Reading FC Match Report: 2017/2018 Season - Championship


READING 1 PRESTON 0

Reading: M Barrow (12)
Preston: --

Reading finally managed to win at home on a Saturday for the first time this season, and not a moment too soon. Defeat would have put Reading in deep trouble following Barnsley’s home win against Sheffield United in an early kick-off. It was a scrappy game full of niggly, petty fouls, but crucially Mo Barrow reacted first to a cross flicked on by Bodvarsson heading home from close range to give the Royals an early lead which they hung on to with slightly more assured defending that in the recent similarly narrow win at home against QPR. It was Reading’s defensive organisation and determination which saw them hold out for the crucial victory. Luke Moore was outstanding winning everything in the air and showing an equally brilliant positional sense to snuff out danger on numerous occasions.

North End seemed intent on bullying Reading from the start and Davies was incredibly lucky not to receive a yellow card in the opening minutes for a rugby tackle on Bodvarsson who had outpaced him on the right wing. It was Davies lack of discipline which satisfyingly led indirectly to the only goal of the game. His second bookable offence on ten minutes did lead to a yellow card (which should have been red following his previous indiscretion). The ugly lunge on Bodvarsson gave Reading a free kick wide on the right. Kelly’s free kick was glanced across goal by Bodvarsson and was met by Barrow lurking at the back post to give Reading the lead. Reading almost conceded an equaliser immediately. Richards, coming back from injury, looked good going forward but off the pace defensively. North End were probing this weakness and the young Reading full back tripped Bodin on the edge of the box. The resulting strike from Moult smacked against the crossbar with Mannone beaten. Bacuna was guilty of dwelling on the ball on at least three occasions in the first half and he was grateful for a superb block from Moore to compensate for his sloppy play presenting Browne with a sight of goal. Reading squandered some good opportunities with over-hit crosses which can probably be attributed to a lack of composure. Fisher became the second North End player to receive a yellow for a brutal assault on Barrow as the visitors racked up an impressive number of fouls. (They ended up with a total of twenty but could and should have been more.) Kelly had a reasonable shout for a penalty but it was by no means clear cut and this referee was not sufficiently confident to make any controversial decisions.

Paul Clement replaced Richards with Clement at half time moving Bacuna to right full back and switching Gunter to the left side. Bacuna was infinitely more effective in his new role. Preston, needing points for a different reason went all out for the equaliser after the interval and had good chances in the opening minutes. A clever back-heeled pass in the box produced a deep cross which Bodin blasted over from close range and a couple of minutes later Maguire headed against the woodwork from Bodin’s excellent cross. Reading’s luck was holding out, and with the home crowd getting behind their team in a way they have not been doing all season, the belief grew within the team that they could hold on for the win. It was noticeable how players like Swift, Clement, Barrow and Aluko were willing to compete for the ball in the air when they have often seemed so reluctant to do so this season up to now. The game was passing Kelly by and Evans came on to replace him and looked very sharp in the tackle. Bodvarsson had played well, ran out of steam and made way for Martin, who had no impact whatsoever on the game. Relief was the overwhelming emotion for Reading fans at the final whistle but there is a much healthier atmosphere around the Madejski recently which looks likely to see them stave off relegation.

Paul Clement has made an impressive start in re-instating some basic defensive organisation from set plays and throw-ins which makes it much more difficult for the opposition. It has only taken him a matter of a couple of weeks to spot an issue which has plagued Reading all season which he highlighted in his post-match interview. Opposing teams seem to be given far too much time and space to put crosses in to the box. Gunter in particular has been guilty of retreating instead of closing down so hopefully that fault will be rectified in the remaining matches. Clement’s down to earth and incisive appraisals of recent performances are like a breath of fresh air. The focus is very much on survival now but I am already looking forward to seeing how he takes the team forward next season.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 74 days ago in the 2017/2018 season.