Attendance: 7,638
Scorers: Hodges/Own Goal, Hodges, Caskey Date: 7 March 2000
Team: Howie, Gurney, A.Williams, Hunter, Robinson (Murty), Grant, Smith, Caskey (Evers), Hodges, Butler, Forster (McIntyre).

Match Heroes: The whole Reading team, and their two keepers for entertainment value...

Without any doubt at all the best entertainment of the season so far. It might not have even been the best footballing performance of the season, and Oxford were complete and utter shite, but the most satisfying evening of football for absolutely ages. Oxford are going down, Reading are staying up, as we now pull eight points clear of the relegation positions. As each week goes by I rediscover the enormous joy of supporting the mighty Royals. Tonight's game had everything you could want from an away performance from Reading. We won it with ease - possibly without playing our best football - but still entertained all night long. Reading had adapted their game to fit, and were chasing every single ball and winning it. Up front we exposed all their defensive weaknesses to smack home three goals to clearly claim the full three points. By the second half Oxford were so much not in the game that they might as well already be in Division Three.

But it wasn't always like that, as Reading got off to a horror start with the home side looking the most dangerous from kick-off. After a full five minutes of Reading being unable to get the ball clear or even out of our half, Oxford took the lead. The ball was played down the left where they cut inside the box. Their forward twisted past a couple of players, finally past Smith, and then drove the ball to Howie's left into the far right bottom corner of the net. 0-1 to Oxford. It was hard not to think that we might not come back from such an early setback away from home...

Horror story over.

The travelling fans really got behind the team and for he next 80 minutes there could only be one outcome - a Reading victory. The whole team and supporters must take enormous credit for pulling it straight around. This was a brilliant result. Just three minutes after Oxford had taken their early lead we were back level. Hodges shot from the edge of the box and the ball slammed against the bottom of the keeper's left post - or that's what my ears told me as I heard that unmistakable post noise.. Next thing the ball is in the back of the net, apparantly coming off the back of the keeper as the ball came back out into play and back across the goal-line. 1-1, and massive celebrations behind the goal.

Oxford, a team on a continuing run of bad form were gutted and seemed immediately to be ready only for defeat. They couldn't put a single move together and started to really panic at the back. Their keeper was taking massive abuse for being so shit from the Reading fans behind him and just couldn't get a thing right. It could have been another goal when he cleared only to Butler on the edge of the box. With the keeper running back Butler shot and the keeper legged it back, fell over, and just managed to keep it out in real comedy style. With the Royals sensing the complete panic in Oxford's defence we continued to press forward playing some speedy long balls. And on the half hour Reading took a deserved lead. Gurney shot from the edge of the box from the right side and the keeper weakly dived to his left and pushed the ball outwards into the path of Hodges. Hodges slid in and promptly buried it. 1-2, and we all went mental.

The keeper could take no more after being reminded just a couple more times about how "dodgy" he was, and promptly walked off the pitch in a big sulk. Off he went down the tunnel leaving a stunned Oxford bench to shove on the next keeper. So on he came. His first action was almost straight away and saw him run all the way to the edge of his area to collect a ball, only to be faced with Forster. Instead of hoofing it clear like any sensible chap would have done he decides to go past Forster, naturally only to lose the ball. At that point he just stood there. Forster crossed the ball, the keeper raced back, and just as the resulting shot from the middle of the box was about to cross the line, the keeper was there to finally hoof clear. "You're even worse than the last one!"

It could have been more before the half time break. Forster could have scored after Butler raced forward down the left and delivered the perfect cross. Forster's control was brilliant as he turned inside his marker inside the box. Unfortunately his shot sailed over the bar, otherwise it could have been goal of the season. Oxford did very little with Hunter and Williams keeping it all very tight at the back, and not being afraid to hoof the ball way out of the ground (or hard into the home fans) at every opportunity. All very safe defending to keep Reading ahead.

On the hour Reading sealed victory. The ball was played across from the left, the defence failed to clear and then failed to pick up Caskey lurking on the right. Caskey made no mistake and drove the ball across the keeper into the bottom left corner of the net. 1-3 to Reading and the away fans entered full party mode on the terracing. Nothing like a mid-week away victory. The rest of the match Reading relaxed and Oxford got frustrated at being so shit. The only passing the home side could string together was across the back four. On the odd occasions Oxford did threaten Howie came well to claim the ball cleanly in the air, and once made a decent save diving to his right which was tidied up by Murty. Reading stuck to the job, and stuck to keeping the ball away from the goal by confident clearances. The fans could concentrate on laughing at Oxford and celebrating the win. All Oxford could do was get more frustrated as shown by desperate challenges for the ball which somehow escaped the referees attention...

