Reading FC Match Report: 2015/2016 Season - Championship
BIRMINGHAM 2 READING 1
Reading: N Blackman (58).
Birmingham: D Cotterill (40), Jon-Miquel Toral (47).
Reading FC's season started in a similar vein to the last with a promising but ultimately frustrating and fruitless result at St Andrews. A last minute Orlanda Sa penalty was saved by Tomasz Kuszczak as the Blues held on to a slender and dramatic 2 1 victory.
Having the majority of possession and chances, 19 shots to 5, Reading will feel they should have come away with at least a point. Unfortunately it once again highlighted that the Royals lack a clinical edge and the ability to keep a clean sheet. Steve Clarke needs to address both requirements if they are to mount any kind of promotion challenge.
On the whole, you could claim positives from the performance. For the majority the Royals were the better team and dominated the game. However a lack of concentration and composure before and after half time resulted in the Royals chasing a match they otherwise should have controlled. A result that leaves Reading with a disappointing statistic of 2 wins in the last 15 games.
The new look African violet Royals gave debuts to Jonathan Bond, Paul McShane, Stephen Quinn and Orlanda Sa. Aaron Tshibola started in central midfield with Quinn and Williams pushing wide as Blackman went up top with Sa. Paul McShane started the season as team captain.
Despite conceding an early corner Reading controlled the game from the kick off. Norwood looked assured in the middle, back to his confident best. Tshibola using the ball simply and with accuracy. However, the Royals lacked any width when pushing forward and Danny Williams in particular looked wasted playing wide right. Williams’s best attribute is his driving runs through the middle of park and his best work of the game was when he cut inside and drove across the box.
Norwood was the orchestrator of Reading’s first half chances, smashing the bar from a free kick, hitting another just over and driving another shot that had Kuszczak scrambling across the goal. His retaken corner in the 36th minute saw Kuszczak claw away a McShane effort.
Birmingham rarely threatened the Royals goal, therefore it was a surprise when they took the lead in the 41st minute. Paul McShane was punished for leaning on Donaldson as he jumped to clear a hopeful through ball. David Cotterill's free kick took a wicked deflection off the wall, wrong footing Bond as it span into the net.
It was hard luck on Reading but a consequence of failing to take advantage of the way they had dominated the game. For the remainder of the half the Royals looked to have lost their composure and shape and Birmingham finished the half strongly.
Birmingham continued to press as the second half started and in the 49th minute scored a goal that has become a nemesis for Steve Clarke’s Reading. Michael Hector gave the ball away on the left and David Cotterill floated a cross over McShane where Jan Toral drifted in to plant a header low and wide of Bond.
With Williams drifting in from the right, Reading started to bring themselves back into the game. Danny Williams bending a shot just wide in the 56th minute was a prelude to a Reading 59th minute goal. Gunter swung in an excellent cross from the right which allowed Blackman to attack and head high into the corner of the net. It sparked an onslaught from the Royals as they tried to save something from the game.
Williams went close with low driven shot in the 60th minute. A looping McShane header hit the bar in the 64th minute. Tshibola smashed the ball against the underside of the bar in the 75th minute that then looked to bounce over the line.
Blackman was replaced by Hal Robson-Kanu in the 79th minute with the hard working Stephen Quinn making way for Simon Cox in the 83rd minute. Dominic Samuel came on for Aaron Tshibola in the 86th minute.
As the game played out it appeared Reading were beaten. That was until the pacey Dominic Samuel snatched the ball off the feet of Jonathon Spector and pulled back a sublime cross into the feet of Simon Cox. As Cox tried to settle himself for a shot he was bundled over and Reading were awarded the lifeline of a penalty.
Orlando Sa took the responsibility to smash the Royals leveller but appeared to wilt under the pressure with a poorly weighted shot to the corner of the net. Kuszczak pushed the ball into the path of the onrushing Simon Cox. From the angle Cox pulled the shot wide to the disappointment of the travelling Royals fans and to the enjoyment of the locals.
As always, it was a promising performance from the Royals but lacked the spirit that is needed to win football matches. Steve Clarke cannot hide anymore and needs to demonstrate that he can inspire a winning mentality and address the team weaknesses.
McShane and Quinn look astute signings and upgrades on their predecessors. Norwood was back to his best and Tshibola produced a strong performance. Tactically Clarke didn’t react to the game though. The pace of Samuel would have brought something different if he had be given longer. Pushing Williams central was a necessity and should have happened long before the 86th minute.
This Championship game took place 599 days ago in the 2015/2016 season.