Reading FC Match Report: 2016/2017 Season - Championship
READING 1 DERBY 1
Reading: G Evans (90)
Derby: M Vydra (62)
Reading preserved their unbeaten home record and salvaged a point with a last minute equaliser from George Evans. It was a lacklustre performance from the Royals following a heavy defeat at Brentford earlier in the week. In spite of dominating possession again, Reading lacked penetration, and Scott Carson was not tested until Kermorgant met McCleary’s corner with a powerful header. After a dull first half Derby took the initiative after the interval and it was no surprise when they took the lead when Vydra flicked a deflected free kick past Al Habsi. Vydra then missed a golden opportunity to finish Reading off with a close range header which Al Habsi somehow managed to keep out. With time running out Derby failed to deal with a corner and Evans gratefully accepted the chance to lash home the loose ball inside the six yard box.
As expected, Reading were prepared to keep possession deep in their own half and work an opening through midfield, but not for the first time this season too often there was no one dropping deep enough to provide a safe passing option. Playing a speculative long ball is not acceptable to the new manager and as a result Al Habsi was often the only outlet available to maintain possession. With Van den Berg unwell and Quinn injured the crucial midfield role was given to Evans who does not look quite ready for that level of responsibility. He was often hard to find. Williams at times seemed the only Reading player interested and was visibly and justifiably frustrated by the lethargy. Reading’s best moments came down the left when Obita, Swift, and Beerens combined well to get behind the County defence. Gunter and McCleary were out of sorts and moves broke down more frequently on the other wing. The timing of Gunter’s runs was particularly poor, racing forward losing the angle to make a pass forcing Quin to turn away play the ball sideways and back. Kermorgant curled a shot wide in the fourth minute as the County defence backpedalled in a rare threat to the visitor’s goal. County were no better taking thirty-four minutes to produce their first attempt on target which had Al Habsi scrambling at his near post. Quite a few cups of tea and coffee were sold long before the half time whistle.
Reading’s lack of energy and urgency reached a peak in the second half as they engineered their own downfall with poor passing and a lack of movement. Moore came to the rescue with a superb last ditch tackle after McShane had lost possession just outside his own penalty area. If Gunter had a poor first half, he became a liability in the second. In a matter of minutes he sold McCleary short with a dreadful pass in his own half when under no pressure whatsoever. McCleary then was booked for a clumsy foul committed when trying to retrieve the situation. He then got himself booked conceding an unnecessary free kick which lead to County’s goal. It was not a particularly well taken free kick but it came off a defender and fell nicely for Vydra to flick past Al Habsi. The goal stung Reading into action and Swift found the target with a free kick won by typically incisive run from Williams. Swift’s strike was too powerful for Carson to gather and Harriot, on in place of McCleary, followed up, but with time and space failed to strike the ball cleanly. Jaap Stam had taken decisive action bringing on Mendes in place of Gunter leaving three at the back and two up front. Stam was clearly encouraging a more direct approach as time was running out and it has to be said it looked far more effective than the patient passing game of the previous eighty minutes. Derby began to look ragged and in the last minute Beeren’s corner was flicked on by Kermorgant for Evans to tuck away a simple chance to stave off a second successive defeat.
Reading then looked eager to go for the winner and almost got caught out by a Derby counter attack. Al Habsi caused an anxious moment when he opted to parry Johnson’s shot out to a Derby attacker when it might have been possible, and certainly safer, to catch the ball. The point was good for morale and lifted Reading into eighth place in the league. It was good to hear Jaap Stam identify the need to get the ball forward quicker as an area for development. It was also encouraging to see two up front albeit in a desperate attempt to snatch an equaliser. Reading looked like a team in need of a break.
This Championship game took place 360 days ago in the 2016/2017 season.