(Half Time: 2-1)
Reading Scorers: Richardson (45 mins, og), Parkinson (64)
Notts County Scorers: Allsopp (35 mins), Stallard (43, pen), Allsopp (89)
Date: 16 December 2000
Attendance: 5,106

Reading: Whitehead, Newman, Viveash, Mackie, Robinson, Rougier, Jones (Smith), Parkinson, Cureton (Caskey), Butler, Hodges. Subs not used: Hunter, Igoe, Howie.

Notts County: Ward, Liburd (Newton), Pearce, Jacobsen, Fenton, Richardson, Hamilton, Owers, Hughes, Stallard, Allsopp. Subs not used: Gibson, Brough, Joseaf, Murray.

Bookings:  Fenton, Stallard (Notts Co).
Referee: T Jones

Reading’s dismal run of away form continued today with yet another defeat, this time at the hands of Notts County who secured all the points with a very late winner. A patchy performance from the Royals saw them recover to 2-2 having gifted County a two goal lead. Yet a lack of concentration towards the end gave County the winner that on reflection they probably deserved.

Reading’s management yet again chose to experiment with the team selection and tactics used away from Madejski Stadium. We seem to see a different Reading side very time we go away, and judging by today’s first half performance the experiments are getting us nowhere. Today, Pardew opted to start with Tony Rougier in place of Sammy Igoe. To accommodate the left sided Rougier, the formation was changed to what can generally be seen as 4-3-3, with Rougier playing up front along with Cureton and Butler. However, it soon became apparent that we were in effect playing 4-5-1, since neither Cureton or Rougier were anywhere to be seen near the County goal.

Martin Butler tried hard as ever, but in this strange looking formation Reading were all over the place and failed to have any impact on the game. The forwards failed to link up at all in the first half, and our only efforts on goal came from long range shots by Lee Hodges and Jamie Cureton which forced saves out of the County keeper.

The game could have had a very dramatic start, as within the first five minutes Ricky Newman appeared to handle the ball inside the Reading penalty area. Penalties have been given for much less obvious offences this season, but luckily for the Royals the ref chose to ignore this one.

Despite that decision, Notts County were clearly the better side in the first half and they took the lead after half an hour through a fine individual goal. County have struggled to find a partner for Mark Stallard this season, but today on-loan Danny Allsopp outshone County’s leading scorer with a superb performance. The goal came after Reading had lost possession in midfield, and Allsopp was able to outpace the Reading defence and neatly put the ball past Whitehead.

It got worse ten minutes later, as a rash tackle from John Mackie gifted County a second goal. Mackie mistimed his tackle and the penalty decision was an easy one for the referee to make. Stallard scored the penalty to get his 14th goal of the season.

Things were going badly for Reading, but they managed to pull themselves back into the game on the stroke of half-time. A corner from the right came across, and Adi Viveash’s header was deflected into the net by County defender Ian Richardson. Bizarrely, it was Richardson who had scored an own goal at Madejski two seasons ago to give us a 1-0 win on that day!

At 2-1, things were not looking quite as bad at half-time as they might have been. The teams emerged with Reading looking keen to get the equaliser, and the travelling Royals fans optimistic we could still take something from the match.

Darren Caskey came on at half-time as Reading reverted to a more familiar 4-4-2. Jamie Cureton was taken off yet again, with Rougier pushing forward to support Butler. This seemed to make a great difference to the side, and for a twenty minute spell Rougier and Caskey dominated the game.

Caskey was looking dangerous with a number of superb crosses from the right that somehow failed to create a goal. County defended very well in the second half, and somehow there was always someone there to deflect Caskey’s crosses just past the waiting Butler and Rougier. On the left, Rougier was causing havoc with his strength and trickery. Already the crowd’s favourite, Rougier seemed to stroll past his two markers on a number of occasions. However, each time he seemed unwilling to shoot, and his final ball let him down.

