Reading FC Match Report: 2017/2018 Season - Championship


READING 1 BURTON 2

Reading: M Barrow (76)
Burton: T Flanagan (40), T Naylor (81)

Reading marked the occasion of their 500th first team fixture at the Madejski Stadium with a dismal defeat against struggling Burton Albion. Having enticed a huge crowd to attend with reduced ticket prices the Royals missed a golden opportunity to increase their following in future matches. It is however the manner of the defeat which will concern everyone associated with the club. Having conceded a soft goal in the first half Reading managed to mount some pressure on the Albion defence in the second half and scramble an equaliser fifteen minutes from time. In a game in which Albion had rarely ventured out of their own half it seemed reasonable to expect Reading to go on and win the game. The expected surge to kick on and win the game was scuppered by some dreadful defending culminating in a bizarre winning goal for Albion. That was the last straw for many, and the ground emptied. Jaap Stam identified poor touch, passing and decision making throughout the side as the key factors contributing to the result, which is a pretty fair summary. In short Reading significantly underperformed individually and collectively against a mediocre team and managed to lose in spite of having seventy-six per cent of the possession.  

From the kick-off Reading looked as if they had not kicked a ball for several weeks. Sloppy passing, heavy touches and a lack of movement made for an extremely dull spectacle. The poor quality of the game was illustrated when Albion played a corner straight to Kelly who in turn hit a poor pass up the half way line where an Albion centre back sliced the ball high into the East Stand. A tame effort from Akuko, easily gathered by Bywater, and a decent long range strike from Akins, which was well held by Mannone, were the only occasions on which the ‘keepers were tested. After an uneventful forty minutes a long throw by Albion bounced across the Reading penalty area where Flanagan moved quicker than Kelly and poked the ball past a surprised Mannone. It was Flanagan’s first goal in five years. Enough said!   

Reading did show greater urgency in the second half but rarely troubled Bywater. They kept possession and patiently looked for openings which were few and far between due to a laboured build up and hesitancy over the final ball. The lack of movement was clearly making it easy for Albion to defend. Swift was introduced in place of Edwards, who was ironically probably one of Reading’s more effective players but happened to occupy the role Swift was required to play. Gunter had been banging in more crosses in the second half one of which dropped to Kelly beyond the far post. Kellys’ pass found Barrow who prodded the ball home from close range. There was still time for Reading to save the game. Not for the first time Reading took a risk at the back to retain possession and a weary Van den Berg stretched to reach the ball and sold Moore short with his pass. Taking decisive action Moore attempted to punt it clear but was closed down by Naylor and the ball rebounded of the Albion player and crept past a wrong-footed Mannone just inside the post. The home crowd were stunned into a disbelieving silence. Bodvarsson was introduce too late to change the game but long enough to show us what had been missing from the Reading attack. Boos (which I still find hard to justify) rang out at the final whistle, and what should have been a day of celebration ended in miserable disappointment for Reading.   

It is hard to understand where this performance came from after such a good run of results and performances in November and December. Cleary something will need to change for the next game. Bristol City away will present more of a challenge than Burton at home. Surely Bodvarsson must start if only to give Kermorgant the rest he appears to need, but more than that the whole team needs to play with greater intensity. Merry Christmas!   

John Wells

This Championship game took place 121 days ago in the 2017/2018 season.