Match Report vs Tranmere

7 February 1998 (League Division One)
READING 1 Tranmere 3

Att: 7,000

Team: Bibbo, Booty, Bernal, Davies, Swales, Parkie, Houghton, Bowen, Morley, Asaba, Williams.

Following a tight victory over Cardiff in mid-week Reading sunk to new depths with possibly the worst performance of the season in front of a silent Elm Park crowd. A glamour tie this was not. And the crowd and the players knew it. It was no wonder we got what we got. 90 minutes in which Tranmere, without a win in seven games, swept the floor with us. They deserved their win.

The most notable change to the line-up was Sal Bibbo making a rare start for the Royals after Nicky Hammond aggrevated his stomach injury on Tuesday night. With Mautone still out injured this was a rare opportunity for Sal to impress. But he didn't. It wasn't really his fault though - perhaps he did make a mistake on the first goal but the rest were due to defensive error and there was little he could have done.

The game got underway with silence across the ground. The lack of atmosphere probably didn't help the lads. And as the lads were either knackered or couldn't be arsed this kind of rubbed off on the South Bank. A disasterous circle. Reading were creating nothing. Bibbo had the most to do but looked nervous. The defence were leaving big gaps and we were creating nothing up front. All I remember from us for the whole first 45 minutes was an effort from Bowen inside the box forcing the Tranmere keeper to save.

Tranmere's first came before half time from a cross on the right. The cross came over inside the six yard box but Bibbo failed to hold it when maybe he should. The ball dropped towards the far post - and there it was in the back of the net.

Reading continued with some pointless hoofs and then it was half time. Absolute crap without a doubt. The Royals left the pitch to a chorus of boos around the ground. Yep, it was shite. Yep, we had all paid our nine quid. However, we were only 0-1 down and making them leave the pitch to that was hardly going to inspire them to greater things in the second half. And it didn't. More of the same followed.

The normally brilliant Gareth Davies had an obsolute nightmare in the middle of the Reading defence. Both of Tranmere's second half goals came from right down the centre of the park. Both times the one-on-one's with Bibbo resulted in the ball in the back of the net.

Tranmere's second almost made me laugh. Reading won a free kick on the edge of the Tranmere penalty area. About five players gathered around the ball. Just Morley, I think, was in the middle. The referee blew up for the kick to be taken and almost out entire side stood around the ball gentley tapping it to each other outside the box. Tranmere stood momentarily bewildered by such pathetic football, but only for a moment before reliving us of the ball and playing it upfield. A ball down the centre for the lone attacker to round Davies and then Bibbo to slot home. With just over 20 minutes left Tranmere made it 0-3, and the home "fans" started leaving.

All of a sudden there was a glimmer of hope from the Royals. Obviously hurt by the third we started looking a bit exciting. Some good work down the left from Swales and a few passes linked together. And then we pulled one back. A great cross found Williams, who hadn't been on the pitch long, and he made no mistake with the header. The next five minutes Reading went looking to pull one more back. But it wasn't to be and Tranmere finished the game as they started - on top against an ineffective Reading team.

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