Alan Pardew deserves massive credit for such a tactical victory. It wasn't pretty at times, but it was very effective playing away from home at a team fighting against relegation. Martin "Mad Dog" Allen deserves massive credit for building such amazing team spirit that was lacking at the start of this season. Every player out there battled for the team. They worked together and it brought us victory. At the final whistle the whole team grouped together in front of the travelling fans. And as we sung at them as loud as we possibly could they then lined up. All of a sudden the whole squad is doing a Mexican Wave right in front of us, and we're going wild at them. Eventually the stewards had to get them off the pitch when it was clear the fans wouldn't leave until the team did. We appreciated the team, they appreciated us. Everything is going in the right direction at Reading FC. UUURRRRZZZZZ!

Post Match Opinions

Superb! As a loyal royal living and working in Oxford I'm in work early today! The lads were superb - admittedley a bit of luck with the equaliser but after that there was only one team in it. Forster is just a different class from anything else in this division - his first touch, pace and ability to beat players scared them all night. If his finishing matched the rest of his game we'd have had 6 last night. Well done lads - you were great!
-- Simon

Although I now live in Dublin, I still bleed blue & white and spent the evening nervously watching Sky Sports for the latest news on this result. Brilliant. I've been looking forward to beating the Pox for ages. I find that the new spirit within the club between the team and the supporters is almost tangible even at this distance. A lot of the credit must go down to the supporters who have helped in no small way to turn this season around.
Player of the year should collectively go to Royals' supporters who kept the faith and believed that they could be of massive influence to a club they so obviously love. I wish above anything else I could have seen the team line up in front of the Loyal Royals at the end of the game to pay homage. What a moment that must have been. Well, if the Pox are going down (they are) at least we can replace beating them by turning over the Jerkies next season. A Royal today and always and proud of it.
-- Baz Greenaway

Having grown up just outside Oxford but now living in the Midlands, last night brought two great reasons to cheer and one moment of sadness - my old school, St Swithuns, Kennington lost to an Oxford side in the pre-match 5-a-side - but Reading thrashed Oxford and Wolves lost again!!! What a great result - maybe not the prettiest match but what spirit the team are now showing and what about the post match cabaret from the Team! The whole set up is now functioning as a unit - management, team and supporters and what a diference this is now making. Once agin it 's a pleasure to travel 300 miles (round trip) for a home match and similar distance for many away matches Come on U-R'zzzzzzzzzz
-- Rodney Pitt

Roll on next season ! A couple of months ago one nil down after nine minutes away from home , no chance . Not now , although we were treated to a wonderful period of entertainment from the Oxford goalie who couldn't catch a cold , the Royals thoroughly deserved this victory . Good team performance with Ade ( he's coming home ) Williams outstanding . Butler and Forster worked hard up front without reward but again , showing signs of good times to come . The team spirit installed by Mad Dog is not only there for all to see , but totally infectious to both players and fans . The players show after the game was a classic example . With a few more signings , plus hanging on to Linvoy and Caskey , the league is there for the taking next year.........URRRZZSS !!
-- Nick Poole

"This was a fine Reading performance, which left Oxford in a very bad state, The players , Mad Dog and Alan Pardew deserve a lot of credit for the result and the way that they behaved at the end of the match, I just hope now that the fans repay this by giving them a reception on Saturday."

Brilliant, one of those nights that makes sticking through all the misery month after month worthwhile. The scoreline doesn't begin to reflect our dominance - 5-1 would have been fairer. Oxford only seriously threatened our goal once throughout the second half, and then Scott Howie saved excellently. The only complaint is that we wasted the ball a bit too much - with crisper passing and the killer touch in front of goal this team could really go places. Finally, thanks to Martin Allen for the choreographed celebration at the end - I think he's getting over to the players just how much success means to us fans. URRRRRRRRRRRRRRZZZZZZ!
-- Peter Jones

What a game! Was stuck in a City apparently called Oxford from about 2.00pm sat on my own as my friends decide to break down on the motorway on their way to the game. Every pub around the ground appeared shut and those that weren't, looked marginally more inviting than an alcoholics tongue. Bad Day Over. The Reading Crowd picked up the atmosphere and there was really only going to be one result. A Reading victory. Despite Oxford's early pressure and good link up play resulting in an early goal we never looked in any real danger. Quite frankly our equaliser sunk them and they never looked like coming back. Poor Oxford look set to play in Division 3.
I can honestly say that every single player (including Gurney, although missing at times) played brilliantly, especially at the back where Williams and Hunter dominated. Forster had a superb game skinning the inept Oxford defence time and time again. Oh to be a Reading fan. I feel a little sorry for Pardew as many of us have chosen Mad Dog as our new, accessible hero. Pardew must get credit where credit is dew. It is him that has turned the team around and with the help of Allen's presence it looks like Reading finally have a team to take us up next year. Well done to all the boys lat night. Players and supporters a-like
-- "Burns Burns"

There can be no better way to spend a wet Tuesday evening in Oxford than see the Royals beat the old foe.. This made up for a lot of the frustration and despair earlier in the season. The atmosphere in the Reading end was fantastic and matched by the spirit in the team as well as the tireless running of Butler and Forster.The team and players have really got something going now and you sense this is just the start.
-- Steve, London

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