(Half Time: 4-0)
Reading Scorers: Butler (6, 43 mins), Caskey (21, 45 mins)
Wycombe Scorers: Faulconbridge (52 mins)
Date: 17 October 2000
Attendance: 10,350

Reading: Whitehead, Robinson, Viveash, Williams, Newman (Murty, 45), Caskey, Jones, McIntyre, Cureton (Igoe, 87), Butler, Hodges (Gurney, 82).
Subs not used: Howie, Mackie.

Wrexham: Dearden, McGregor, Chalk, Barrett, Ferguson, Edwards, Faulconbridge, Sam (Morrell, 79), Williams, Mardon (Moody, 42), Bouanane.
Subs not used: Owen, Rogers.

Bookings: Newman (Reading); Chalk, Ferguson, Sam (Wrexham).

Brilliant. Half of me was expecting our insane home run to come to an end against a Wrexham side in top form away from home. Half of me was expecting another trashing of a half decent side. Thankfully we got the second. On paper this was a tough test for Reading, we may have had four straight wins behind us scoring almost millions of goals, but Wrexham were unbeaten away from home after winning three and drawing two. Wrexham weren't anything special, but they were definately an above average side - yet they were demolished before half time. The second half might as well not have happened - but the first half was probably worth double the ticket price alone with Reading getting all of their goals before the break. I bet Wrexham didn't know what had hit them.

The signs were there before kick-off. With Cureton back from his one match suspension we were wondering if McIntyre, in top-form up-front, might be dropped to make way for Cureton - one of the best strikers in the division. However Pardew opted for leaving out Parkinson and played all three forward players - McIntyre, Cureton and Butler. With those three up front it was no suprise the goal machine was in action right from the off. After a couple of minutes we could have taken the lead when the ball was threaded in from the left side of the pitch - with Caskey almost finding the target from the right side of the target at the end of it all. Wrexham had hardly touched the ball before they were fishing it out of the back of the net. After six minutes Caskey played a beautiful ball from inside the Reading half to Butler. Butler, on-side, legged it into the area with just the keeper to beat. For a moment it wasn't clear what he was going to do, but the next moment the ball was between the keepers legs and rolling along the ground and into the back of the net. 1-0 to the Royals!

With Parkinson missing in midfield and the three forward men it was great to see Reading's direct attacking football beat Wrexham's pretty possession play that took them nowhere. Reading were dangerous every time they came forward while Wrexham could only muster one decent attempt on goal from way outside the area during the entire of the first half. That's not to say Wrexham were a bad side - they were playing it around midfield but found it near impossible to crack through a solid Reading defence with Williams and Viveash looking a very solid combination.

The second came after twenty minutes. Robinson, unleashed down the left wing once again, crossed deep into the right side of the area. The ball flew over the heads of the defence and Butler in the middle and found itself bouncing off Caskey's leg. With the keeper somewhere missing, probably expecting a cross to the near post, it bounced off the leg of Caskey and into the net. 2-0. About ten minutes later Lee Hodges almost added another with a shot from just outside the box. Just before the break and it was three-nil. From a throw on the right Caskey took it to the line and looped over a cross to Butler on the right side of the box, and from close distance Butler volleyed it in for his second of the game.

We were still in the middle of celebrating when Robinson was legging it down the left once again. After beating his man he played it backwards to the edge of the area. Cureton played it right to Caskey and Caskey hit it home with plenty of confidence from just right of centre. 4-0! This was getting stupid. Reading were playing probably the best attacking football ever seen at the Madejski Stadium. 4-0 and it wasn't even half time. Dangerous was just not the word and this was entertainment at it's very very best from the Royals. The half time whistle saved Wrexham from going even further behind and we all couldn't wait for the second half.

The second half couldn't possibly deliver what the first had done - but I guess I was expecting a bit much at 8-0. Reading sat back with the game won and Wrexham deserve full credit for continuing to come at Reading looking to see what they could do. Six minutes after the break the ball flew off their winger after a challenge and went for what was clearly a goal kick. Even down towards the North Stand we were shouting exactly the same as those right by the incident - but it was hardly the first strange decision from the referee. The corner was swung in from the left and cleanly headed home inside the box - textbook goal. 4-1.

Reading took it right down the other end and could have made it 5-1 from a Caskey free-kick. Caskey's first effort was saved at the near post and after re-taking it Caskey did the same again and almost scored. I haven't got a clue how the ball made it low past the wall and still managed to find roughly the same place where the first effort had ended up. However the second one was much lower and hit the base of the post and out to safety.

Martin Butler could have made it a hatrick after being set free inside the box. Butler ran free to take on the keeper one-on-one and was clearly brought down by the keeper as he went to pass him for what would have been a certain goal. The ball bounced to the left but we couldn't make the most of the rebound. Down the other end Whitehead had to pull off a superb save from an effort just inside the area, and moments later Wrexham had a goal disallowed - but the whistle had gone for off-side way before the shot.

So 4-1 at full time. Another brilliant result as Reading continue the push for promotion. The second half was a bit disappointing, but only because we'd done all the work in the first.... it's hard to find much to complain about when we're stuffing everyone we play...

Following report by Neil Cole:

The most incredible first half performance seen in a very long time by the Royals sealed yet another wonderful home win for Division Two’s best team. The first 45 minutes of this match were a joy to watch, as Reading proved yet again they are simply too good for this below average league. Wrexham tried to play football, but just didn’t know how to cope with an attack that wouldn’t look out of place in the Premiership. The second half was disappointing to say the least, but nobody in their right mind can complain about the eventual 4-1 result.

