Attendance: 11,064
Scorers: Butler, Caskey Date: 7 April 2000
Team: Howie, Murty (Gurney), A.Williams, Hunter, Robinson, Caskey (Igoe), Grant, Smith (M. Williams), Hodges, Butler, Forster.

Match Heroes:

A decent game of football under the Madejski Stadium floodlights - and probably the right result at the end of the ninety minutes. Gillingham had most of the possession over the whole game, but Reading were more dangerous by far in the first half, to be rightly leading by a goal at the break. The second half saw the away side get more and more into it and it was no suprise when they took the lead after equalising just into the half. Reading fought back though and Darren Caskey's 21st goal of the season meant Reading got their share of the points.

Despite rumours that Pardew might bring a few youngsters into the team with Reading already guaranteed a mid-table finish, we kicked off with the same eleven that had done such a good job up at Bristol Rovers earlier in the week. And the signs were that they would do a repeat performance at home against high-flying Gillingham. Reading looked the better side right from the off - and we could have taken the lead as early as the first few minutes. Butler almost got Reading off the mark when Forster beat his man down the right wing, got right to the line and delivered a cross right across goal. If Butler had of connected it would have been a near repeat of the winner scored up at Wrexham. As it was Butler just missed it and flew away to safety. Gillingham were passing the ball around all very nicely, but failing to look dangerous. It was almost like Reading pre-Pardew - lots of pretty sideways passing but missing the bite. When the Gills did come forward Adie Williams and Barry Hunter looked as comfortable as anything to clear the danger. Gillingham's only real effort during the whole first half was deflected way over Howie's crossbar.

Reading were more than happy to soak up the limited pressure, eventually nick the ball back, and then pile found and create panic for the away side's defence. Every time we came forward we looked dangerous. Caskey almost stuck home one of his specials but it was wide of the left post. Then just before half time, on 43 minutes, we took the lead. The ball was played into the box from the right and came out to Butler in the middle of the box. For a moment it looked like it might sneak wide, but Butler is a quality striker and he'd stuck it into the bottom left corner of the net. 1-0 to the Royals, and a deserved half time lead, with Reading looking the better side.

Gillingham must have wondered what was happening at half time when near half of the East Stand stood up to join into YMCA, with Utopia dancers on the pitch for Reading's 70s night. It seems Reading fans are game for anything, perhaps it was the one goal lead that did it.

So the second half kicked off with the atmosphere just getting going, unfortunately Gillingham were resurgent and soon stopped that. Their double substitution at half time had made a huge difference. In the first half they couldn't use their possession and looked weak coming forward, but with a fresh player down the left they started to look dangerous every time. The pace and ability to beat the Reading defence that was missing in the first half was now there, and Murty (and Gurney later) was having trouble coping. Just after the beak work down the left by two players resulted in the ball being crossed into the midde where the Reading defence was strangely absent. The Gillingham forward was left with a free header from the edge of the six yard box. He made no mistake in pulling his side level.

Sixty-five minutes into the game Gillingham took the lead. Gurney was beaten as Gillingham raced down that left wing once again, leaving Hunter to get back to make the vital tackle as he raced into the Reading box. From the resulting corner Gillingham scored a bizarre goal. The corner was ignored as it bounced into the box, just a few yards out, Hodges or Butler hooked the ball onto the bottom of the crossbar with a confused Howie looking on. It came down and bounced on the line before being prodded home from a yard out. 1-2.

For a moment it looked like Reading might collapse with Gillingham looking for a third. Robinson cleared off the line, they had one just inches over the bar, and Howie made one mistake when coming for the ball and missing it leaving an empty net. It didn't look bad for long though as Reading showed that they too could play football. It's a sign we're full of confidence at the moment, even at 1-2 down we remained controlled and calm and turned the game around looking for that equaliser.

With 15 minutes to go Forster again nipped down the right to cross towards Butler. The ball came out to Caskey in the middle of the box and he fired it home. A well worked goal from Reading to put the game level once more. Reading then might have won it. Once more Forster supplied the cross which found Butler just inches away from connecting and putting Reading back in front. But, at the final whistle, 2-2 was the right result.

A good team performance again from Reading when we might have lost it with Gillingham in desperate need of the points to clinch a play-off place. Reading didn't need anything from this game but put everything into it which was great to see. Williams and Hunter looked great at the back again, but Gillingham were able to expose a few gaps in the second half. Igoe put in a decent performance in the short time he was on the pitch he's a nippy player always willing to go forward - it would be good to see what he can do over the full ninety minutes. And so momentarily the Royals go into the top half of the table - an amazing achievement considering a few months ago we were in the relegation positions.

Post Match Opinions

Got an Opinion?
Comment on this, or any Royals match - email opinion@royals.cx
Appropriate submissions will appear on match report pages!