Royals Draw After Cracker at Ashton Gate

Last updated : 30 March 2002 By Rob Cooper

Ashton Gate: Scene of a 3-3 Cracker
Ashton Gate
Reading came away from Ashton Gate with only a point following a cracking 3-3 draw. The Royals were 2-0 up inside five minutes thanks to an Andy Hughes header and a Nicky Forster penalty. But after just eleven minutes incredibly it was 2-2, Lee Peacock made it 2-1 after what appeared to be a handball but the City striker. Then after eleven minutes Mickey Bell equalised from the penalty spot after Adie Williams was extremely harshly adjudged to have pulled Lee Matthew's shirt. Kevin Watson fired in his first goal for Reading before the quarter hour mark but a second half strike from Steve Robinson ensured the points were shared.

Alan Pardew chose to field the same team that drew 2-2 with Oldham at the Madejski a week previously. There was a 15,609 crowd at Ashton Gate, City's biggest attendance of the season. Some 3,500 Reading fans made the relatively short trip down the M4 ensuring there was a good noise coming from the Blackthorn Wedlock away end.

The first attack of the game was a Reading one and the ball ended up in the back of the net. The Royals won a corner on the left following a John Salako throw in. Salako took the corner short to Forster who crossed for Andy Hughes at the far post. Hughes timed his jump perfectly and sent a crashing header past the helpless Steve Phillips in the Bristol City goal.

After just five minutes Forster doubled the advantage with his sixteenth goal of the season. The former England Under 21 international dashed into the box before being hauled to the ground by Mark Lever who scored an own goal at the Madejski Stadium back in November. Forster made no mistake from the spot, dispatching the ball low to the ‘keeper's right.

But just a minute later it was 2-1. Poor defending from Nicky Shorey let Lee Peacock in down the city right and after he controlled the ball with his arm out on the wing, YES, his arm, he surged into the penalty area and finished past Whitehead in style.

Then, the fourth attack of the game saw the fourth goal. A Brian Tinnion free kick thirty-five yards out on the wing was played into the box and Adie Williams was there, marking City attacker Lee Matthew's. Bizarrely the referee chose to point to the spot when everyone else in the ground expected the free kick to go the other way. Mickey Bell didn't waste his golden but slightly lucky opportunity, he sent Whitehead the wrong way with his kick.

Just when fans of both sides expected the match to calm down a little there was another goal. It was for the Royals again, Kevin Watson the score, his first for the club. Forster was fouled twenty-five yards out, left of centre. Ideally placed for a shot Watson did just that. His effort was low and curled round the wall going in off the inside of Steve Phillips left hand post. Reading were 3-2 ahead.

After a frantic opening quarter of an hour the game settled down. Jamie Cureton should have made it 4-2 before twenty minutes were on the clock, Nicky Forster again darting into the penalty area pulled it back for Curo who managed to fire over the bar from eight yards when it would have been much simpler to hit the target.

The Royals continued to pile on the pressure, Graeme Murty's twenty-five yard drive went just wide and Adie Williams was just not tall enough to get on the end of a John Salako cross. At the other end Brian Tinnion's forty-yard free kick was well claimed by Whitehead, Scott Murray's effort was blocked and Tommy Doherty had a shot deflected well over. Then two minutes before the break Louis Carey shot just inches wide from twenty-five yards.

At half time Reading led 3-2, but after a crazy opening fifteen minutes both sides had tightened up at the back. But it looked like there was at least another goal in the game in the second half, the question was, which way would it go?

City came out fired up and ready for action, Doherty fed Lee Peacock in on Whitehead but big Phil managed to force the attacker out wide enabling defenders to get back and somewhat belatedly, clear. Meanwhile, at the other end Andy Hughes raced through clear of the Bristol defence only for play to be called up because of a collision between Parkinson and Lever in midfield. The referee really should have let the game flow as the Royals could have well pushed themselves two clear of the Robins.

After a quiet spell City got their equaliser courtesy of Steve Robinson on the hour mark. A Mickey Bell cross was left by Shorey and Williams enabling former Reading loanee Tony Thorpe to cross back across the face of goal. Robinson was there, on loan from Preston North End, and was able to turn the ball into the net and level the scores for the second time.

In reaction to the goal the Royals forced two corners in quick succession. But Scott Murray broke with the ball and ran almost the entire length of the pitch before shooting. But his shot was blocked.

As the minutes ticked down it was clear that the next goal would win the game. It was looking more and more likely that the Robins would get that goal as they pushed forward. But they were unable to convert or even create much in the way of chances.

With five minutes left to play Forster missed a golden chance that could prove costly come the end of the season. Watson played him in and after surging past a defender Fozzy shot low to Steve Phillip's left but the Robin's ‘keeper was equal to it and he turned the shot round the post for a corner.

But try as they might Reading just couldn't force the decisive goal. With Brighton winning 4-1 at Colchester and Brentford defeating Stoke 1-0 the Royals stay top only on goal difference with third place Brentford just two points behind. There are four games left to play and there is every chance that we could throw it away again. However if we play like we did today there should be no problems.