Reading FC Match Report: 2017/2018 Season - Championship


Reading: G Whelan (og 49), M Barrow (55)
Aston Villa: C Hourihane (87)

The Royals chalked up their first Championship victory of the season against an expensively assembled experienced and talented Villa side with a dominant performance which was not reflected in the scoreline. Reading scored twice in the space of six minutes early in the second half and looked to be cruising comfortably to a deserved win until the visitors pulled a goal back four minutes from time through Houirihane. It was an anxious final few minutes for the home fans but anything other than a Reading victory would have been a travesty.

Villa barely touched the ball in the opening thirty minutes as Reading played the patient possession football which Jaap Stam has been developing so effectively over the past year. The difference this in this performance compared to last season was the way players throughout the team were willing to make themselves available to receive a pass, remain composed on the ball and make good decisions about where and when to deliver their passes. With new players added to the squad with pace and good touch Reading were able to open up Villa’s defence with intricate passing and movement. All that was missing was the finish.

It was Villa however who might have scored first in the fifth minute when the ball broke kindly to give Green a run at an unprotected Manone who spread himself to deny the Villa forward. Swift and Barrow fired in long range shots which had Villa ‘Keeper Johnstone scrambling to reach but flew just wide. Kelly and Popa had shots blocked, and McShane mistimed a free header from a Kelly corner. Reading came closest to opening the scoring when Gunter found Popa on the edge of the box who hit a powerful shot which Johnstone did well to keep out.

Barrow and Kelly had chances to early in the second half but when the opening goal came there was element of luck about it and was ultimately credited as an own goal to Whelan. Popa, released by Swift just inside the Villa half, sped away from the Villa defence before hitting a cross which hit Whelan and looped over Johnstone who clawed it away but clearly from behind the goal line. There was a slight delay before the celebrations began as everyone waited for confirmation that he ball had crossed the line.

Barrow put Reading firmly in the driving seat with his first goal for his new club. A Kelly corner was helped on by Swift to Moore who found Barrow inside the six yard box to poke home. It was well a worked goal but raised questions about Villa’s defence for allowing Reading to pass the ball around their penalty area from a set piece.

McCleary, Evans and Beerens were given a run out as Villa appeared resigned to defeat allowing the Royals to indulge in some premature showboating. Blackett prevented Villa pulling a goal back in the seventy fourth minute with an outstanding tackle when Bjarnason looked certain to score. It was a remarkable piece of defending by any standard. Reading did not heed the warning and Villa did score with four minutes of normal time remaining. Agbonlahor, who was Villa’s most effective forward, chested the ball down for Hourihane to drive home from close range. By then many Villa fans had already left the ground and although Reading fans twitched nervously in their seats the victory deservedly came after four minutes of stoppage time.

Villa can have no complaints about the result. Reading will feel they should have had the game sewn up long before the late Villa strike. Jaap Stam made it very clear he needs another striker, which was clear for all to see this evening.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 800 days ago in the 2017/2018 season.