Attendance: 6,953
Scorers: If only... Date: 15 January 2000
Team: Howie, Gurney, Primus, Polston, Bernal, Gray (Sarr), Parkinson, Caskey, Nicholls, Scott (Forster), Williams.

Audio: Supplied by Classic Gold radio.
Coming Soon

Match Hero: Howie

So that was Reading's 12th league match without a victory - and still there's no signs of anything changing. This match was exactly the same as what had gone before. It now seems the common tactics to do nothing for the first forty five minutes and only start playing when the second half gets underway. Despite stepping up the pace in the second half we had the usual poor luck in front of goal, didn't create enough chances, played some shocking balls and never really looked confident that we could win it. Cambridge were bottom of the table, and if this game is anything to go by then relegation is a certainty now - not a possibility.

The majority of fans have already become used to the idea of relegation - so much so that the Madejski Stadium's first ever pitch invasion at the end of the ninety minutes was nothing more than pure embarrassment for all the fans left in the stands watching in disbelief. About two hundred fans poured onto the pitch from the left side of the East Stand but it was quickly clear they were just using the team's recent poor form as an excuse to get on the pitch. Those who really cared stayed in the stands. Those that took to the pitch, with the average age of less than 16, could have won a slice of respect if the pitch invasion was to make a point to the directors over in the West Stand. Had they all stormed directly over there chanting for change it would have had more impact and more support. As it was they didn't know what to do and didn't seem to give a shit about Reading Football Club by running over towards the Cambridge United fans. Real fans don't go pulling bits of the pitch up, swinging on crossbars, pulling out corner flags and attempting to start trouble with rival fans while the club remains locked in a downward spiral into division three. The result and performance was depressing enough without having to endure further depression watching those scenes. Thankfully the minority on the pitch did eventually make their way towards the west stand, surely the intended target, but did it really make Mr. Madejski think any differently? I think not.

The match itself was pretty uneventful. The only real suprise was that Reading's only booking of the match went to clean-playing Linvoy Primus - his first yellow of the season so far. The rest of the match was predictable as ever and really wasn't that different to last week against Blackpool - except we played far worse in the first half and susbstantially worse in the second half too. Sure, we chalked up a fair few shots which will go down in the statistics records, but the reality was the vast majority were ridiculous long range efforts that would never find the net.

The away side had the better of the first half despite clearly coming for the draw. Right from the off they were playing out time - their tactics were entirely successful though. We just didn't know what to do as Cambridge kept all their men behind the ball packing the defence and only rarely coming forward. When the away side did come forward they managed to look marginally better than Reading coming forward. But it was clear we were watching two very poor sides. Howie made a couple of decent saves and did very well to hold the ball in mid air after diving to save a couple of shots heading for the back of the net. He was also looking far better with crosses - not that they were that dangerous - but he clung on to most of the balls pumped into the box (not that there were that many). A further sign of Reading's lack of involvement, despite enjoying the most of the ball, was the fact we didn't win a single corner in the whole first half.

Reading's attempts were limited to about five or six long range Caskey efforts. Warming up before the game he couldn't find the target, it didn't change during the same. Every time we shot from outside the box - not a single shot was on target as the Cambridge keeper just watched them fly wide or high, or both. We wouldn't make any real chances. We were scared to cross the ball - with Gray and Gurney both guilty. No problem at all up until the last quarter of the pitch when we were totally ineffective. Most of all it was despressing because we were completely unwilling to play the quick ball forward - everything was slow, predictable, and useless leaving it easy for United to defend. Add to that some way off passes and some poor demonstrations of control and the first half was very forgettable.

