FA Cup Round Three
Attendance: 8,536
Scorers: McIntyre Date: 11 December 1999
Team: Howie, Bernal, Primus, Polston, Murty, Evers (Grant), Parkinson, Caskey, Gurney (Sarr), McIntyre, Williams (Scott).
Audio: Nope.
Match Hero: McIntyre

Although the final result would disagree, Reading were much improved - and really should have got the win against a Plymouth side who were outplayed for most of the game. If Reading had scored another one or two when they were already a goal to the good, which they should have done, and been victorious they would have been applauded off the pitch. As it was there were still some who choose to boo Reading at the end despite a determined showing from the Royals. There's no doubt our finishing cost us a passage straight through.

Such was Reading's will to win the game Plymouth looked most likely to create something on the break - and the main reason was because we were trying to create chances. So yes, on paper a poor result drawing at home against a lower division club. And also the late equaliser was "typical Reading". But all those fans desperately looking for some positive signs from Reading performances must have seen at least a glimmer of hope out there.

The 8,536 crowd make a mockery of the club's decisision to enforce reserved seating in the East Stand with yet another low Reading turnout. The away end was probably holding at least 2,500 travelling Plymouth fans. The Plymouth fans had arrived to make some noise and enjoy their FA Cup moment at a ground not as far away as the rest of the country. However Reading probably dimmed the noise by taking the game to Plymouth right from the kick off. It took Plymouth a full five minutes to break out of their half as Reading patiently played the ball around trying to carve out an opportunity.

For a moment it seemed like Burns football was back as Plymouth waited for the mistake in the build up and took the ball up the other end to have the first shot on target and almost take the lead. On the break the ball was crossed from the right and volleyed towards the top of Howie's net from the middle. Thankfully Howie was there to make a decent save and tip the ball over the bar. Howie continues to do nearly everything right as he attempts to keep his place as first choice keeper with Whitehead injured, even Howie's kicking was noticably improved.

The majority of the rest of the first half was all Reading although Plymouth continued to look dangerous on the break and capable of a goal with a few shots on target. We were playing an unbalanced formation with Murty and Gurney working down the right with Gurney playing right up front, while down the left Bernal was the lone player with Caskey, Evers and Parkinson all playing more traditional midfield roles. This meant that we didn't create anything down the left with Bernal expected to make runs that would leave us exposed. Down the right though Murty and Gurney were working well together. With Gurney pushed further forward than he's used to he had a couple of chances to push Reading into the lead.

One of these was a great move involving almost the entire side moving the ball patiently forward and then from left to right across the midfield until the ball was playing from the right backwards into the centre of the box leaving Gurney with a chance to blast it home. Gurney found the target but didn't get enough power onto it and didn't manage to push it to one side of the defender on the line who cleared to safety. Moments before Gurney had found himself with a similar position further out that had the power but not the position. Bernal had another Reading chance meeting a cross from the right with a header, and as Reading continued to push forward we were doing everything but score. Until eventually, with ten minutes of the half remaining our constant work down the right was rewarded.

Gurney fed Murty the ball as he made the overlapping run on the outside down the right wing. Murty cut in and played a great low cross into the box just far enough away from the keeper but only a matter of yards from the goal line. Caskey missed it or left it, and the ball came to McIntyre in the middle who slid in to send the ball flying into the back of the net. Yes! 1-0 to the Royals - and a decent well worked goal at that. Perhaps this is a sign that we're starting to understand we can't cross the ball high into the box and expect to score, low crosses like this work well with players like McIntyre and Williams up front.

At half time Williams was replaced by Keith Scott returning from injury, and then the pattern of the first half continued. Evers, who had had a very quiet first half, started to get into the game a bit more as Reading actually looked creative, but was eventually replaced by the more physical Grant. Every Reading player appeared to be giving it their all. At the back Primus and Polston were showing themselves to be the best combination Reading could possibly have at the centre of the defence by miles. They were superb, winning everything pumped forward and tackling like perfection whenever Plymouth broke. We started to fade a little down the right but it seemed OK as our midfield were looking far better than of recent times with some half decent ball distribution - particually from Caskey who played a couple of excellent balls to players running forward onto them. Sure there were the usual poor balls flying out of play - but improvement on show.

The one goal seemed that is was never going to be enough, and with eight minutes to go, Plymouth proved it wasn't. A well worked move ended up with the ball coming out from inside the Reading box to a player lurking on the edge of the area to the left. He unleashed a great shot that flew past Howie into the right of the net past a couple of players. 1-1. The Plymouth away support at last burst into life and went mental, with a few spilling onto the pitch, and the scorer ripped off his shirt in celebration. Bollocks.

