Team: Howie; Primus (Davies), Parkinson, Crawford, Kelly, Gray, Brayson, Caskey, McIntyre (Morley), O'Neill (Meaker), Lambert.
Bollocks. Another frustrating game in front of a near full Elm Park - with up to 1,000 Reading fans locked out. The highest gate of the season saw the Royals look promising in patches but unable to really make it count.
Middlesbrough used the most unfair tactic of taking an early lead. We never come back from a goal behind - well, not this season. And then we found it difficult to sustain pressure on the Boro goal after they decided that one would be enough and sat on the lead to produce a very dull game. This must have been Boro's worst performance of the season. It must have been because they were shite. But we failed to do anything about it - such is the luck of the team at the foot of the table.
The Reading defence hadn't sorted itself out when Boro took the lead after just 8 minutes. Wonderfully enough for reporters from all the national papers, Merson and Gazza combined to fumble the ball through a Reading defence that stood and watched in a line. Parkie failed to mark up - still unsure if he was a central defender or right back I think. The ball came to that Branca bloke who did pretty well to fire the ball in past Howie in the Reading goal. Bollocks. And that was that.
The rest of the first half was a non-event. Dull, Dull, Dull. Primus and Kelly looked nice and solid at the back. Boro weren't really trying but we contained them nicely anyway. There was a fair few hoofs and some terrible Reading passing - but thankfully this was matched by Middlesbrough. Shit.
But thankfully the second half picked up and the Royals looked like they might level the game. We played a few less wild balls a few less hoofs. The game turned with the replacement of O'Neill after half time with Mike Meaker. O'Neill wasn't too bad but a bit off the play, Meaker was up for it and injected a bit of excitement into the game with his runs down the right wing. Twice Brayson should have put the Royals level. Once he simply failed to connect with the cross, another bought a save from the Boro keeper. McIntyre had a decent header that looped over the bar and then the game slowed down again. Yep, there was no doubt that Boro controlled the pace when it should have been us. And for that reason the 14,500 crowd were always going to go home disappointed.
Probably the best moment of the game for the home fans was also the worst. Hignett, having came on a sub, first got booked for hoofing the ball away after the whistle, and then secondly for a diabolical foul on the promising Paddy Kelly. The second was worth a red alone but earned Hignett a second yellow and his marching orders. With three subs used both games played out the last few minutes with 10 men.
So three games left and at the very least two wins needed. Lose at Wolves this weekend coming and surely it is all over.
Here's a nice report from a Boro fan:
From Karl Pearson: Well, what words can I use? Pathetic, lazy, heartless?? There are so many I could be here all night. The best thing about the whole match was the fact I only had a 20 minute drive home. Reading looked absolutely appalling, but that said, they managed to outplay us for the last 70 minutes!! On a bitterly cold afternoon, with the odd snow shower, Boro appeared fired up from the off. Seemingly determined to halt our poor run of away form, Boro created a number of chances, probably the best falling to Townsend around the 6th minute, which looked destined for the back of the net, but was blasted wide.
Then some nice exchanges of play down our left ended with Branca managing to dig the ball out from underneath his feet (don't know how, it looked like he`d blown it!), and he was able to slot it home,wide of the despairing keeper. At this point Boro looked like they could repeat the 4-0 thumping at the Riverside, but that was where the story ended. Reading battled hard in midfield, and Boro didn' seem to have a cutting edge about them to break the routine of Reading winning the battles. Somehow Boro maintained the lead until halftime, although for all Reading's attacking work, Arnie didnt really have to make a good save.
Second half must be better we thought! Wrong!!!!!! Reading looked the more likely to score, and Gazza`s substitution resulted in a sending off for Hignett. The first booking was for having a shot at goal when he was offside. A little harsh considering two Reading players had already done the same thing, and the ref`s whistle was a little quiet. The second card I didn't really see, but the guy was left on the floor in agony and stretchered off. I'm not making a comment because I didn't see it. Merson squandered a glorious opportunity with just the keeper to beat, although the keeper is probably due a little praise.
With finger nails bitten down to nothing, Reading continued to press for the equalizer, and only a great reaction save from Arnie stopped that happening. Don't you just love being a Boro fan!!!?? My heart rate at the end must have been very high. Must also congratulate the Reading fans for their fighting spirit. Fancy having the bottle to sing: "You`re cr*p and you`re staying down" when they are bottom!!!