Scott had had a terrible first half, so it was a relief when Forster appeared for the second half. Reading stepped up the pace of the game in the second half looking for a goal and we actually managed to create a couple of chances we could have put away when Forster was twice delivered the ball inside the box. The first attempt was a chip over the keeper, which didn't dip until it was clear of the crossbar. The second attempt Forster seemed certain to score with just the keeper to beat and the whole goal to aim at. Unfortunately he went for power rather than direction and blasted the ball directly at the keeper who made the save. The game began to fade away again. Sarr come on for Gray who was trying unsuccessfully to get the ball down the wing, but added little. As usual Reading game into life in the last five minutes when we played ball after ball towards the United area looking for a last gasp winner, but we couldn't finish it off. I can't help thinking if we injected pace and determination from the start we'd be ok, but these qualities were sadly lacking. Tactically we didn't have a clue, we've got to stop trying it straight down the middle and get some crosses in for a change. But it's got worse in that the players no longer believe they're capable of a win.

So a relegation match - but hardly a "battle". Another game we had to win - and we drew.

Post Match Opinions

If the club doesnít act now weíre going down. I canít see the current players getting us out of the mire. Itís true that we might have more luck against teams who fancy their chances and come and attack rather than sitting back and wasting time such as Blackpool and Cambridge, but our performances against these two highlight our deficiencies. The answerís not that hard, producing it something different. Speed and incision, the like of which we have not seen since Gilkes (getting him back might be no bad thing, look what he did against us for Millwall).
Cambridge when they had a chance ran at our defence and caused trouble. When we had a break against Blackpool, we tapped it about until they got all 9 players back and then put it in the box. Caskeyís got the ability to pick out the runners, what he needs is the runners. Football in Div 2 is all about big opposition, weíre not good enough to play football through them so we need some route 1 at times with pace and to get round the sides. If Scottís going to play he needs crosses and lots of them. Preferably pulled back from the goal line. Why did Gray and to some extent Gurney turn inside where itís packed with players rather than taking on their men on the outside. As someone said on these pages a few weeks ago, Williams would make a good winger, although I would rather see him playing the ball than the riding his man every time, this isnít WWF Wrestling and heís good enough not to get involved.
Why when we have a corner/free kick, does everyone go in for the ball. Some should go in, some hang back for the loose one and someone drift in late on the far post for when it goes too deep. And surely Forster always needs it to his feet, not miles up in the air. Panic buys now are not the answer, nor can we heap all our hopes on a decent new signing up front, is it fair to them and are they going to deliver. Games are running out, a couple of short term quality loan players rather than a long term big wages bill with 7 or 8 signings (sound familiar?) might be the answer for now.
What if we got someone like a Mark Hughes who could bring it down and bring other players into the game who might find more space as a result. This might bring the best out of someone like Nicholls who isnít big or fast and canít do it on his own. Forster would benefit as well. Or someone who is big and fast and would put some fear into the opposition defence.
Getting out of this mess isnít going to be pretty, a bit of Wimbledon might be what we need. It isnít going to be cheap whether it be loans or buys, but if we donít start now it isnít going to happen. Which brings me to my last point. The infastructure is good, our expectations high but if weíre realistic, aside from that Play off year and a few exceptions, weíve been a lower division team. On the pitch we still are, but do we and the Chairman really want Div 3 football next year ? And to be fair to them, if we survive, then we can judge Pardew and Gorman and what they achieve next season with ďtheirĒ team.
-- Chris.

I must admit I get fed up with people who BOO their team, but I was almost one to join in at half time. At least after 90 minutes they had a bit, the emphasis here on a bit, of effort. We MUST sell Caskey now. He is NOT our best player, that would be Primus by a mile, and for some reason bigger teams are interested. Take whatever we can. We are too predictable with him in the team and although no one passes it as well as him and his freekicks are useful, he lacks the commitment and it is clear he does not want to play Reading anymore.
We don't need a striker. What we need is midfielder with some drive. I am afraid Parky has lost that since he was out injured/suspended towards the end of last year. On Saturday we had Nicholls playing in midfield..I heard he was a young striker, Forester will soon be fit (and with a goal or tow will have his confidence back) while Williams/Scott and McIntrye (I hate him) are all adequate replacements at this level.
There is no excuse for failure now and Gorman and Pardew cannot be given another season to be judged if they fail. I am certain that if we had bought in someone with Div 2 experience when Burns was sacked we would not be where we are now. Pardew has only ever got the team playing with spirit once, against Bradford in the cup at home....he must do it again or Reading are down....what a thought..
-- David in Ascot

