Reading FC Match Report: 2015/2016 Season - Championship
READING 1 PRESTON 2
Reading: S Quinn (86)
Preston: J Beckford (56), D Johnson (90)
Sadly the nature of this defeat typifies an extremely poor second half of the season. Having revived morale with a well worked and superbly taken goal from Quinn, the Royals surrendered all three points in stoppage time following an unforgivable lapse in concentration from Williams. As a North End attack progress down the left Williams stood marking space as Johnson hovered just outside the box. Williams had ample time to drop a couple of yards to get goal side but stood motionless as Johnson drifted unmarked into a chasm of space inside the Reading box to fire home the winner. Williams was by no means the only player guilty of sloppy defending on an afternoon littered with defensive errors which on another day might have seen Reading three goals behind by half time.
Brian McDermott limited the selection of his starting eleven exclusively to non-loan players necessitating a massive re-shuffle in the back four with McCleary remaining at right back and Gunter filling the other full back slot. McShane returned form suspension and had one of his poorest games of the season. In a quiet opening Williams set up Rakels after four minutes but his shot was blocked and looped wide for a corner, and Cooper headed the ball past Kirkland from a Norwood free kick in what would have been a replica of his goal against Hull had he not taken up and maintained on offside position for the kick. Apart from an early flurry Reading seemed unable or reluctant to get out of their own half in the first forty-five minutes. With Williams detailed to play behind Kermorgant and Rakels Reading were overrun in midfield as was apparent by Quinn scurrying around with too many players to mark at times. North End dominated possession and should have taken the lead when Cooper made one his all too common mistakes completely missing the ball on the half way line to allow Beckford to race through unopposed. With only Al Hasbsi to beat he fluffed his lines trying attempting a subtle chip which Player of the Season Al Hasbsi was able to get a hand to without too much difficulty. Garner also had a good chance to open the scoring when Cooper and McShane obligingly sat down to allow him the time and space to shoot. Fortunately for Reading he dragged his shot wide. Beckford had a shot blocked by McShane and al Habsi got down smartly to save from Johnson. In a rare Reading attack Williams played a good ball behind the Preston defence from which Kermorgant might have scored if Rakels, who was clearly in an offside position when the ball was played, took possession and the flag correctly went up. In short Reading looked likely to concede but unlikely to score.
The second half was much more positive in spite of an early setback when Beckford gave North End the lead against the run of play. A harmless looking ball into the box was left by McShane, who must have been surprised to see Al Habsi had also selected the same option leaving Beckford the simple task of slotting home from inside the box. Seventeen year old Josh Barrett had replaced Evans in midfield at half time, and suddenly the team appeared to have a better balance. Rakels was put in scoring positions twice by Barrett. Reading huffed and puffed but could not find the crucial finish required. With defeat looking increasingly likely, the home fans thankfully had retained their sense of humour, in particular one fan who picked the ball up and made towards the exit with it. The ball was returned to the pitch and he was escorted to the exit by the stewards incurring the wrath of the crowd. Moments later he was allowed to return to his seat receiving deserved acclaim from his peers for his contribution. It lifted the whole crowd and Reading sparked into life. Barrett’s impact was increasingly significant and was involved in the build up to Reading’s equaliser with four minutes to go. He played a good ball into Kermorgant’s feet who laid it off for Quinn to stroke superbly inside the post giving Kirkland no chance whatsoever. After the match Adie Williams picked out Barrett for his ‘energy and effort’. Sorry Adie, I have to disagree, it was his touch, and the timing and accuracy of his passing which made him stand out in a Reading team generally lacking in those aspects of the game.
The equaliser raised hopes of a late win but then that is not the way things have been going recently. The late winner for Preston sent many Reading fans towards the exit and only a few loyal fans remained after the final whistle to applaud the team on their ‘lap of appreciation’ as a burst of torrential rain further dampened their spirits. There were the usual predictable recriminations on Radio Berkshire from fans and pundits. The wisdom of renewing season tickets was questioned, failing to appreciate the point of supporting a football team. Surely you support your team through good and bad times.
It has been a very difficult season, with not only a change of manager but a change of culture within the club. Steve Clarkes’ loan signings proved ultimately proved to be an unsuccessful blend and Brian McDermott has now has a monumental task rebuilding on somewhat shaky foundations. A new season will bring new players and a fresh start. Hopefully everyone (fans and local media!) will get behind their manager and team regardless of who comes and goes, and not necessarily expect instant success.
This Championship game took place 330 days ago in the 2015/2016 season.