Reading FC Match Report: 2015/2016 Season - Championship
READING 2 BOLTON 1
Reading: L Piazon (28), D Williams (34).
Bolton: L Feeney (pen 80).
Three excellent saves by ‘keeper Al Habsi in the opening phase of the game prevented struggling Bolton from taking an early lead as Reading made a tentative start to a game they were expected to win comfortably. The visitors could consider themselves unlucky to fall behind after twenty-eight minutes when Piazon charged down a panicky clearance by Bolton defender Gouano and steered the ball past the onrushing Amos into an unguarded net. It was just what the Royals needed to settle their nerves and six minutes later they added a second and crucial goal. Williams driving on from midfield ignored the sensible option of slipping a pass to an unmarked Blackman to his right and drilled a superb strike past Amos into the bottom right corner of the net.
After a week of over-hyped speculation over Steve Clarke’s chat with Fulham which culminated in the Reading boss re-affirming his commitment to the club, Reading achieved the desperately needed a win if not the desired quality of performance. As Steve Clarke pointed out with typical honesty, it was the worst Reading performance for some time.
Reading looked uncomfortable at the back in the opening minutes. McShane has a rush of blood elected to dribble past a Bolton forward and lost possession compounding his error with a lunge to retrieve the ball conceding a free kick and receiving a yellow card. The free kick was floated over and met by an unchallenged Ameobi who drew a good save low to his right by Al Habsi. Then Hector went to ground and lost a challenge leaving Reading outnumbered at the back and AlHabsi rescued Reading again when confronted with a one on one situation with Davies. Bolton continued to exploit an apparent weakness in the air (or is marking) as Pratley connected with a cross to force a third excellent save from Al Habsi. All over the pitch Reading’s passing and touch looked poor. The first glimmer of a goal from Reading came when Amos was unable to hold a fierce cross from McCleary and the ball squirmed past the post for a corner. Piazon’s persistence produced the goal which seemed to restore Reading’s self-belief and a second goal looked likely to follow. Williams slid a delightful ball behind the Bolton defence to release McCleary. The resulting strikes on goal were blocked. Norwood then drew a full stretch save from Amos from just outside the box. The second goal came from Williams giving the Royals a welcome but unexpected two goal lead at half time.
The second half began with Reading dominating possession although the first serious attempt on goal came from Bolton as Ameobi rose at the far post to nod the ball over Al Habsi onto the bar. This should have served as a reminder of the fragility of a two goal lead, but Reading did not show any real conviction to secure a third goal to kill the game off. Norwood was outstanding in his holding role in midfield. I lost count of the times he put his foot to win the ball to break up Bolton’s attacks. Niel Lennon decided to beef up his attack with the introduction of Madine, Clayton and Heskey and adopt a more direct approach. Steve Clarke responded by bringing on Cooper to create a back five to cope with the physical threat imposed by the substitutions. Reading by now had conceded the initiative and with the introduction of Obita to a central midfield role they seemed to lose their defensive shape. Amidst the chaos Pratley took full advantage of a rare mistimed challenge from Norwood and went down in the box. Feeney tucked away the penalty as Al Habsi demonstrated his frustration at failing to keeping it out having made a creditable effort to get his hands to the ball on its way into the net. Desperate defending enabled Reading to hang on to a much needed win which in the end today was all that really mattered.
This Championship game took place 610 days ago in the 2015/2016 season.