Match Report vs Port Vale

7 March 1998 - League Division One
READING 0 Port Vale 3

Att: 7,100

Team: Colgan, Booty (Swales), Primus, Davies, Legg, Bernal, Houghton, O'Neill, Bowen, Asaba (Meaker), Williams (Morley).

Man Of The Match: The bloke who sat in the centre circle.



Following on from our current fantastic run of form this pretty much topped it all. We were never going to get close in this one. 90 minutes of "football" devoid of any ideas or passion. Reading were outplayed by Port Vale who were bottom of the table at kick-off - in a game we had to win to give hope of division one survival. For the first time this season it's now probable that we will go down rather than an outside possibility. Reading are just two places and two points from the foot of the table. But that's what we deserve with performances like this one.

At the final whistle a large section of the home crowd couldn't contain it any longer and a single bloke prompted a pitch invasion as the players left the pitch. One bloke sat on the centre spot with his Reading scarf above his head. The police watched on as did the rest of the crowd. A couple of people from the Tilehurst end dashed on to join in and, with no response from the stewards, up to a thousand other Reading fans were making the way to the stand chanting for the sacking of Terry Bullivant. Programmes were ripped up and Madejski came out to address the fans, but he was shouted down by fans disgusted by the team's progress down the table. However it wasn't all one way. A large section of the South Bank stayed on the terraces to chant support for Bullivant.

Time is running out for Terry Bullivant and Reading Football Club. With next season's move to the Madejski stadium relegation could spell financial ruin for the club.

From where I stand it seems clear where we're going wrong. Bullivant is failing to motivate the players, even if he is a top bloke, and his recent signings have had an adverse effect on the team. O'Neil, the new on loan signing from Coventry, was complete shite. He was solely to blame for the second goal which wrapped up the game and did nothing to suggest he should be in the team. Why the hell wasn't Caskey out there instead? Legg, however great his throws may be, is not brilliant enough to take Swales place away from him. Primus, another of Bullivant's signings, was way out of touch on Saturday. Bernal is a centre back but was playing in midfield. Skippy was on of few players putting effort in, and found himself in positions he shouldn't be in - like on the end of crosses. I couldn't blame him for not putting them away. Colgan has failed to impress but couldn't be blamed for the scoreline. Skippy should have been in defence. Caskey should have been in midfield. We seriously missed Parkie and his will to win. Houghton demonstrated the lack of tactical ideas. No through balls. No-one running on to pick anything up. No-one running into space. Instead what we had was long balls and pointless passes going nowhere.

Port Vale took a deserved lead after just seven minutes. A fantastic goal too. A cross from the right which was met inside the area with a fantastic volley that screamed to the left of Colgan in the Reading goal. Just five minutes later and it was 0-2. Another well worked goal perhaps, but diabolical defending was to blame. Legg completely failed to get in a tackle after pushing his man wide. The cross came in but wasn't particually good. O'Neill got the ball but stood there to let the Vale forward take it off his boot and drive it into the back of the net.

We all knew at that point this was going to be another humilating defeat. And so it was. Reading brightened up a bit towards the end of the first half as Port Vale relaxed - already knowing victory was theirs. Houghton should have pulled on back for Reading but was beaten by the keeper as he legged it out to make a point blank save on the far corner of the area. Bernal should have scored from close range but blasted his shot way over the bar into orbit from a yard out with all the goal to shoot out. Williams had the only other close chance with a decent attempt at a diving header.

Both Asaba and Williams were substituted by half time. Williams injured. I assume Bullivant would never replace Asaba by choice so he must be injured too. Great. Even more problems as the season enters it's run in. At the foot of the table with Williams, Asaba, Hodges and most importantly Parkie and Hammond all out injured. How can this be pulled round?

The second half was forgettable. We were never going to turn the game around and everyone was waiting for the third. When the third went in with fifteen minutes to go it met with ripples of applause throughout the South Bank followed by the first serious "Bullivant Out" chanting we've heard all season. A lovely through ball, the type Reading would never play in a thousand years, with a hint of offside, created a one on one. Colgan came out, the Vale forward took it wide and slid it into an empty net. 0-3.

Some fans left. Some fans shouted for Bullivant's head. Some fans gave a bit of support for the under-fire Reading manager with shouts of "Bullivant's Barmy Army". I opted for silence - bewildered by the utter shite I was seeing.

