Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


Reading: M Morrison (26)
Rotherham: --

Reading made it clear from the start they were not going to accept anything other than three points from this tough away fixture. It was fast and furious from the kick-off to the final whistles and the Royals responded with character, resolve and essentially, the quality to overcome a physically superior side. Amidst the chaos the only glimmer of decent football came from Reading with Olise and Ejaria having the courage to keep possession long enough to put together some passes and play some telling passes. Had Joao been at anywhere near his best it would have been a more comfortable victory. The Millers dominated to aerial battle overall, but to a man, Reading more than matched them for a willingness to chase every ball and commit fully to winning every loose ball. Once Morrison's determination had given Reading the lead it was clear United were going to need more than physical strength to save a point. In the end Reading held them at bay for the three points they desperately needed and thoroughly deserved.

With Yiadom and Richards back in the side showing a real appetite to attack and defend in equal measures, and the work rate Ejaria, Olise, Samedo, Laurent and Rinomhota in midfield, Reading played United at their own game. Rotherham pressed really well on the occasions when Reading tried to play out from the back they were forced into errors. It was a worth a try given Rotherham’s significant height advantage in dealing with long ball in the air. This height advantage was evident as early as the third minute when Smith headed over from close range. Joao’s confidence is on the floor at the moment, the first example of which came after four minutes when United ‘keeper Johansson wandered too far his goal leaving Joao with the opportunity to lob it over his head into an empty net, but he made a very poor contact on the ball.

Richards was getting forward whenever he could and drilled a powerful strike at Johansson following a corner. Tackles were flying in from both sides and conceding free kicks presenting opportunities to put defences under pressure. Reading were creating more openings than United and it was no surprise when they took the lead on twenty-six minutes albeit from an unlikely source. Morrison rose to meet a deep cross to direct a header on target. When Johansson failed to gather the ball following his save it was Morrison who reacted first to slot it past the United ‘keeper.

Having received high number of free kicks this season it was clearly worth working on them in training. Olise and Ejaria shared that responsibility effectively and almost produced a second goal. The ball was played back to Olise who floated a great ball down the left for Moore to control on his chest and slide in a low cross in to the near post. Under pressure, Joao got to it first but pushed it wide. Olise was full of energy and confidence gliding past opponents, laying the ball off first time with prefect touch, and threading superb passes through the United defence. He is beginning to realise his tremendous potential. Reading were unlucky not to score the crucial second goal in first half stoppage time. Rinomhota won a free kick on the right and when the ball came in from the right it bobbled across the face of the goal where Samedo poked it against the outside of the post.

Rotherham came out fighting in the second half using their physicality to put Reading under pressure. Smith fired a warning shot with a blistering strike which flew in to the net from an offside position. The intensity of the game didn’t drop at any point and Olise found Joao with another outstanding pass and the big man fluffed his lines again. Although Rotherham threatened from corners and long throw-ins (the hallmark of a side lacking creativity) Reading competed for every ball, and even though they didn’t often win it, they were quickly on to the second ball. One shot on target in the match by United was a testament to Reading’s defensive qualities. Morrison was outstanding and was Moore back to his best. Between them they offered leadership and inspiration at the heart of the defence throughout.

As the half wore on United became more desperate and passes were going astray and Reading showed no sign losing their appetite for a tackle or to close players down rapidly. The foul count mounted and MacDonald, Wiles and Olosunde picked up yellow cards as late and cynical challenges were employed to prevent the threat of Reading counter attacks. Substitutions came thick and fast for United but Veljko Paunovic wisely didn’t tinker with the line-up which was looking secure. Ejaria made way for McIntyre not because Ejaria was a weak link but he was beginning to tire. Three minutes from the end Esteves came on for Rinomhota who worryingly walked off feeling his hamstring, and Holmes came on for Olise in stoppage time possibly to run down the clock or to defend the imminent corner kick. Reading’s defending was resolute and slightly desperate at times but they held out.

One of the benefits of watching iFollow away games, apart from the absence of Tim Dellor’s inane comments is hearing the noise coming from the bench. It made me smile to hear the United bench gave the players and referee endless stick, and there was one distinctive gravelly Yorkshire voice proclaiming “Cum on Millers!”, which provided a sort of Sunday league ambiance.

It was nevertheless, a hard fought victory and hugely encouraging to see Reading get the better of a typically physical Championship side. They will need to be able to play like that more often as we move towards the business end of the season.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 151 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.