17 October 1998
Reading 0 Gillingham 0
Crawford, McPherson, Primus, Casper, Brebner (Brayson), Parkinson, Caskey, McIntyre
(Sarr), Williams, Glasgow.
Oh dear. Typical Reading really. Two straight victories against two teams right at the top of the table ahead of a home fixture at Madejski Stadium, where Reading remain undefeated. You'd have expected three points for the Royals without a doubt. But no. Faced with extremely average opposition coming looking for a 0-0 draw Reading fell right into the trap of playing the game exactly how Gillingham wanted them to. It seemed as though both teams were playing out the time from the start. If the points were awarded for tactics Gillingham should have taken all three. We never had a clue about how to break down their defence - and the away defence was as solid as anything.
So the game can be summed up in a word really: dull.
Reading started with the same team that played so well at the Mad House two weeks ago against top of the table Stoke City. The only change being McIntyre making a start up front. Sarr took the secret weapon position - number 12 on the bench. Gillingham were without the suspended Asaba.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the first half was the wind. It was probably the wind that gave Reading their closest chance of scoring. A Caskey free kick way out on the left was probably intended as a cross but found itself heading in the top right corner of the net. Except the keeper was unfortunately awake. Reading's best other chance was in the opening few minutes when Reading worked the ball into the box from the right, with Crawford starting the move, Williams turned inside the area but let off a weak shot into the arms of the Gillingham keeper. The closest we game to a goal in the first half was probably the away sides only real effort on target. A great header inside the box from a corner from the right found Howie pull off a blinding save. It was one of those tricky ones about mid-height close to Howie's body but he somehow managed to get behind it to push it wide of his right post.
Williams was falling over all over the place. Just like the old days. He quickly seemed to get unpopular with the referee after a possible dive or two and then found everything going against him when he was chopped to the ground. The referee should make a note to read up on the handball routine. Missing one was forgivable, two doubtful, but missing out on THREE obvious handballs all within 45 minutes was incredible. All were from Gillingham players, and I think one was in the area.... But we'd have needed a penalty to score. A couple of hopeless crosses straight onto the heads of Gillingham's 10 foot central defenders was pretty much our lot as the half came to a close.
And the second half continued in the same way. All rather dull I'm afraid. The one bright thing (apart from the sun in our eyes for the whole game) was Parkie. Parkie should be every Reading fans hero and he must be looking at a second successive player of the season award - simply because of the amount of effort he put in. This was a very very physical game - bodies flying everywhere and tackles coming in from every angle. And about 50 percent of those tackles involved Parkie in some way. If it wasn't for him winning everything in midfield they'd have walked straight through everytime. It was because of Parkie that we enjoyed so much possession - the amount of balls he'd win and then just play a nice simple pass off afterwards was a joy to watch. Which is more than be said for Caskey who had a depressingly poor game. Perhaps it was the wind but almost all of his passes were shite today. And poor Byron Glasgow too. A player that worked like anything but sadly was guilty of some dodgy passes and failing to get to the ball first a fair few times when he should have done.
Add to all that McIntyre strangely out of sorts, Williams failing really to break through, Brayson coming on and making no impression, and a strangely lethargic looking Mass Sarr and it was always going to be 0-0. Their keeper was even a bit dodgy too. We managed to hit the crossbar in the second half when the ball went through the keepers hands. McIntyre just failed in his follow up after a Primus header was only pushed out by the keeper. But really chances were few and far between.
But for me it was a great day anyway. I spent all the morning at Elm Park reserving a house!