Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


Reading: --
Watford: I Sarr (12), I Sarr (14)

Two superb strikes from Watford’s Ismaila Sarr in the space of two minutes early in the first half virtually put pay to any hopes Reading had of achieving the victory that desperately needed to keep them in the promotion race. Feminia and Zinckernagel were credited with an assist for the each of the goals but in reality both were simply moments of outstanding individual skill. Reading to their credit never gave up, playing football worthy of promotion contenders throughout, apart from where it really mattered, in front of goal. Royals have now lost so much ground on their they are now reliant on their closest rivals slipping up, as well as facing a run of very tough games.

The space afforded by Watford’s pitch, which appears to comply with the maximum legal dimensions, suited Reading’s game with Olise an Ejaria tormenting the Watford defence with their individual skill and passing throughout. Reading started well, and it was against the run of play when they fell behind when Sarr cut inside and curled the ball inside the far post. Still reeling from falling behind so soon, Gibson, who overall had a solid game, was caught in possession by Zinkernagel who released Sarr to do the rest. The double set back did nothing to dent Reading’s self-belief or disrupt the flow of their game and Laurent had chances but his technique let him down with the finish on both occasions.

The turning point in the game came on thirty-two minutes when an outstanding run and pass by Olise found Meite on the right. A better first touch might have given him a chance of his own, but instead he slipped a good ball in to the near post where Puscas met it first, only slam his attempt against the post. A goal at that point might well have provided the momentum for a Reading comeback. Two minutes later Watford almost killed the game off having a superb goal chalked off due to a correct offside decision. Reading needed, and on the balance of play deserved, a goal before half time. Another chance came in stoppage time. Meite burst through on the right but again missed them target due poor technique and a lack of composure. Meite cannot be faulted for effort and enthusiasm, and he certainly provides a much needed physical presence up front, but his finishing lacked composure and his crosses were hit far too deep in a frustrating first half.

The second half produced fewer chances although Reading continued to play some delightful football and looked confident on the ball throughout the team. There is a familiar pattern this season when Reading fall behind this season however. A tedious procession of disruptive fouls (a total of twenty-three committed by Watford today, which is high any standards) by the opposition and weak refereeing. That said today’s official James Linington was generally better than most. He could not be blamed for missing a nasty elbow on Holmes by Joao Pedro after the ball had gone which, if VAR been available, would have definitely reduced The Hornets to ten men with over a fifteen minutes remaining. Xisco Munoz unsurprisingly immediately took him off as a precaution. He did show Success a yellow card for kicking the ball away following a foul on Holmes. Blatant time wasting is now almost an unwelcome but accepted feature of the game. Watford players sitting down having a drink and looking around looking distinctly unhurt, a throw which took over forty seconds to be taken. The bottom line is that Reading can take the moral high ground and Watford get promoted.

Whatever the final outcome of this season, we now have a good manager, play good football and our highest finish since 2017. Reading have come up short mainly due to the quality of finishing in the in the final run in, and although it would wrong to single out any individual, the loss of Joao’s form and confidence has proved costly, mainly because there is no other player in the squad with his potential for finding the back of the net. Reading have nothing to lose by going all out to win the next five games, and as expectation drops, so does the pressure on the players. This group of players is good enough to beat any side in the Championship. It is the point in the season where a good crowd is required to give the team a lift, but I guess we will have to wait until next season for that!

John Wells

This Championship game took place 113 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.