Reading FC Match Report: 2014/2015 Season - Championship
NORWICH 1 READING 2
Reading: J Cooper (14), J Cooper (45).
Norwich: G Hooper (10).
A colossus performance from Reading FC teenage centre back Jake Cooper inspired the Royals to a second league away win of the season against a poor Norwich City. The unlikely hero rose at the back post to power two thumping headers past the helpless England International keeper John Ruddy to give manager Nigel Adkins a much needed win.
It was only Jake Cooper’s eighth appearance in a Reading shirt as he replaced the suspended Alex Pearce’s in one of two team changes following the Cardiff defeat. The other change saw Cox make way for the welcome return of Gareth McCleary. Adkins choosing to push Obita into a central midfield role with McCleary wide left and Robson-Kanu right.
It was Hooper, returning to the Norwich line up for the first time this season, who started the game looking the most dangerous. He had a couple of early chances; forcing a block tackle from Norwood in the fifth minute and a smart save from Federici in the sixth minute.
It was no surprise when Hooper opened the scoring in the tenth minute. Gunter failing to press as a cross from the right found Cameron Jerome. His shot was steered home by an unmarked Gary Hooper. Although the linesman had flagged for the offside, it was rightly overturned on consultation with the referee.
It was another disappointing goal to concede as Reading again failed to either stop or deal with the cross. You sensed it was the start of the usual away defeat with Reading unable to come from behind to win a game this season. In fact the goal seemed to inspire some retro chants from the Royals travelling contingent, in particular for now Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson. Surely a possible candidate should the Reading manager position become vacant.
Reading looked to respond quickly as a Hal Robson-Kanu shot brought a Reading corner in the twelfth minute. The Norwood cross finding the towering Jake Cooper at the back post who sent an unstoppable header low into the net. His first professional league goal was celebrated with surprise and joy in front of the Reading fans.
Whilst the game appeared to be fairly open, neither side looked to have the cutting edge to carve out clear openings. The best chances fell for Norwich as Kyle Lafferty hit the bar in the twenty fifth minute and Cameron Jerome was thwarted by a solid Adam Federici save when clear on goal in the forty fourth minute.
Reading managed to snatch the lead just before half time with an almost carbon copy of the first Jake Cooper goal. Obita sent over a looping corner and Cooper was able to run unchallenged to the back post to power another header in the net.
In the second half Reading rarely looked in danger of conceding. A strong Reading defensive performance restricted Norwich to very few chances. Whilst Cooper, quite rightly, will take most of the plaudits for his display, it appeared that Adkins had worked on getting a more solid shape when the Royals didn’t have possession of the ball.
Norwood was superb as he sat in front of the back four, breaking up play and commanding movement. Kelly was disciplined at full back. Limiting his runs when he needed to support Robson-Kanu. The centre backs looked less exposed than in previous weeks. Even Gunter managed to block numerous second half crosses from the dangerous Nathan Redmond.
Reading did lack any attacking creativity though. Glenn Murray cut a frustrated figure up front. He battled for every ball but had very few goal scoring opportunities. The returning Gareth McCleary looks like he needs a few games before he returns to his dangerous best and Hal Robson-Kanu again failed to have any meaningful impact on the game.
Obita gets lost in centre midfield. With his best work coming when he can run with the ball, he struggles when given the responsibility of spreading the play from a more central role. The team looked slightly better balanced in the midfield when Jake Taylor replaced McCleary in the sixty sixth minute. Obita moved out to the left.
As Norwich supporters started to vent their frustrations Reading nearly grabbed a third. A twenty five yard shot from Norwood was spilled by Ruddy. It appeared to be crossing the line as Ruddy turned to grab the ball.
A late chance for Norwich’s Josh Murphy was driven high over the bar as the game played out. Reading grabbing that much needed win after a resolute second half display.
Whilst the game doesn’t instantly change the outcome of either Reading’s season or Adkins future it certainly is a good platform to build from. The improved defensive performance suggesting that at last we may have learned from previous mistakes.
This Championship game took place 880 days ago in the 2014/2015 season.