What seemed the inevitable finally happened as a Rougier cross at last found its target. Phil Parkinson was waiting to score his second goal of the season, his header deflecting off the inside of the post. With the scores level again, Reading had the upper hand and should have pushed on for the winner.

However, something seemed to change at that point and for the rest of game it was County who dominated. The Reading players seemed to settle for a point, and foolishly this gave County the chance they needed. A series of corners towards the end exploited a lack of concentration in the Reading defence, and Allsopp was on hand again to get his second of the game and County’s winner.

It was only County’s third home win of the season, and the more worrying figure is that it was our sixth away defeat. There is something seriously wrong with our team whenever we travel away, and this must surely be attributed to naïve tactics combined with a lack of any confidence. The players are good enough – we have seen that from the home performances; but they don’t seem to be able to recapture that form away from the Madejski. The Christmas period could make or break our season, with three games that we really should win. Luton, Bristol Rovers and Swindon are all struggling near the foot of the table, and nine points are needed from these games to get us back in contention for the top two places.

Report by Neil Cole

Post Match Opinions

Another away game, another away defeat and another day spent at the mercy of the train companies. I really thought we were going to win this one. We battle back from 2-0 down to 2-2 then we throw it away in the last minute. We pissed all over them for an hour of this game, but Butler and Cureton left their scoring boots at home. Rougier was amazing, in the 2nd half I sat near the front, (so I would be on TV when we scored). Watching his skills and foot movement is something else. Why does he only play well when we lose? We expect to win every game so when we lose it makes it so much more frustrating and disappointing.Then to compound it, my journey home on the train is taking longer and longer.Got home at 11.00pm this week!
-- Russ, Essex Royal.

Can someone please explain Keith Jones' role in the team? Ball winning is minimal, distribution poor and positional sense lacking. And with these attributes he keeps Caskey out of the team! The second half transformation by introducing Caskey and pushing Rougier forward produced the best football since Walsall and we at last looked like a team to win promotion. However, we still showed naivety at the back and the midfield cover when we pushed forward was lacking, which takes me back to my original question? I think the time for old pals acts is over and, if Caskey is not to be included, Smith should be introduced for his tackling, cover and the added weapon of his long throw.
-- "Pebejay"

We deserved better! I think it's time we started to question Pardew's tactics. He plays our best attacking midfielder from the bench and changes what has been a virtually unchanged formation, yet come monday he will soon be critisising the players. Perhaps he should be looking closer to home for the reasons in our lack of form. I thought Rougier was great yesterday.
-- Laurie

I think that it is clear to see that our main problem away from home is the side ability to let in a lot of sloppy goals. I believe that this is due to the central spine of the team not being strong-enough. Although Mackie has great potential, I don't think that he is ready yet for a regular place in the 1st XI, give him a season or so in the reserve and then he will be ready. Personally I think that we need big Barry Hunter back in the middle alongside Viveash, but then when Adie is back fit again, he and Barry are the central defensice partnership for me. Then in the mid-field we have the Jones problem, and Pardew's blindness to his bad play. Jones is a good honest player, but is too similar to Parky to play the both of them, and if you were playing one holding player in the team, Parky would win hands down every time, and I think Jones would be last behind Smith, Newman and Hodges. I think you have to play Caskey and Parky in the middle of the mid-field (as long as Caskey keeps his weight down over, especially with Christmas around the corner!), plus would have the benefit with those 4 as the central spine with their ability to captain the side. Parky IS captain, both Barry and Caskey have been captain, Viveash was captain for 2 seasons at Walsall, and Adie was captain aswell. That might give the team the leadership we need. Wiht Igoe down the right, and one from Rougier, Hodges and McIntyre on the left would give a decent balance. Afterall the games where Caskey played centrally and Igoe played wide were the series of games where we beat Swansea 5-1, Brentford 4-0 and Oldham 5-0. So not only do we have a good scoring record the goals against column was hit that badly. Once Pardew has realised this I believe no team in this league will be able to handle us. Bring on a successful 2001 and a kicking of the Scum on the 30th. Come on URZ !

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