Reading FC Match Report: 2023/2024 Season - League One


Reading: S Smith (11), F Azeez (45), L Wing (62), K Ehibhationham (85)
Cambridge: --

After a week of turmoil off the field, the Reading players rewarded their loyal, and increasing vocal fans, with an entertaining thumping four goal victory over fellow strugglers Cambridge United. It was a dominant performance with some excellent passing football and outstanding finishing. Orchestrated by skipper Lewis Wing, the one-touch passing and movement allowed Reading to dominate possession restricting United to only two attempts on targets in the entire match. There was a confidence on the ball throughout the team and a willingness to receive a pass which enabled them to maintain pressure on the visitors for most of the game. Several Reading players have the composure, touch, and awareness to receive the ball in tight situations and pop the ball off to an unmarked team mate to retain possession. The quality of the play lifted the home fans which in turn encouraged the team to attack a team clearly low on confidence and ideas.

Former Royals favourite Michael Morrison headed just wide in a rare United attack after ten minutes before Reading took an early lead through Smith. Slick passing took Reading into the United penalty area, and a poor clearance ran to Smith who tucked away his eleventh goal of the season. Mola cut inside from the right and sent a left-footed attempt just over the bar, but in spite of Reading's control of the game they struggled to create many clear-cut chances. Crucially Reading added a second goal in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Azeez flicked the ball beyond the United back line on the half-way line, outpaced Morrison, continued his run into the box, and drilled the ball past 'keeper Stevens from close range.

United flickered briefly into life after the interval and it took a smart save from Pereira to keep out a Kachunga header, who then had his follow up attempt from the rebound blocked, before Kaikai prodded wide from just outside the six-yard box. It was a warning heeded by Reading after a slightly sluggish start to the second half.

The vital third goal was not too long in coming. Azeez was unsettling the United defence on the right and when a ball delivered from that flank was only half cleared, Wing stroked the ball past substitute 'keeper Mannion with a composed and typically elegant strike. The remaining half an hour plus nine minutes of stoppage time was an extravagant procession of attacking football in the United defence. The fitting end to a fine performance was provided by Ehibhatiomhan who controlled Wing's crisply struck pass with a deft first touch and struck a sublime unstoppable shot past Mannion with his second. United were already beaten. Ehibhatiomhan's finish left them demoralised. Their fans had already berated them for not being 'fit to wear the shirts' and the few that had not already departed began to head for the car park.

Reading have developed a talented and well-coached squad this season. Their technical ability is a tribute to the coaching staff, and particularly in the crucial aspect of striking the ball in and around the box. This was perfectly illustrated by Azeez, Wing and finally Ehibhatiomhan today, but there have numerous worthy contenders for goal of the season already.

Wing may have been pulling the strings in midfield, but Mbengue orchestrated the post-match celebrations, bouncing around with his infectious enthusiasm, on the lap honour after the final whistle. The crowd lapped it up. Apart from a few remaining United fans, everyone left the stadium with a smile om their face. The players and the fans deserve to see their team avoid relegation this season, and it is looking increasingly likely, even with the possibility of a further points deduction hanging over them. Let's hope the likelihood of that outcome will tempt a new owner to step it to provide a more secure future for the club.

John Wells

This League One game took place 34 days ago in the 2023/2024 season.