(Half Time: 1-2)
Reading Scorers: N Smith (38 mins), Parkinson (44 mins)
Bristol Rovers Scorers: Ellington (30 mins), Thomson (81 mins)
Date: 26 December 2000
Attendance: 8,029

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

Bristol Rovers: Culkin, Challis, Foster, Thomson, Mauge, Walters, Cameron, Evans, Astafjevs, Meaker, Ellington, Bignot, Hogg. Subs not used: Vaaler, Pethick.

Bookings:  Butler, Igoe, Newman, Parkinson, Viveash (Reading) ; Challis, Culkin, Evans, Jones, Mauge (Bristol Rovers). Sent Off: Challis, Hogg.
Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville)

A big rivalry is starting to form between Reading and Bristol Rovers, and this became even more apparent today as by the end this match had been ruined by needless aggression and stupid tackles from both teams. Bristol Rovers haven’t forgiven Reading for ruining their season last year by beating them three times in three months, and today both their players and fans were intent on getting their revenge.

In the end, 2-2 was probably a fair scoreline, but the farcical end to the match detracted from what had been a very exciting game which could have been won by either side. Bristol Rovers finished the game with just nine players, having seen two sent off and a further five booked. Things had got so heated by the end, that the referee blew his final whistle before playing any of the allotted three minutes of injury time.

The second half was also overshadowed by a serious looking injury to Phil Parkinson. Parky, who has been one of the players of the season so far, was stretchered off after falling badly and had to be replaced by Sammy Igoe.

Alan Pardew had started the game with the same side that had beaten Luton 4-1 on Saturday, leaving Keith Jones and John Mackie out of the side. Neil Smith rewarded Pardew for his selection with possibly his best game for Reading, capped with an excellent goal in the first half.

The game started poorly for Reading, and when Bristol took the lead in the first half it looked like it could be another miserable away day for the Royals. The Reading defence looked a shambles, and Nathan Ellington was gifted a goal for Rovers after Matt Robinson had been caught out of position on the left. The delight was evident among the Rovers players and fans, who hadn’t seen a home win all season.

However, Reading deserve some credit for getting themselves back into the game. Earlier in the season, we seemed incapable of getting anything from a game in which we conceded the first goal. As with Notts County two weeks earlier though, Reading bounced back strongly and were soon on level terms with Rovers. A Caskey cross from the right found Neil Smith who headed in superbly for this first goal of the season.

It soon got even better for the fans in the packed Reading terrace, as Phil Parkinson connected with a Caskey corner to put Reading in front. The turnaround had been dramatic, as prior to Ellington’s goal Reading had looked clueless. The goals were our first real chances in the match, and the lead was perhaps undeserved at half-time.

Encouraged by the scoreline, Reading started to look more confident in the second half and had chances to extend the lead. Martin Butler had one glorious chance to score after good work from Caskey, but could only fire his shot straight at the keeper.

However, it was Rovers who scored the next goal, after the referee awarded a dubious free-kick against Neil Smith on the edge of the area. Mark Walters’ delicate free-kick beat Whitehead only to hit the inside of the post, but the rebound was easily knocked in to make the score 2-2.

The most exciting ten minutes of the match followed, as both sides had chances to re-take the lead. Walters had the best chance for Rovers, as he raced through on goal, and although his shot beat Whitehead once again, the ball hit the post and this time rebounded to safety.

The excitement proved too much for Bristol Rovers’ Lewis Hogg, and his two footed tackle on Neil Smith started an almighty scrap between the two teams. Only Phil Whitehead kept out of it, as the ref lost control of the game altogether. His immediate red card to Hogg only seemed to provoke the others, and Challis soon followed him to the dressing room for his part in the brawl. Two other players were booked and the ball was moved forward ten yards before the game could finally continue. Reading threw everyone forward as they had three minutes of injury time against nine men to get a winner. However, two more needless tackled from Rovers saw another two yellow cards and an early stop to the game.

The draw is by no means a disastrous result, but the performance today was too patchy to take much encouragement from. We looked good in spells, but the defence made too many mistakes, and allowed Rovers to take a point from a game we should have won. The next game sees a trip to the slowly improving Swindon, but a win is needed against our struggling local rivals.

Report by Neil Cole.

Post Match Opinions

I guess we should be happy with an away point, but with all bar Millwall in the top six dropping points, I feel we let another two precious points slip away today. We just cannot seem to "shut up shop" when we get in front. Show me a Reading fan who when we go a goal up are confident of victory? It wasn't a bad performance but when we went 2-1 up they were there for the taking and we blew it. Why wasn't there a player on the post from their freekick which resulted in the Rovers equaliser?
We're still lacking something in midfield that provides a decent service to the strikers Caskey still playing out of position when will Pards learn? Butler though deserves credit for working his testicles off. When they were reduced to nine men I thought here we go, and what happened, the tosspot of a referee bottled it by blowing the frigging whistle a couple of minutes at least early. Bloody disgraceful!
Six points a must against Swindon and Northampton, then bring on the Millwall I fear it's second place at best now.

-- Nick

I'm sorry but I disagree with a lot of fans who think we will have to settle for second, I will personally be happy with a play-off place. I know we keep winning well at home but against Luton we were poor and I fear stronger teams will punish us at home, unless we can raise our game. We still struggle to keep the ball for long spells and the football is too direct but I reckon Pardew believes that this is the way to play your way out of Div 2, so nothing will change. We always look more dangerous when Igoe plays on the right but he seems restricted to 20 mins here and there if he's lucky. Caskey has been brought back into the side and I'm sorry isn't doing anything for me, he doesn't give us any width and defensively he is a joke it is just as well Newman is at right back !! I fear in the up coming home games we will probably go a goal down, then Pardew will bring on Igoe and Rougier when it's too late....
-- Towner

No moaning about the trains this week, there weren't any, so I had to take the wife (well someone had to drive me there with my hangover). First half was crap,on a cabbage patch of a pitch, we didn't start playing until we were a goal down then we showed some fire in our bellies with 2 excellent headers from Smith and Parky. However Butler must be given great credit for his non stop running for a least one of the goals. I hoped we would come out for the second half and really murder them, but no we have to sit back and defend. We all knew they would equalise and after a poor decision to give a free kick on the edge of the area,they bloody scored. Cue some of the most bizarre refereeing I have ever seen. The ref sends off TWO of their players,the game gets going after about a FIVE minute break.The 4th official holds up the board to show three minutes extra time, and then about thirty seconds later the ref blows full time. Every player stopped and couldn't believe the game was over. Perhaps the ref thought it was three SECONDS to add on. As we walked out my wife turned to me and said 'The ref dominated the game today', I was just about to say 'Don't be so stupid ,what do women know about football?', When I thought , you've got a point there.
Roll on next Boxing Day for more football insight from the fairer sex.

-- Russ, Essex Royal.

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