Attendance: 4,791
Scorers: Forster, Newman Date: 15 April 2000
Team: Howie, Gurney, A.Williams, Hunter, Robinson, Caskey (Henderson), Newman, Smith, Igoe (Hodges), Butler, Forster.

Match Heroes: All of them

What a fantastic day out - again. This was Reading's third straight away win in the league, and again was thoroughly deserved. The first half was a half of tactics from the Royals playing away from home. The second half saw some of the best football Reading have played all season - and in a spell at the start of the half we could have scored three or four as we attacked, attacked and attacked. Notts County had to win this game to stand any chance of reaching the play-offs, while Reading had nothing to gain from the match apart from another three points to continue on the way to our top half finish. The neutral support would have thought it was the other way round during the second half, as County didn't really look up to it in front of a near silent home support, while Reading were desperate for the win giving the travelling fans plenty to get excited about. I know I've started to say this in every report - but Reading continue to look better with every match. Apart from the occassional poor result on the way our form is getting better and better. If this continues we're going up next season.

There were even more reasons for optimism with the appearance of John Madejski - whose popularity is at its highest ever. Some expressed doubt over his dedication to the club with his business ventures taking up a lot of his time over the past few seasons. However he made sure we all knew he was there, by walking across the away support and applauding us before kick-off, to chants of "There's only one John Madejski". At the final whistle he emerged from the stand with Martin Allen to more applause. It appears that the choice of Alan Pardew as manager has paid off for Madejski - no one would argue with the choice now. Each match we see eleven players out on the pitch proud to wear the hoops, we have a management duo who can't do anything wrong, and the whole set-up has the support of a chairman continually willing to pump money into the club to keep it afloat. It's a winning forumla that must see some serious success soon.

Once again the bench saw the inclusion of Tyson and Henderson. If Reading had grabbed a couple more goals to make it safe we might well have seen their introduction earlier. As it was Henderson got a five minute run out at the end and Tyson still waits his first team chance - which could well come in the second half of next weeks game at Wigan. The starting eleven saw Igoe start in place of Hodges and Newman replace Grant. In defence Gurney made a start alongside Williams, Hunter and Robinson. And it was the defence that did most of the first half work for the Royals.

Notts County got off to the expected start, playing at home against a side lower in the table - and chasing that play-off place. Right from the start they looked dangerous. In the first five minutes the ball was crossed from the Notts County right and found their forward with a free header in the middle of the box. Howie was pleased to see a rather tame effort sent straight into his arms. They came forward again and broke into the box to earn a couple of corners, as Reading were forced to keep men behind the ball. Even Butler was at the back putting in a vital tackle to prevent a shot from just inside the box. Williams and Hunter were coping fine though, and County were limited to just a couple of shots at goal. However that was it from County - after failing to take the early lead Reading looked more and more comfortable containing them and playing out the first half. At the other end Forster did well to win a tackle on the half way line as County were set for another attack. Forster went on the run and took the ball right to the edge of the box before shooting. The better option might have been to cross to Caskey - but he'd done all the work and you couldn't blame him for having a go. Adrian Williams had Reading's other decent chance of the half, breaking into the box on the left and shooting - the keeper saved it and we didn't manage to put it in when it came back out into the middle of the box.

The second half was a completely different story with only one team in it. I had a sneaky feeling Reading would go on to win the game after a comfortable first half letting County do all the running. After soaking up that limited first half pressure Reading went on the rampage right from the start of the second half. In a five minute spell just after the break we could have easily been three goals up. It took just a couple of minutes of a the half for Reading to take the lead. Caskey played in a corner from the Reading left into the box causing panic in the County defence. The keeper failed to collect, Hunter flicked it onwards to Forster at the far post. Forster went up with the full back, and got the better of him, to head the ball into the corner of the net, right in front of the travelling fans. 1-0!

