Reading FC Match Report: 2017/2018 Season - Championship
READING 0 BIRMINGHAM 2
Birmingham: J Maghoma (24), S Gallagher (64)
The loyalty of the Reading fans is being tested to the limit with this latest dismal performance from their team. A second successive home defeat at the hands of teams in the bottom three without scoring appears to point to a struggle for survival for the rest of the season. City took the lead midway through the first half when Reading failed to clear a free kick and the ball fell invitingly to Maghoma inside the box who punished the mistake emphatically. Reading created chances but a second City goal from Gallagher on sixty-four minutes drained them of what little confidence and self-belief remained. A third City goal looked more likely than a reply from a dejected Reading. City deservedly moved off the bottom with their first away win of the season as the Royals now find themselves four points above the drop zone.
City, fresh from a home win against Leeds, started confidently but it was Stockdale who was forced to make the first save of the game when Swift threaded a superb ball through for Barrow who latched on to his pass but his shot came of the 'keeper's legs and out for a corner. Kermorgant got his head to the corner at the near post but was disappointed with the direction of his attempted flick. Mannone had be quick off his line avert danger when Clement lost possession in his own half.
Clement was an interesting selection and clearly had been detailed to get forward making several runs beyond Kermorgant which were generally ignored. Having settled in to the game he showed some nice touches, notably a nutmeg on the City full back to get behind the defence. That was the story of the first half. Lots at nice touches from Reading players which came to nothing. The City goal could hardly be described as well worked but when the ball fell kindly for them they made the most of the opportunity. Bacuna, booed by the City fans presumably for being a former Villa player, seemed to have more appetite for the battle than most and pressed deep in City’s half making some very positive forward runs. This did not go unnoticed by his manager, and at half time he replaced Van den Berg in central midfield with Blackett coming on to fill his vacancy at wing back. Gunter had a shot saved when set up by a crisp Bacuna pass and although he drew a save from Stockdale the hesitant extra touch probably gave the 'keeper enough time to set himself to deal with it.
The change at half time briefly energised the Reading midfield and even aroused sufficient interest to bring the home fans to life. It didn’t last long. As Reading committed more players forward they found themselves outnumbered at the back as City broke quickly. The second and crucial goal came from such a break and the passing and finish were clinical and incisive. Gallagher finished convincingly to the joy of their large contingent of travelling fans. They looked far from a team struggling at the foot of the table – or maybe Reading were just making them look good! In a desperate scramble near the end Reading hit the bar and Kermorgant teed himself up with a volley which drifted past the post, but I sensed neither the Reading fans, or the players really believed they would score.
City are a physically strong and direct side who were prepared to compete for every ball. In contrast Reading’s build up was slow and predictable and were losing crucial challenges. Frustration with team mates was clearly shown by Moore by his attitude, and by Kermorgant who was clearly agitated as he ran past Barrow to put in a challenge on the player Barrow should have been picking up, committing a foul in the process. Reading's desperate need for a striker clearly illustrated by Moore playing up front in the final minutes, and although Kermorgant always works hard there were two decent balls played behind the defence he really should have reached but he has become dreadfully slow off the mark. Having said that his goal line headed clearance prevented a third and humiliating goal form City near the end. Morale and confidence is very low at the moment which manifests itself in hesitancy, poor decision making, wayward passing, and a lack of movement. Early in the second half Blackett pinged a ball into the box and although there Reading players close by, nobody made any attempt to move towards the ball.
In the second half heads were down, and body language reflected the dejection felt by all. As Jaap Stam pointed, out his players were reacting instead of anticipating. What he can do about that is not quite so clear. Things can only get better – I hope! John Wells
This Championship game took place 144 days ago in the 2017/2018 season.