meaker, Caskey, O'Neill, McIntyre, Lambert.

Men Of The Match: McIntyre, O'Neill, Meaker.

Report from Ted Cull:

Fighting spirit, accurate passing and even some skill. Surely not the way to describe the most recent Reading performances, but the time's they are a changing. Maybe it is all too late but the paying fans deserve to see those qualities, even if they result in defeat. Thankfully, against a side that have the worst record in Division One this year they didn't. However this match started like so many of this years home games, with the away side looking the more composed. For fifteen minutes plus the Blue and White hoops failed to get hold of the ball and Stoke looked likely to follow in Tranmere, Portsmouth, Huddersfield and Port Vale's footsteps. In fact, Chris Kamara's side almost took the lead on a couple of occasions but failed to capitalise on their chances.

Just over halfway through the first half a poor James Lambert corner fell back at the wingers feet and he made room at the bye-line for a pin point cross to Micheal O'Niell on the far post, who nodded the ball over Neville Southall into the net. That seemed to give the players and the fans more confidence and Reading began to take control and managed to make it until 45 minutes, to have a half time lead.

Tommy Burns half time team talk obviously wasn't "CARRY ON AS YOU'RE DOING LADS" because the players came out with more of an idea of what they should be doing. Stoke are an ordinary side without confidence and Reading began to command Elm Park. At last!. So often this season sides that are quiet honestly RUBBISH have come to Reading and got a point or better. Sheffield Utd...QPR....Bury....Swindon (should have been a sign of things to some) Portsmouth and Huddesfield were all useless opponents but Reading were worse.

This was different. In the second half the team looked like they were going to win and not going to give away with sloppy defending. However it was the worst player in the Royals line-up who managed to get the all important second goal. Micheal Meaker is a phenomenom. He's described as one of the fastest players in the league. What league I am not sure, perhaps it's the Slowest Snail of the Week league! He gets the ball on the wing and constantly fails to test out the opposing full-back and get past him. At least you could try Micheal. This time he picked the ball up on the edge of the area cut inside and hit the ball low inside the near post. Frankly Southall looks like a fat second rate keeper, and should have saved the shot but who's complaining.

So Reading held out for a rare win. Jamie Lambert showing encouraging signs of skill and the new boys (goodness knows how I'm going to work out who's who before the end of the season) all performing well. Parkinson looks solid at the back but against a pacey attack I'm not so sure, while Andy Bernal looked his old self (remember the sense of loss when he went off at Wembley against Bolton).

The chances of survival remain slim, especially considering who the last games are against but now there's that glimmer of hope. Even worse then if we do go down. Let's hope Tommy Burns can continue to improve on the mess Bullivant left.

And a report from PA Jones:

What is this strange sensation? Goals? A victory over P*ss-poor opposition? And all this with a patched up defence? I think it's called hope.

The game started ominously reminiscent of the Vale game. Disjointed scrappy play and the surprisingly quiet and disctracted. The soggy pitch took its toll on attempts to pass the ball on the ground. Reading seemed to be standing off Stoke, and letting them have the ball in the middle of the park, as long as it went nowhere near their toothless attack.

O'Shite's goal was a beauty. Lambert's crap corner had gone straight back to him, and he lifted a looping cross into the box. O'Shite seemed to rise several feet above those around him and headed the ball firmly past Stoke's strangely familiar keeper(I'm sure that I've seen him somewhere). All the frustration of recent games dissipated, and the South Bank got down to what it does best- some serious gloating!

It got better early in the second half. McIntyre, who'd spent the afternoon having the back of his legs kicked, received the ball and knocked it off to O'Quitegood, who played a lovely ball through to Meaker. He took it to one side of the defender immediately in front of him, and slammed it low into the net. Cue hysteria, and stacks more gloating.

Really we should have had at least another one: Meaker rounded Stoke's "big-boned" last line of defence with a Gazza-style flick and then rolled the ball at the unguarded net, only for a defender to slide in and block it; O'Prettygood had a fierce drive well saved after a nifty interchange with Lambert; and someone(couldn't see who) was so shocked to receive the ball three yards out in front of a gaping net after good work on the left, that they froze. Still no need to be greedy now.

Overall, it's hard to choose between Lambert, Meaker, and O'Bloodygood for Man of the Match. I'd probably give it to the the last of the three, due to how well he played above my lowly expectations. Lambert took the p*ss out of Stoke's defence all game, and actually got some excellent crosses in. Meaker was his usual self- some defences he doesn't get a look in with, but some he can make a real nuisance of himself- and it was a cracking goal. Caskey made some good passess, and he's looking even slimmer than I remembered him to be(or was that just because he was standing near Stoke's "husky" keeper?). McIntrye battled away, but his main role seemed to be to distract the Stoke defence to allow the midfield players more space to run into. This was very effective, and he's certainlky more suited to this role than Asaba! Speaking of whom, Asaba came on for Meaker with a few minutes to go, and was playing in his more natural position, out wide, and, although he didn't get many touches, he showed some flashes of skill that made me hope to see him in this role in the future. Primus played very well in defence, and so luckily Parky wasn't put under any pressure. Gray looked competent. Howie was impressive in the little that he had to do. I didn't notice Crawford that much.

To sum up, we didn't play as consistently well as against Huddersfield, but we have definitely got self-belief back, and we scored, and looked like we believed that we were going to win - and did! The real tests are now to come. Let's hope that Kelly's back for the Easter games, and let's get four points from the next two games!

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