I was one the the apparently 'lucky' few who managed not to make it to Saturday's thrilling relegation dogfight. The fact that it came as no surprise to me to find that we had drawn 0-0 illustrates just HOW BAD our team is becoming. Not only are Burn's players not performing, they are actually getting WORSE. Let us not forget that Cambridge, for most of the nineties, were a 3rd division team and unlike us, are CERTAIN to be relegated regardless of what they do between now and May. But as bigger club, unlike Cambridge, we have a chance to do something about it. In contrast to Chris I believe it is time to rebuild the entire team once again. Loaning 3 players (at most as we have already loaned 2 this season) will have little effect, as the nucleus of the current underachieving team will still be on the pitch. Having managed to attend the Blackpool game I can conclude thei rare a number of problem areas this team has, which need sorting out through the purchase of 4 or 5 TOP quality players, preferably fringe players from the top two divisions (ala Fulham).
We need players who can run at the opposition (Forster we have, Sarr - why is he on the transfer list?). It is dissappointing the management duo could not see the potential of Graham Potter as a wing-back whilst he was here. There was a lack of crossing evident against 'Pool.
We need another player in the Caskey role, who can play decent balls into the box, although preferably this player should be FAST. Catching the last 10 minutes of the game on Sat, it was evident that Readings play was slow, hence giving Cambridge a chance to defend. Jamie Lawrence (Bradford) is an example of an out of favour Premiership player who might fit this bill. Readings problems stem from the lack of creativity from their centre-backs, and the lack of a reasonable ally for Caskey in midfield. Where Linvoy may have only been booked once this season do we not want defenders who may face a ban every 4 months but will also intimidate the opposition. I believe Pardew has potential as a number two, but not as the big cheese. Reading need a mouthy, shouting, in your face, excited, and passionate manager to inspire our players and keep us from relegation, at least until Madejski gets his chequebook out again.
The pitch invasion had to be expected really, given the fact that Reading have now failed to win at home in 8 games (although 7 have been draws). Its a shame those who did go on the pitch had nothing better to do than mouth off at fans facing a similar plight to us. A way forward from a fans point of view may be another one of those fans talk to Madejski, Howe, Pardew and co conference things, but with a bit more passion and a bit of passion.
Cheers, uuuuuu Rrrrrrrrs
-- Mark Brecht

I agree that we do need a new player but not like most of Burns signings. Next season will be big for the club and Pardew and Gorman because it will be their team compared to Burns. I still think we are suffering from what I call The Burns Era. I don't think John will be happy if we have the best stadium in the third division and maybe in a few years time the Nationwide Conference. The only way is up but it's going to take time.
-- Graham Bell

We read with interest your comments on the reaction of the younger fans to the result of the game against Cambridge. A pitch invasion? well hardly enough to make the point to the directors I agree, but be thankful that they are not more organised! We have all seen with disgust the recent program on the BBC which unfortunately highlighted the Town of Reading as a centrepoint for football hooliganism. If the so-called "Reading Youth" had been present at the game then who knows what may have happened! Be thankful that young supporters are still coming to the games. I call upon the team to make a special effort on their behalf and to play a game of football that we can all recognise and can celebrate. OK, we are not Man Utd.... we don't have players as bad as David Beckham, however we as Reading supporters expect and demand that the team at least win one league game!
Please tell the players that WE ARE BEHIND THEM, WE WANT THEM TO WIN!
-- Bob & Nob

Got an Opinion?
Comment on this, or any Royals match - email opinion@royals.cx
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages!