Reading FC Match Report: 2018/2019 Season - Championship


Reading: --
Aston Villa: --

There was a noticeably more positive and confident mood amoungst the home fans today than in recent games, which mirrored a much improved attitude within this radically changed Reading team. Up against very strong Villa side with realistic promotion ambitions, the Royals played with a conviction and belief which has been frequently lacking this season. There was no evidence of the weakness which surfaced again earlier in the week when two points were dropped as the defence leaked a stoppage time equaliser to fellow strugglers Bolton. After an evenly contested first half in which Reading had more possession, Villa launched a sustained assault on the home side immediately after half time. Reading dug in stubbornly to keep Villa at bay, and only in the final phase of the game did they eventually begin to threaten their opponent’s goal. Only five attempts on target (three from Villa and two from Reading) were registered in the entire game, although it was far from a dull goalless draw.

If Reading needed a reminder about the Villa’s attacking potential they only had to wait until the second minute when, closely marked and with his back to goal, Abraham spun and fired a shot which a startled Martinez making his home debut did well to parry for a corner. On eleven minutes El Gazi cut inside and curled in an excellent effort which was bound for the bottom corner until Martinez stretched to get a hand to it. Fortunately for Reading, Abraham’s diving header from the rebound was wide of the target. Villa were not having it all their own way and some good defensive headers and clearances were required to deal with a good balls played into the box. Oliveira volleyed over under pressure as Reading began to get on top. Villa came close to taking the lead when Martinez came out for a cross but didn’t make it as Elphick’s header landed on the bar. As Reading pressure mounted towards half time Ejaria went down under a challenge in the box but strong appeals for a penalty were ignored by Eltringham. Oliveira was twice denied by very good full stretch saves from Kalanic, first from a well struck shot from outside the box, and then from a well-placed header to his left.

The second half had more of an edge to it as Villa played with a greater intensity and Reading responded with a confident and resilience. Under Jose Gomes it is clear the expectation is that his team will play their way out of trouble and not resort to hoofing it long. They stuck to their principles although it was uncomfortable for the home fans to watch at times. It was an eventful half and as the foul count mounted to a whopping thirty-three infringements (shared fairly evenly between the teams), seven yellow cards were dished out – and there might have been more. Oliveria had to go off after sustaining a nasty facial injury in a clash with Mings. He was replaced by Meite who brought renewed energy to the Reading attack. Aluko came on and added very little, and Richards was introduced to freshen up the midfield on the left. Reading defended superbly. New signing Maizga played with an authority and composure which provided both an example and inspiration to his team. He barely put a foot wrong winning the ball in the air and timing his challenges perfectly. He could, if Reading do get out of this relegation mess, prove to be a key factor over the remainder of the season. It was not a one man show by any means. Abraham wriggled through the centre of the Reading defence and was clear in front of goal until Yiadom flew in and took the ball off his toe with an outstanding challenge.

If anyone was going to win this game it was going to win this game it was going to be Abraham. With a little under ten minutes of regulation time remaining he got his head to an Al Ghazi cross which seemed destined to provide the crucial goal until Martinez produced an excellent save to keep it out. What was equally impressive how alert and composed the Reading defence were in dealing with the resulting loose ball in the goalmouth. Blackett reacted well calmly waiting for the ball to drop and bounce before generating sufficient power with his header to take away from danger and it was a Reading defender who reacted first to his half clearance to completely remove the danger with a long clearance. It was the sort of situation from which Reading have conceded goals in the past.

Without wishing to tempt fate, I am beginning to feel Reading can escape relegation this season. There is a confidence about Gomes which is beginning to rub off on the players. I am not usually keen on too many loan players coming in, but Gomes seem to have chosen wisely. Oliveira, Martinez and Maizga are all strong additions to the squad and Ejaria has grown in confidence and adds a bit of sparkle to the midfield. Finally, congratulations to Bacuna for becoming the first member of the squad to ensure his status a Championship player next season - by opting to play for Mr Warnock!

John Wells

This Championship game took place 722 days ago in the 2018/2019 season.