Reading FC Match Report: 2018/2019 Season - Championship


Reading: J Swift (45), M Barrow (89), Y Meite (90)
Wigan: N Powell (20), J Garner (64)

The course of a game, or even a season, can often hinge on a single moment, and in the sixty-ninth minute of this dramatic home win for Reading, we witnessed one of those moments. An astonishing save from Martinez prevented Powell from scoring from close range when the Wigan forward met a perfect low cross from Massey. Had he converted the chance it would have given Wigan a two goal lead and put the result beyond doubt. Having been guilty of careless distribution which led to Wigan's second goal, Martinez made amends with his outstanding save which arguably gave a Reading a lift, at a crucial point in the game sparking a revival which turned the game in their favour. Whether or not that was the case we can’t be sure, but it certainly kept Reading in the game.

Encouraged by some extremely weak refereeing by Andy Davies, Wigan attempted to bully Reading, disrupt play, and waste time at every opportunity but ultimately justice was served in a fitting manner. With a couple of minutes of normal time remaining Reece James went down and lay motionless as if suffering a serious head injury. Judging by the way he miraculously ‘recovered’ so quickly his reaction was somewhat exaggerated. His intention was clearly to run down the clock. The fact that it also halted a promising attack for Reading was, from Wigan’s point of view, a bonus. It backfired horribly for them when, from the resulting drop ball, Barrow received the ball some thirty yards out and drilled a magnificent equaliser past Jones. Reading now had the upper hand and in the seventh minute of stoppage time (mainly accumulated through Wigan’s time wasting) Meite headed home powerfully from a corner to complete an exhilarating comeback. The Madjeski Stadium was in a state of euphoria the like of which had not been experienced for very long time. Jose Gomez and Meite were booked for their celebrations, but I don’t think anyone cared at that point.

Wigan must be wondering how they lost this game having contained Reading so successfully for most of the game. As the first half drew to an end Wigan had outmuscled Reading in midfield and taken the lead through Powell after Ejaria had been dispossessed just inside his own half. Ejaria had actually made a bright start but, already depleted by the absence of Oliveira and Rhinomota, Reading were forced to replace him ten minutes before half time due to injury. With limited options on the bench Gomes replaced him with Loader. The youngster playing in an unfamiliar role in a feisty and important game, acquitted himself well. He was certainly not over-awed by his responsibility. Apart from a dipping drive over the bar from Meite in the second minute and a feeble attempt by McCleary, Reading had not troubled the Wigan ‘keeper at all. Completely against the run of play Swift equalised in stoppage time with a sublime free kick from a wide position to offer their fans a hope of better things to come in the second half.

Wigan were fired up for the second half and by now and the referee’s lack of authority had allowed the aggression to escalate and tempers flared. Mr Davies somewhat belatedly began to take action as the yellow card count began to mount (six eventually). Having tempted fate with some risky play at the back against high pressing Wigan, Martinez’s poor throw to Blackett was intercepted just outside the box and Wigan took full advantage. A cross and a shot were blocked before an elaborate miscued overhead attempt on goal dropped kindly for Garner at the far post. Garner calmly put the visitors ahead. Martinez had already made a couple of smart saves as Wigan pressed forward and it was hard to see where a Reading goal would come from. McCleary had looked uncomfortable in a central midfield role all afternoon. His touch was heavy and his distribution poor, so it was no surprise when Harroit replaced him soon after Wigan had regained the lead. Harriot immediately had more impact, and with nothing to lose, attacked Wigan with a bit more conviction. The crowd had begun to drift away but those optimistic fans remaining sensed something could give, and found their voices. With what followed they nearly lost them!

Barrow’s deserved equaliser came in the last minute of normal time and the stadium erupted. With seven minutes of stoppage time announced it was Reading now who were showing more belief and determination. In the last minute of the added time Harriot whipped in a corner and slack marking in the by Wigan allowed Meite to stoop low to head past Jones and by now the crowd were ecstatic. Even the fans in the West Upper Stand were on their feet in the final minutes of this amazing comeback!

The three points lifted Reading above Wigan and Millwall in the table and three points clear of Rotherham. This result is a huge step towards safety but not just for the points gained. Having dropped points so often the season through conceding late goals, to score last minute winners in successive weeks will boost the confidence and team spirit within the whole squad especially having done so without key players. The next home game against an in-from Leeds looks likely to be the toughest game of the season but after today Reading could not be in a better frame of mind to deal with it.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 486 days ago in the 2018/2019 season.