28 December 1998
Reading 1 Notts Co 0
Crawford, Casper, Kromheer, Clement, Glasgow, Parkinson, Caskey, Brebner, Brayson
Howie (full credit for continuing improved performances...)
Although in the end this was an important home victory to pull us back to ninth place, it should be remembered that Reading won through a fortunate freak own goal from Notts County and that our first half performance was a pile of crap. Although during the second half the performance picked up a lot - we even managed to play some great fast flowing football coming forward, we still lacked that killer touch up front. It was good to see the pace and the number of chances we were creating - but it was worrying that we failed to stick a single one of them away - and were forced to rely on the own goal to earn the full three points.
The lack of effectiveness up front can be summed up quite easily however - McIntyre and Brayson started up front in place of the magical Mass Sarr and Reading's top scorer Martin Williams. Thankfully Williams joined Sarr on the bench to show he's back from injury. And both players managed to get on the pitch, unfortunately for just the last five minutes. We really do need more strength in the squad up front. I know it's already been said - and it will continue to be said until a suitable Asaba replacement is found. McIntyre and Brayson were both complete shite. Brayson worked hard and so was marginally more deserving of a chance than McIntyre. McIntyre combined being shit with being unforgivably lazy - and that, to me, was just not acceptable.
The game got underway in front of a full East Stand and nearly full North and West stands - a crowd looking suspiciously well over the 15,000 mark but officially just 13,000. Are these figures made up?
The first half then. And this could be summed up as: Notts County. The chants of "You're Supposed To Be At Home" from the few hundred away fans hit the nail on the head. County were playing like the home side - with the possession and creating the chances. Reading looked content to be second best - second to everything and looked like we were playing away looking for the point. Reading were playing best in defence - and thankfully the defence was looking pretty tight with Kromheer joining Casper in the composed, stylish, wall like central defender role. Add to that combination the on-loan Clement and it's hard to complain about the Reading defence.
Despite all the stick Howie gets, he is really starting to improve. This may be because he's a "Shot Stopper" and was given plenty of chances to show off these skills against Notts County. It was thanks to Howie that Reading managed to ride the increasing pressure from County and go in at half time without letting one in. Having praised Howie however it should also be said that the post came to our rescue a few times when Howie failed to get to it. County came closest to scoring during a period started by a powerful shot from just outside the area. Howie dived well to his right to push the ball wide. When the corner came in Howie came out confidently and did well to make a clean catch. Unfortunately his moment of glory was lost when he fell over a player in the box and the ball span out of his hands. The resulting shot was hit against the corner of Howie's left goal post and the crossbar.
Moments later another long range effort found the foot of the Reading post after just missing the fingertips of Howie stretched out to his left.
Reading meanwhile were getting caught offside at a rate of roughly twenty-seven per minute. Brayson being the key offender. We failed to make any impression inside the Notts County half excluding a long range shot from Caskey that dipped, but too late, and a weak effort from Parkie that swung well away from the left post.
Strangely enough Reading went in 1-0 up at half time without a single shot on target. The goal came roughly midway through the first half and was an extremely generous Christmas present from the away side. With the keeper well off his line the County defender attempted to make a back pass as if the keeper was on his line. If he'd been on his line it would have been fine. But instead it looped high over the keepers head and dropped into an empty net for one of the worst (best) own goals you're likely to see. 1-0 to the Royals. Well - we wouldn't have scored any other way.
Tommy must have given them a bit of a talking too at half time - and as a result Reading looked far more involved in the second half. As the half progressed County turned more and more comical and Reading started to look more and more like a football team creating chance after chance.
County pumped in a couple of hopeless long shots but it was clear somewhere they'd lost their first half skill - everything was flying off at all kinds of strange angles.
Reading increased the spead of the game a bit and got the passing working with some speedy move down the wings. Crawford, who'd looked shit, in the first half, started working himself into some great positions down the right to put some crosses over. Down the other wing Clement was going the same with some powerful runs forward and combining with Glasgow. Reading really should have added to their lead after a Glasgow cross went right across the face of the goal just needing a toe to get on it to put it in. On the far post it came to Brebner who somehow couldn't get it in. There were some frantic moments in the Notts County box with shots flying in and being blocked, and Reading continued to win corners on the right which Caskey hoofed in.
Parkie was unlucky not to get on the score sheet with a blinding shot just inside the box right of centre. The Notts County keeper couldn't have known what hit him but managed to save on the line.
With an away player down injured a streaker legged in on the pitch from the corner of the North/West stand for a few comic moments. He kissed the ground, scored a pretend goal past the bemused County keeper before evading a steward and legging it into the stand.
With the game at 1-0 and coming to a close I was waiting for the equaliser. Luckily Howie was in form to make a couple of great saves and keep Reading ahead - and in the dying minutes County failed to push forward in the same way other Mad House visitors have done to steal a point. Sarr and Williams came on with five minutes to go - all rather pointless at that stage. Sarr even managed a booking to pushing over a County player. And that was that. A vital home win - the three points we were after. But it's all rather frustrating that we failed, once again, to make the most of our possession and chances when we made them. Notts County probably feel rather hard done by.