Madejski is unlikely to act until it's too late. We need Bullivant to pick up the pieces and turn this around. Unfortunately the majority of Reading fans are convinced that he's just not capable of doing that. If he doesn't it's 3,000 fans in a 25,000 seating stadium next season watching us lose at home to Blackpool.


Report from a chap called Womble:

Dear oh dear oh dear, Mistakenly as it turned out, I thought "here we go, they know they have to win, I'm going to see committment, skill, organisation etc". WRONG. This was without doubt, the worst performance I have witnessed this season.

No midfield to speak of, no punch up front, and the worst organisation on the field I have seen for a good few years. My questions on this farce: What do they and Bullivant do in training each week? Why is Legg playing instead of Swales and indeed why did we sign him? Every time the Vale no.7 got the ball, he was quick and direct. Understandable when Legg was nowhere to be seen each time. Why is Bernal playing in the centre of midfield? He is just about passable as a full-back, although not playing even in that position very well this season. I don't actually blame him-he is a defender, and everyone knows he can't shoot, pass, run fast etc. So WHY was he in midfield!!!!!! Is Caskey unfit? What about the youngsters who got a run out at the start of the season? Are they really that bad that Bullivant thinks Bernal can do better? Houghton - joke. Said enough. O'Neill - He's a footballer? Then I'm the Queen. What were our tactics for this match?. As I could see, it was hoof the ball up the field as far as possible and let Asaba & Co chase. Except the ball kept coming straight back to our non-existant midfield.

Seriously though, I think Madejski has got to realise that he appointed a manger who is just out of his depth. What all the fans suspected early on has been 100% correct. Bullivant can't even complain about money or support. He's had more this season than any other Reading manager ever. And the fans, uptil yesterday have been superb. Lets face it, we are probably going down. The run in is difficult and our form is hopeless. This was probably the most important season ever for RFC; we HAD to be in the 1st division for our new stadium.

What does the Chairman do? Changing the manager this late probably won't have much affect on our form. But at least it would give the new incumbant a chance to see the present lot play for a month or two, then he could have a clear out, change tactics or whatever next season. As for the goals on Saturday, the defence was badly to blame for the first, even though he took it well. O'Neill I think, gifted the second to their full back, again well finished. As for the third, well it didnt matter by then. We could have been there all day and not scored. Lastly, Asaba. I still think the guy has talent. But he gets the ball on his chest, on his head, and with his back to goal EVERY time. When he occasionally runs at opponents, he isnt THAT bad. He could do a job for someone, somewhere, but not for us with the way we expect him to play.

A very sad day.

Another report from David Spencer...

"Bullivant Out! Bullivant Out!" sounded a furious set of perhaps not so loyal Royals after another home defeat at the hands of a relegation rival. However you cannot blame the fans for being angry. This was as bad as it gets. Having watched Cheltenham and Cardiff come to Elm park and out play the home side is it surprising that Tranmere, Portsmouth and Port Vale can come here and do the same?

For 1 minute of the game (and that's flattering them) Reading were on top and looking good. The other 89 plus, the side were just a group of clueless men kicking a ball around. Up front Asaba failed to cause any serious threat once again and was taken off at half time by a manager who must now begin to doubt the money spent. Williams was the most impressive but got injured and was substituted by the ageing and infuraiting Morley in the first half. With no real front running the midfield, boosted by the return of Andy Bernal, looked solid but once again the back four let the side down. Port Vale found acres of room on the right and twice exposed Reading with perfect counter attacks to punish the home side. The first a sweet volley from the edge of the box the second a crisp finish in the corner after Andy Legg had dithered in the area. No doubt he forgot he wasn't playing for Port Vale anymore.

The second half saw more effort but no increase in ability and the huff and puff just won't blow the house down anymore. The whole side was awful. From Colgan in goal to the strikers the self doubt that being in the relegation struggle brings was in full view.

So with around ten minutes to go Port Vale make it three with a brak away goal cooly finished and those brainless Reading fans that boo their own side cheered the goal. That is the ultimate insult. While the players do not seem fit to wear the blue hoops at the moment, those fans aren't fit to wear the scarfs.

So angry were some at the final whistle they mounted a demonstration by running onto the pitch. The most incisive bit of action seen in the Port Vale half all game!

Bullivant must go that is for sure. He is out of his depth and obviously cannot motivate the players. But the fans should remember that getting out of this hole will be even more difficult without support.

So we can look forward to having the best stadium in Division Two. Only joking. COME ON YOU ROYALS!!!!!

David Spencer. Ascot.

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