With the game running out it looked like Plymouth might well grab the winner as Reading heads dropped - gutted by the last equaliser. Luckily we came back to life before it was fatal and composed ourselves seemingly ready for the draw. With just three minutes left Mass Sarr finally made his entrance in place of Gurney - who had had a great first half but a less impressive second half. It could be reasonably argued that Sarr should have come on when we were a goal up to help us push for that second goal to kill the game off. When he came on with the score at 1-1 and just a couple of minutes left it was clearly far too late. He did have one long range that flew miles wide and high - but that was only his warm up perhaps.

So more disappointment, but no reason why we can't win the replay to get another home FA Cup game against Preston in round four.

Post Match Opinions

Same result, but different performance. Those fans who were not there on Saturday will look at the result and think that nothing has changed, that Royals got a goal, sat back on it and conceded a sloppy goal in the second half. Well for once it was not like that. The whole approach of the team was more positive, with Caskey dominating the first half where Reading really should have tied up the game. The fact that they did not was due their inability to hit the target when in good positions. At least there was something for the crowd to cheer about. The so called Reading fans who were not there were put to shame by the size of the Plymouth contingent who easily out shouted those of us who were there to cheer the team on. It is true that the defence did have one or two suspect moments, but it was a game that Reading dominated and could and should have won 3-1. In the second half the home team definitely weakened and made you wonder about the fitness of key players. Williams had to go off with what looked like hamstring problems and although Scott put in a wholehearted performance, he clearly is not fit. Primus too struggled to get back from a corner in the second half and did not look his usual self apart from a couple of excellent tackles. It was Caskey who stole the show with Murty starting to link up well with him which bodes well for the future. Skippy continues to give his all for the team. He had a good header at goal and made some penetrating runs despite getting clobbered for his troubles. He may not be a natural at left back but at least he gives his best. Reading should face the replay with confidence, but you never know with them!! -- Ken Chennells

I was at the Plymouth game on Saturday and I have a feeling that complaints about lack of effort and commitment are now unjustified; the Pants Day may have been bypassed! -- Rupert Cox

Better performance than that in midweek, but still room for much improvement. We still appear unable to defend from set pieces and the crossed ball, something that is surprising with poeple like LInvoy and Polsten at the back. Murty's poor first touch was exposed too often and Skippy and Gurney are far from good footballer's. But there where quite a few plus points, including the superb performances of McIntrye and the solid performance of Primus. Howie looked safe and Parky put himslef about well. Not bad is my verdict -- Darryl Gillett

I was at the Plymouth game yesterday with my dad and allthough we where against a division three side I thought that we showed some promise and where unlucky to go straight through to the next round. I think that some people should give Pardew a chance because he has not got a great squad to turn things around. I think that our problem is Madjeski. He has done good things for the club but the fans would prefer to be at The great Elm Park with a great squad then have a very large empty stadium and a cack team.If he thinks that we are going to be in the Premiership in five years without spending a penny he must be blind or lying.a few months ago {before pardews reign} pardew mentioned that we a good by was Jeff Hoarsefield {who is know at fhulam} and he onmly cost a penny but Madjeski would not put his hand in his pocketn.This centre forward is now being chased by some premiership clubs for 2.5 Million. -- Alex Fenn

Maybe we could get the defenders and goalkeepers hypnotised in to believing that a game of football lasts 100 minutes. That way they would stop letting in goals in the last five minutes. -- Stephen McCoull

Reading put in a good performance for this cup tie especially in the first half, every player giving their best. Jim Mcintyre seemed to be a different player from what we have seen in past as he went for every ball and showed skill, determination, good crossing, and even scored. But Reading were undone by an stoppable goal from Plymouth, perhaps tighter defending at the start of that particular Plymouth offensive may have prevented the ball reaching the scoring player but all in all it was a goal that any club could have conceded.
Reading dominated the entire game, they kept the ball on the floor and showed some great passing with Darren Caskey spraying accurate long passes all over the pitch. The only reason that Plymouth are still in the tie is because Reading built their attacks too slowly and when they did get the ball into the Plymouth box a lack of fire power proved our undoing.
Defensively we looked solid and as soon as we get some players back who can play on the left we will be even better. Our weakness is the lack of a big quick centre forward who can feed off decent wingers who will deliver the ball in quick attacks.
Howie: Never had much to do. 6
Murty: Good solid performance and delivers good crosses into the danger areas. 7
Primus: Can anyone get the better of him ?. Wins the ball and knock the opponent half way up the pitch in one move. 8
Polston: Solid defending, did everything right. 7
Bernal: Out of position in a left back role but held it together. 6
Gurney: Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Too inconsistent. 5
Evers: Largely anonymous, never made an impact. 5
Caskey: Great vision and passing if a little slow delivering sometimes. 8
Parky: Usual battling game from Parky, great ball winner. 7
McIntyre: Battled, showed skill, crossing ability and determination. 9
Williams: Worried the Plymouth defence until he went off. Cant help thinking he would make a better winger. 7
Scott (on for Williams): Tried hard but is too slow and lacks stamina. 6

-- Deano

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