|READING 1 CHESTERFIELD 0||Attendance: 6,962 (approx. 100 away)|
|Scorers: Caskey||Date: 18 September 1999|
Howie, Gray, Bernal, Casper, Primus (Polston), Gurney (Williams), Smith,
Grant, Caskey, McIntyre (Scott), Forster.
|Audio: Nope / Not yet||Match Hero: Forster|
This wasn't the best performance ever, but it was a deserved victory for the Royals after just one point from five league games. At last there are reasons to be positive, and with the season still very young anything is possible. Thousands stayed away and although they didn't miss a football feast they might have missed watching the corner being turned. Chesterfield were a very ordinary second division side who had clearly come for the draw - and might have grabbed it as they got stronger and stronger towards the end. Reading looked like they meant business for the first 30 minutes or so before easing off.
The caretaker management partnership of Pardew and Gorman only had a couple of days to make any changes from the style of Burns so it wasn't all that different - excluding the reinstatement of Martin Williams and a bit more use of the wings not previously seen under Burns. Perhaps with Tommy in charge the result would have been the same, perhaps not. However Burns' management is in the past and the next week could be a very exciting one with the chance to beat a Premiership side at our place and follow it up with a second successive league victory. It all seems very feasible and it could earn Pardew and Gorman the jobs permanently.
Reading were back to their 5-3-2 formation and it seemed far more effective. Reading started brightly and for about 30 minutes looked like a different side with some pacey forward play actually looking for some goals. With the return of Primus at the back and Casper playing the sweeper role he's half decent at we looked tight at the back. Gray and Gurney were both coming forward as wing-backs and McIntyre and Forster up-front were both looking more determined than ever. We could have taken the lead a couple of times - and all down to some balls played quickly and directly towards the Chesterfield box.
Forster looked a massive threat, and had Reading's first real chance. Smith played a great ball from just outside the box central that split the defence. Forster went charging through but the keeper came out well to save Forster's goal bound shot from left of goal. Moments later Smith almost put one in after meeting a cross from the right with a header that was just over the bar. A Forster solo effort almost gave us the lead after he twisted and turned past two or three players out wide on the left. After breaking free of his markers he let rip a powerful shot from the edge of the box that needed a good save from the Chesterfield keeper diving to his right. Chesterfield took the option of soaking up the pressure as Reading kept control of the game. We were still playing it along the ground but the majority of the balls were coming forward rather than back. Chesterfield were strong in the air at the back and kept it tight with men behind the ball to keep the scores level.
Chesterfields best chance of the half came when Howie was rounded on the right after charging off his line. With the ball heading towards the Reading net it needed Andy Bernal to hoof it clear. Skippy had his best game for quite some time with a couple of life saving tackles and managing to be in the right place at the right time. He still gave away a few pointless fouls but looked good within the back three of Casper and Primus. Skippy's biggest fault was that he looked scared to run with the ball and come forward when Chesterfield were just sitting back waiting - but perhaps under Burns players were told not to run with the ball out from defence?
After Reading had failed to take the lead despite their advantage the game began to tail off a bit and it all got a bit scrappy with the ball being hoofed into the air far too often and Chesterfield starting to get a bit of the ball. So Reading looking the better side at half time but the score at 0-0.
Primus was replaced after the interval with Polston taking his place as a straight swap. Primus had had a great first half, back to his wall-like self, so I guess this was simply due to lack of fitness after returning from injury. The second half continued as the first half had ended. About ten minutes into the second half I couldn't help but notice that the game had turned rather dull. Watching everyone leg it up the stands from the first few rows as the rain poured in became more entertaining. And then Reading took the lead.
Forster, who looked dangerous all afternoon, once again beat his man, this time down the right wing. After holding off a challenge he played a low cross into the middle of the box to find Caskey. Caskey was just a few yards from goal and met the cross with a gentle side-foot. The keeper went down, and the ball bobbled over his arm and over the line for Caskey's third goal in three games. 1-0 to the blue and whites. And for the first time the East Stand burst into song. About a minute later Caskey almost made it 2-0 after striking an excellent long-range shot that flew just wide.
With time running out Chesterfield upped the pace of their game to go in search of the equaliser. Which they almost got a couple of times. Martin Williams entered the arena to replace Gurney at right back and was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos. Eventually the Martin Williams supporters drowned out the boo-boys. To begin with it looked like Williams might want to prove a point - Smith was quick to congratulate Williams after he provided a great cross from the right which was put wide. However Williams' game quickly went downhill as it was clear he didn't have a clue what to do as a right back. More than once he was caught too far toward allowing the away side to put over a couple of dangerous crosses. Chesterfield could have scored when the ball was played right across the face of goal, Howie should have collected, but luckily Bernal was the first there to yet again hack to safety. And once more Howie was beaten needing Smith to tidy up at the back. With a Chesterfield shot just wide and a header that found the net being ruled offside, Reading certainly appeared to be hanging on rather than looking for a convincing win. But hang on we did for a vital three points.
Promising signs. But there's a lot of work to be done if Madejski is serious about the Royals going up this season.