Attendance: 4,082
Scorers: Caskey, McIntyre Date: 19 February 2000
Team: Howie, Gurney, A.Williams, Hunter, Robinson, Grant, Parkinson, Caskey, McIntyre (Hodges), Butler, Forster (Smith).

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The fans who had made their way up from the Madejski Stadium in the morning may not have gone home with their win bonus, but may well have helped Reading battle from two goals behind to secure a valuable point at Scunthorpe. Between 800 and 900 Reading fans had made the long journey North, and around the M180 a couple of times for good measure. This was Reading's first trip to Scunthorpe's new ground - and Reading fans in good voice to create a decent atmosphere behind the goal. The crowd of just over four thousand was a decent sized one for Scunthorpe and was helped out by a traveling support who covered the away end in blue and white. When the players made their way out for kickoff they got a fantastic welcome with the release of a couple of thousand blue and white balloons. Unfortunately, Scunthorpe were in the mood to spoil the party. After a recent turn around in both teams fortunes, but with both teams needing the points to move away from the drop zone, this was always going to be tricky match for the Royals.

In the end Reading had created enough chances to have won the game - but we were grateful to have got away with the point after a disastrous first forty minutes which saw Scunthorpe take a two goal lead. It wasn't the best of first halves with neither team really getting into a rhythm. At best it could be described as two gritty performances from teams at the base of the table. Having said that Reading could have taken the lead early on when the ball was crossed from the left and Butler just missed a header which might have sailed into the back of the net with contact. Scunthorpe's two goals were both conceded when they were given far too much room to shoot after the ball was played across, and missed, by the whole Reading defence. Hunter and Williams weren't doing a terrible job - but the defence would have been so much more secure with Primus in the middle.

After threatening to score by lobbing the ball onto the top of Howie's crossbar, Scunthorpe did score just before the half hour. The ball was played across from the right and Torpey, Scunny's new signing to fight relegation, smacked it home after being given plenty of space from close range. 0-1. With the game getting more scrappy it was Scunthorpe who took further advantage about 10 minutes later. It was a similar kind of goal - passed across the box, inside the area, with slack marking from Reading. Again it was passed from the right, but this time the finish was superb. The shot came in from just left of centre and was played across Howie into the top right corner of the net. 0-2 to Scunthorpe, and Reading could have been dead and buried. Throughout this season, until recently, this would have been the end of the game for Reading, but today to our credit we took it straight down the other end to try and get back into it.

With half time almost on us we crossed the ball towards Butler in the centre of the box, from the right. Butler jumped for it, along with a Scunny defender who wasn't goal side of Butler, so couldn't have done a thing had Butler jumped high enough to connect. The defender left his arm way up in the air, and as the ball passed Butler it didn't pass his arm, and the obvious penalty was given. This was Reading's lifeline which we had to take. Up stepped Caskey and confidently drove the ball to the left of the keeper and into the back of the Scunthorpe net. 1-2, mass celebration behind the goal, and Reading back in the game. It couldn't have come at a better time and set Reading up for a far better second half performance.

Scunthorpe had had the best of the first half, although there had been a relatively bright period from Reading before we conceded the goals, but Reading by far had the best of the second half and really battled away. As soon as we came out, with the away fans well behind the team, it was clear we were after at least a point. Forster was looking sharp up front and it seemed almost inevitable we'd score. The equaliser didn't take long coming - about ten minutes into the second half. Caskey got away down the right and put over an excellent cross into the middle, there was Jimmy McIntyre to put in an great header to send the ball into the right of the net. 2-2. From then we could have gone on and won it with Forster twice making space to be delivered the ball to run on towards goal. Firstly he ran almost half of the pitch before taking the ball from the right towards the centre and shooting - his low drive was wide of the left post. Moments later he took the ball to the left, and was about to shoot, when a defender made the vital challenge and stuck his boot in the way just in time.

Although Scunthorpe had done little to suggest they'd win it in the second half, Howie did well to come a couple of times to collect crosses played into the box. Another couple of times he didn't come leading to a couple of outbursts from Adie Williams. And I wonder what Williams had to say after the match to Howie about his kicking? Time after time Howie would just hoof the ball out of play well before the half way line from a goal kick - and then look back at the spot he'd kicked the ball from as if looking to lay some blame. Howie wasn't at fault for either of the goals and has been a much improved player after coming back into the team - but with Whitehead returning from injury he must improve on his kicking if he's to hold his place in the team.

With team slipping away Pardew took off McIntyre and then Forster and replaced them with two midfield players - Hodges and Smith - to make sure we held possession and didn't let the point slip away. And these tactics meant it was less likely we'd grab the winner, but almost certain the home side wouldn't. At the end of the game that was exactly the case and Reading had won a valuable away point to continue our impressive league form. Reading have now won three and drawn two of their last five league matches - with both of the draws away from home. If we continue this determined form we can look at a comfortable mid-table finish in May.

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