Moments later we were almost celebrating again. Igoe got down the right and cut into the box before crossing low to Newman who had legged it into the area. The cross was good, the shot wasn't bad but was saved. Forster had a great chance to get his second after being set up with a cross from the right. Unfortunately he couldn't get behind the ball to get the power on it, and his header from around the middle of the six yard line was right at the keeper when it looked like he might have stuck it away. Reading continued to put the pressure on with some delicious direct football, making use of the wings and getting the ball into the box. It was a lesson to County who had failed to to create these kind of fast passing moves in the first half. County were moving the ball around all very nicely right across the full width of the pitch, but it was Reading who knew how to get it right into the danger zone. With Reading putting the pressure on the home side conceeded quite a few corners which allowed Caskey and Robinson to keep the pressure on.

On 58 minutes it appeared County had picked up a lesson from the Royals with an equalising goal not totally different to Reading's first. They won a corner on the right which was played in close to Howie and a crowd of players. We didn't have the best view of it as it was right down the other end but Howie appeared to mis-time his jump and miss the ball in the middle of the goal - or just get some fingers to it. It drifted over to the far post when it was headed in. 1-1, and a rare chance for the home support to get excited. But their joy lasted just two minutes. Reading set straight to work again and won another corner. The ball was played into the box, a shot went in and the ball bounced out to Newman on the edge of the box. It was clear to everyone he was going to hit it. But how he hit it. The moment it left the foot you could tell it was going to be one of those goals. Curving and rising all the time it flew into the top corner of the net giving the keeper no chance at all. 2-1 to the Royals and wild celebration behind the goal for the near 1,000 Reading fans.

At 2-1 up Reading looked more comfortable than ever and were happy to knock the ball around and wait for that final whistle. It seemed unlikely County could find a way back into the game. There were the usual nervous moments at the end with County looked for the late equaliser - but it wasn't to be. It was definately a tactical victory for Reading - and the County fans will probably feel thoroughly depressed at just how easily their team was beaten in every department.

Post Match Opinions

Nottingham is well known for the women outnumbering the men 5 to one,but I didn't realise this was a pre-requisite for their football team,except for their centre half who was had the physical stature to grace any Sunday morning pub team,the pub would of course be called The Ten Bellies or similar,and how Lardy boy would wish he would have stayed in the pub come the end of the game. This was a very good performance.The first half wasn't up to much,Forster had a couple of half chances that he created himself.We were still having a beer at half time when there was a cheer,I ran back in to the ground only to see them kicking off again,we were 1-0 up and I'd bloody missed it.Apparently it was from a corner someone flicked it on and Forster sidefooted it home.Of course Howie could have scored from 80 yards out for all I know.About 10 minutes later they equalised from a corner which Howie flapped at and was nodded in at the far post.We stuck at it and not long after we got a winner.We attacked down their wing had a bloked shot it fell for Newman just outside the box who hit an absolute stonker of a shot into the top right hand corner of the goal with the Reading fans behind it,who went mental.
What a fantastic goal,after that we went searching for a third,for a while they couldn't get a touch of the ball 'it was like watching Brazil'. We had a bit of a scare at the end when they had a series of corners,and I'm sure would have scored from a well struck half volley but for a brave block from a Royals player,I don't know it was but this saved 2 points for us. By this time Lardy boy was breathing through his arse,such was the pace of Forster who had an outstanding game,along with Butler and Caskey who seemed to be playing more of an attacking role,these 3 playing together were inspirational.Williams at the back was like a man possessed I think they were too scared to go past him,he and Hunter ran the show at the back,but every Royals player was excellent there seemed to be a mental toughness which we have lacked for most of the season,this is undoubtably Mad Dogs influence.
He was there on cructhes and got a standing ovation at the end,as did all the players,you would think we were going for the title,if only. I knew it was going to be our day,as before the game we were drinking in a pub called 'The Royal Children',it doesn't get any more prophetic than that.
-- Russ.Essex Royal.

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