Reading FC Match Report: 2015/2016 Season - Championship
READING 2 MIDDLESBROUGH 0
Reading: Williams (1), Blackman (88, pen).
It took Reading a mere fifteen seconds to stamp their authority on this significant encounter with one of the leading contenders for automatic promotion. Straight from the kick off Reading worked the ball down the left where Robson-Kanu whipped over an excellent cross for Danny Williams to take full advantage of the yawning gap in the centre of Boro’s defence to head home powerfully from close range. It was not the best of headers but although Konstantopoloulos was able to get a hand to it there was sufficient power to find its way into the net.
Boro, full of confidence derived from their run of seven successive league victories, set about the task establishing a foothold in the game but found Reading far too strong defensively to exert any real pressure where it mattered. In spite of dominating possession it was the Royals who were incisive in attack. Blackman for once drifted wide into the space on the right and left and sidestepped a lunge from Friend to get behind the defence to drive a cross which Konstantopoloulos palmed out to Sa who hammered his shot into the ground and a defender was able to head it off the line. There was much talk before the game about the vulnerability of Al Hasbsi, but on the only occasion he was called into meaningful action in the first half, he got down smartly to save well from a Downing free kick. It marked the beginning of a very assured performance which ultimately had the home fans singing his name! Reading navigated their way to half time without looking likely to concede. It was a well-disciplined team performance but Norwood stood out with the timing of his tackles and neat distribution under pressure. He ended the half with a confident volleyed cross which shaved the far post.
The second half was surprisingly open as play stretched and both teams allowed each other a lot of time and space to attack. Again it was Reading who looked more impressive going forward and more resolute and organised at the back. Blackman moved out to occupy the space on the right as Piazon, having drifted in and out of the game in the first half, was moved inside to play alongside Sa. This gave Reading greater width in attack the team a better balance defensively. Reading began to play with a swagger, rolling asses into space for each other to run onto. Sa got in front of his marker to head narrowly wide. John replaced a disappointing Piazon and got behind the full back on a couple of occasion as Reading threatened to kill the game off with a second goal. Boro also had their chances. A superb through ball found Leadbitter just outside the box and, as McShane unbelievably backed off, he hit a good low drive just outside the post with Al Habsi rooted to the spot. De Pena got in front of a flat footed Gunter and headed just wide to remind us that game was not over yet. We had to wait until the eighty–eighth minute for the crucial second goal. Williams put Blackman into a scoring position with a nicely weighted short pass, but before he could pull the trigger he was clumsily bundled over from behind. Blackman was given the responsibility of sealing victory and he did so with considerable composure waiting for the futile protests to subside and for Konstantopoloulos to obligingly sit down before rolling the ball into the net.
It was a commanding performance from a side beginning to emerge as one of the strongest in the Championship. They are team with few weaknesses and strength in depth. Sa and Robson-Kanu won a lot of long balls in the air and worked really hard all afternoon. Hector was outstanding at the back. McShane was solid, and although his decision making is sometimes a worry, there is no question about his commitment. He seems for some reason to get singled out for some rough treatment by opposing forwards but just shrugs it off and remains unruffled. Blackman is on course for at least twenty goal this season and I can see Sa getting close to that total too. It would be silly to get carried away at this stage of the season but this squad has proved it has the potential to achieve automatic promotion.
This Championship game took place 724 days ago in the 2015/2016 season.