Reading FC Match Report: 2018/2019 Season - Championship
READING 1 NORWICH 2
Reading: J Bodvarsson (72)
Norwich: T Pukki (14), M Vrancic (73)
Following an encouraging away win at the weekend, Reading's poor form at home continued with their fourth successive defeat by the odd goal. City, a physically strong and competent passing side, imposed themselves on the game in the early stage, taking the lead with a superbly taken goal from Pukki after fourteen minutes. The Royals dug in and prevented further damage, but apart from a good effort from Meite, did not threaten City's lead. The second half was a different story as Reading, lifted by the introduction of Barrow and Bodvarsson, deservedly leveled the scores with twenty minutes remaining. Remarkably City were back in front within a minute, Vracic finding the corner of the net through a crowded goal mouth as the Reading defence fell apart. The frustration on the pitch was mirrored in the crowd. City managed the game well to keep their lead and left Reading firmly anchored at the bottom of the league.
City dominated the first half forcing Reading to play the ball long to Baldock who, although he ran tirelessly, had little chance of success against the enormous physical presence of City’s centre backs. Clement understandably started with the same team that started on Saturday, but with hindsight it was not the best option to deal with this City line up. Bacuna occupied the holding midfield role leaving Swift and Kelly to push forward to support the willing Baldock in a four one four one formation. Unfortunately Swift was too slow, Kelly was muscled out of it too often, and Bacuna was chasing shadows behind them. Reading’s best attacking option was Meite down the left whilst Gunter and Aluko offered no attacking threat whatsoever on the right. Pukki’s goal was a lesson in finishing. Cantwell pushed a good ball in to his feet and the City forward had a quick look up before curling the ball into the corner the net from the edge of the box giving Walker no chance. As Reading tried to impose themselves on the game the foul count began to rise (sixteen by City by the end) and there were some niggling fouls which a rather week referee had difficulty in managing. Krul saved well from Meite but it was hard to see where the equaliser was coming from.
Reading rallied after half time and it was hard to say whether City decided to sit back or if Reading raised their game. Either way Reading were on top for nearly thirty minutes and when Barrow replaced Meite on the left City suddenly looked vulnerable. Reading hit the post in quick succession and although Baldock was in an offside position it lifted the crowd. Meite can count himself unlucky to be taken off unlike Aluko who certainly did not justify his selection ahead of Sims in spite of showing a bit more determination.
Bodvarsson took some of the pressure off Baldock coming on for Kelly and giving Reading more attacking options. Reading earned their equaliser in the seventy-second minute when Ilori’s effort came back off the post and Bodvarsson popped up with a good striker’s goal poking in the rebound from close range. The home crowd came to life and for a moment it appeared Reading might gather sufficient momentum to go on and win the game. It was sadly a fleeting moment as City equalised within a minute. Ilori went to ground and missed his tackle wide on the right allowing City to get behind Reading’s defence. With plenty of bodies back none of them were able to prevent Vracic from spinning to steer the ball inside far post. Reading defenders beat the ground with frustration as the home fans looked on stunned by what they had just seen. The timing of the goal knocked the stuffing out of Reading and Norwich successfully saw the game out it in traditional manner escaping with only one yellow card for some blatant tine-wasting.
Reading at least have a chance to bounce back in three days time at home against struggling Hull City but there needs to be some improvement. It will be interesting to see the changes promised by Paul Clement in his post-match interview. Surely Barrow must start and to provide a much needed cutting edge. There is no quick fix in midfield and the defence needs to be given a thorough examination. Moore is just about holding things together but Ilori must start winning a few headers and the less said about Gunter the better.
What is even more concerning is the drop in attendance and the growing cloud of pessimism around the ground. I fully understand and feel the frustration of defeat and poor performances but booing your team will not make them play better. A team needs support and encouragement even more when they are down especially when they are trying, and this evening I did not notice a significant lack of effort.
This Championship game took place 152 days ago in the 2018/2019 season.