Alan Pardew was faced with several selection dilemmas before the match kicked off. Jamie Cureton was available again after his suspension, but it would have been very harsh to leave out the in-form Butler and McIntyre. Simple solution – play all three. This tactic worked perfectly, as they all played magnificently and each of them deserve some of the credit from this latest thrashing. The extra striker meant one of the midfielders had to miss out, and sadly Parky is the most expendable of the four. Caskey’s attacking flair, Jones’ ball-winning, and Hodges’ creativity make them a very strong midfield, leaving Parkinson sitting on the sidelines for this one. In defence, the return of Matt Robinson at the expense of Andy Gurney gave us yet more attacking options, as Robinson was getting forward and harassing the Wrexham right back all night.

With such emphasis on attack, any team needs to be careful they don’t neglect the defence. Fortunately, we have the pairing of Adi Viveash and Adie Williams, who are possibly the best centre back partnership in the division. Wrexham joined the list of teams who have struggled to get past these two, and they also deserve plenty of credit for the half-time scoreline of 4-0 to the Royals.

Each goal tonight was superb – gone are the days of goalmouth scrambles and lucky rebounds. The first came early on and set the pattern for the rest of the match. The management team had clearly identified the weaknesses of the Wrexham back four, and a long ball upfield together with the pace of Martin Butler had their centre backs beaten. Butler got past his man, controlled the ball beautifully, and nutmegged the keeper.

It wasn’t long before the second, which was quite a bizarre goal in the end. A wonderful surging run from Matt Robinson got him to the byeline and he had plenty of options in the middle. The cross ended up completely fooling the Wrexham defence, and somehow there was nobody there to stop Darren Caskey from tapping in it at the far post. It seemed like slow motion, as everyone suddenly realised Caskey was unmarked with an open goal in front of him. With two minutes to go until half-time, many Royals fans had settled for 2-0 and disappeared to the bar. This was a big mistake, as they missed two more goals of exceptional quality.

The third goal saw Martin Butler get his 11th of the season, and this one was on a par with the other ten – brilliant. A free kick from Caskey on the right was crossed in, and Butler flicked it past the Wrexham goalie at the near post. Injury time in the first half saw possibly the pick of the four goals. Another cross from the left found Jamie Cureton in the middle. Rather than go for goal, he played a delicate flick behind him to the once again unmarked Darren Caskey. The Royals captain had loads of time to set himself up and crack home the fourth goal of the night.

Half-time came with most people in the ground in a state of shock at what had gone on. Wrexham came to the Madejski undefeated away from home and eyeing up an upset by beating second place Reading. Most Reading fans surely couldn’t have imagined a first half better than those seen against Brentford and Oldham. Yet even by those standards, this was incredible.

Wrexham needed to have a long look at their defence in the half-time break, because they had been truly awful. They had been so preoccupied with the threat of Cureton and Butler they had seemingly forgotten about last season’s leading scorer, as Caskey was found unmarked time and time again. Matt Robinson had the beating of their full-back every time, and long balls from defence and midfield had caught out their defence on numerous occasions.

Not surprisingly, the second half was a big let-down. Pardew used all three substitutions before the end, giving a few players a run-out and experimenting with different tactics. Graeme Murty emerged at right back, and to be honest didn’t look up to it. He was keen to get forward, but his crossing was abysmal. Andy Gurney came on in the second half and played an unfamiliar role in midfield. The third change saw Sammy Igoe on for Cureton, moving Caskey to the left and McIntyre further forward.

Wrexham came out fighting, and as Reading tired the visitors had the better of the second 45 minutes. They pulled one back from a disputed corner shortly after the break, and for a brief moment everyone in the ground was considering the possibility of a comeback. However, the goal woke both the fans and the Reading defence up, and the rest of the match was quite tight and there were no more goals. The notable chances saw Reading have a big penalty appeal refused as Butler was brought down, and twice Caskey worried their keeper with well placed free-kicks.

The final result was 4-1, and despite the second half performance the Reading fans went home ecstatic. Our two biggest rivals, Walsall and Millwall, both dropped valuable points. Tonight’s results should encourage a huge Reading following to Bristol City on Saturday, where the right results could see us go top. And going by the results of the last two months, that’s where we’ll stay.

Post Match Opinions

Well, you shouldn't complain. Walsall, Cambridge, Stoke, Millwall and Wigan all had disappointing draws and Bury and Wycombe lost again. We cruised to a 4-0 halftime lead with 3 cracking goals and a funny one. We chanted "You might as well go home" to the couple of hundred desolate Wrexham fans, staring at their first away defeat (trouncing!) of the whole season and we sat back in smug triumphalism awaiting a real massacre. And then we had the second half. OK lads, I forgive you. The first half had me by the throat the whole time and I loved every minute. If any of you want to complain about that second half, think what it's like tonight being one of the other top sides. They'd all have taken a 4-1 win with a poor second half.
-- Bucks Royal

What an excellent first half! It just could not have been better.
Quality passing and movement, and excellent finishing against a team who passed the ball well themselves, but lacked our class where it mattered, and who did not have a resolute defence. Everyone contributed well. It must have been one of the best 45 minutes seen at the Mad House. That the second half failed to match the first was, disappointing, but not surprising. Newman failed to appear for the second half, presumably as a result of a rather harsh booking. Murty still looks a bit rusty but he is a good player to have on the bench and should be challenging for a place in the team if he can stay fit for a decent spell.
What was impressive was the work rate of the team. Here it was Butler who showed the way yet again. He chases everything and with him, you know that you are defending form the front. He was outstanding in a team that all performed well and can still get better! With the other results going our way, last night was another boost for the Royals. The message must be to keep it up and start to put some distance between ourselves and our rivals in the division whilst we are on a roll.
Long may it continue!

-- Kenneth

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