Attendance: 7,297
Scorers: Caskey Date: 8 January 2000
Team: Howie, Gurney (Forster), Primus, Polston, Gray, Grant (Bernal), Parkinson, Caskey, Nicholls (Sarr), Scott, Williams.

Audio: Supplied by Classic Gold radio.
0-1: Primus and Howie are beaten
1-1: Caskey fires home

Match Hero: Williams

The game kicked off with both Reading and Blackpool in the relegation positions - Reading twenty first and Blackpool a single place behind. A relegation battle then, with both teams needing the full three points to offer hopes of Division Two survival. Therefore it seems no suprise that Reading, with home advantage, were booed off the pitch at the final whistle after only managing a 1-1 draw when the win was essential. However they didn't deserve that after a determined performance that lacked skill and luck rather than passion and effort. Reading were by far the superior team and controlled the game, particually after Blackpool were reduced to ten men in the second half, but the Royals lacked the killer instinct up front. The boos at the final whistle were more down to pure frustration than anger at the team performance. We should have won it, but instead came away with a near useless draw. Once again the optimist can take plenty from this game - Reading look better now than the majority of the first half of the season and were playing some decent football at times - the pessimist can probably take more and say if we can't turn over a ten man Blackpool at home then we're doomed. This was Reading's eleventh league match without a victory.

In a lot of ways this game was similar to the 0-0 home draw against Notts County. The first half wasn't up to anything much but Reading had the upper hand. The second half was far greater entertainment as the Royals were all over them and should have won by a couple of goals. Reading commanded the game and had shot after shot after shot - but we only found the net once when we were already a goal down to Blackpool's only shot of the second half.

Blackpool's contribution to the first half was plenty of long balls and hoofed clearances, as plenty of passes from both sides failed to find targets. Blackpool had their best spell half way through the first half when they won loads of corners one after the other. Thankfully for Reading the away side appeared to suffer from the same kind of problems Reading have - each corner was wasted. Loads of them were played to the near post and everytime they were cleared. When they varied their tactic it was played hopelessly away from goal for an easy clearance from Reading. Howie didn't have to make a save, his main contribution was to simply catch the odd ball played hopefully in the air in the box.

Down the other end Reading made enough chances to be ahead at the break but we weren't sharp enough in front of goal. On-loan Nicholls, making his home debut in a three man front line, should have scored when the ball was crossed low from the right through a crowd of players. He didn't seem to expect to get the ball and in the end it just bounced off his shins. The best move of the half belonged to Martin Williams. Williams who seemed to be playing on both wings at different stages of the game got down the right wing this time, beat his man and played the ball to Caskey just inside the box. Williams ran on, Caskey returned the ball inch perfect, and Williams shot from near the penalty spot. The keeper made the save to his left. Williams had also done well with a header moments before - the ball was crossed in, the keeper came off his line and Williams' header almost looped over him and into the net - but the keeper grabbed it at full stretch.

Reading got off to the worst possible start in the second half. Blackpool broke leaving their number twenty-five with just Primus and Howie to beat. Primus ran side by side but was eventually muscled off the ball as the Blackpool forward strode into the area. With Primus playing it fair, unable to make the tackle unless it was from behind, the forward shot as Howie came off his line, to send the ball into the right side of Howie's net. 0-1. At home to Blackpool. This could not be happening. The East Stand starting really getting behind the side as we pushed forward looking for the equaliser. All we needed was a bit of luck. And that's exactly what we seemed to get when just a few minutes later Blackpool were reduced to ten men. Gurney went legging it down the right wing and was hacked down, as he lay on the floor the guilty player strangely came over and gave Gurney a good kicking. The referree had no choice but to get out the red card. This was the signal - just what Reading needed to really get in the game. The atmosphere got louder, Reading got more confident, and from this moment onwards there was only one team in the game as Reading camped out in the Blackpool half looking for goals. Pardew brought on Mass Sarr, and despite being a goal down I was certain we'd go on and win it.

Sarr got his first touch as the ball was played in from the right side of the box - a free kick from the boot of Caskey. Contact was made just a few yards out and the ball smacked against the base of the right post. It came out to Williams but he couldn't make it count from close range. Reading kept on pushing and pushing and the equaliser came. The ball was worked down the left wing and then threaded across goal inside the box. Williams got past his man and crossed to Sarr in the middle. Mass looked like he should blast it home with just the keeper to beat, but with a man closing him down didn't take the glory and threaded the ball on again to Caskey storming into the box on the right who blasted it home. Yes. 1-1. And that was it - we were definately going to win it seemed. Plenty of time to get the extra goal and so much on top.

And so it continued with the game on level terms and Reading keeping possession and trying to work some chances. Caskey had a free kick that looked like it might be one of his specials - past the wall and dipping on target. Unfortunately their keeper was on fine form to make a great save and push it wide. Then shot after shot after shot. With time running out, thanks to plenty of Blackpool time wasting (who could blame them), Pardew made it more attacking by replacing Gurney, who was starting to play some very strange balls, with Forster. So we now had a four man front line - Forster, Williams, Scott, and Sarr. But did it make any difference? Did it buggery. All we had to do was provide some supply to any one of the four up front. Instead we stopped working the ball into the area and started putting in loads of useless long shots. Pure panic, but all it was achieving was giving the away side plenty of goal kicks as it went sailing high and wide each time. We even had an extra five minutes of stoppage time to get the goal - but by then we'd forgotten how to work the ball forward. To add to the frustration ex-Swindon boss and new Blackpool manager Steve McMahon triumphantly walked over to celebrate the point with the away fans at the final whistle. They are obviously sensing a chance of survival - will it be at the expense of Reading?

Post Match Opinions

Having been to watch The Royals for the first time yesterday I can say I was impressed by the surroundings, and overall enjoyed the game. Perhaps however it may be better for Reading, to play the second half first in future. The effort in the second period was immense, spoilt only by one defensive error, and the team were unfortunate not to seal a win. Hopefully they will be able to climb to safety in the next few games, and establish a platform from which they can develop further.
-- Ian Berry, Sandhurst

Another disappointment which only served to emphasise the lack of quality in the squad. I heard several rumblings around me in the West stand calling for Pardew to go, which is madness. In this match we had all the favorites on the field, Sarr, Scott,Williams and Forster together with 'million-pound' man Caskey yet were unable to find the invention to get past a mediocre ten men. I don't profess to have the answer (if I did I would have applied for the job) but I do know that we, as fans and lovers of Reading F C, will achieve nothing by carping on at the management. They need our support more than ever now. When the good times come, and they will, the thousands of "life long" fans will re-appear with their "never doubted them" smiles ready to bask in the glory. We at least will be able to say we were there in the dark days and we will enjoy the light even more.
-- "Pebejay"

Whilst it is refreshing to hear a Manager who "tell's it like it was" after the match - his opinions always reflect those of the supporters - I find this most frustrating as he is the only person who can do anything about the faults. Pardew really must convince the Chairman to spend big money on a Striker rather than blood premier lightwight upstarts on loan who never live up to their big billing (Nicholls looked no more dangerous than Brayson). I am sure the fans would rather see some of our own youngsters on display who have a long term future with the Club. Keith Scott really must be pensioned off. I do not question his commitment but his fitness is not up to the standard required of a professional sportsman and never has since he arrived from Wycombe. It is about time the Chairman stopped our Managers from signing players over 30 years of age.
-- Tim C, Newbury

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