Reading FC Match Report: 2019/2020 Season - Championship


READING 2 BIRMINGHAM 3

Reading: Y Meite (45), L Joao (90)
Birmingham: M Morrison (og 41), J Bela (59), Alvaro (88)

A dismal display at home against Birmingham side without a win in five games has given manager Mark Bowen food for thought about the overall strength and deployment of the squad at his disposal to pull away for the lower reaches of the Championship. The score line might suggest a narrow defeat, but in fact there were some worrying aspects of the overall performance of his team this afternoon. The nature of City's second and third goals underline significant weaknesses in what is Reading's third defeat in the last four games.

The second City goal, which allowed City to regain the lead, after fifty-nine minutes came when McCleary ruined a potential counter attack by losing possession by blindly running onto a City defender having ignored the option of releasing the ball as the visitors defence were backpedalling. Not only did it end the attack but allowed City to respond with a move which was terminated by McCleary’s clumsy challenge just outside the box. From the resulting free-kick Bela curled the ball into the top corner. The thoughtless loss of possession and the lack of discipline defensively in the build up to the goal had had been a feature of Reading’s play throughout the match, as was also evident in the third and crucial City goal. Boye facing his own goal on the half way line hung on to the ball for too long before releasing it to Yiadom, who by now was under pressure and the presented Gimenez with possession. The City forward raced through and although Morrison got across to cover to block his first attempt, he was powerless to prevent Gimenez from finding the far corner of the net with the second attempt.

It has to be said neither goal came out of the blue. City had dominated the second half with free flowing passing and movement as Reading struggled defensively following Mark Bowen’s decision to replace Miazga with Boye and switch to a four-four-two formation. Maghoma rattled the bar from outside the box, Raphael had to make a good save from Bela, and Bellingham had a shot blocked.

The first half was scrappy to say the least. The opening quarter of the game was constantly disrupted by stoppages. City were forced to make two changes due injuries. Clarke-Salter was replaced after seventeen minutes sustaining what appeared to be a fractured wrist when he unfortunately fell and landed awkwardly after a challenge by Pele. Crowley had to go off after thirty minutes having struggled to continue after receiving treatment. City were not particularly fluent but Reading were worse. Passes were delayed, misplaced or poorly weighted so they were unable to build any attacking momentum. The Royals did mount a spell of pressure but the lack of quality generally meant it came to nothing. The best opening came when McCleary forced his way into the box to provide Meite with good chance but his attempt was wasteful to say the least.

City took an undeserved lead four minutes before half time when a promising and intricate passing move through the centre of the Reading defence was concluded by the unfortunate intervention of Morrison who deflected a pass past Raphael from he edge of the box. Pele’s corners were one of the few positive features of the first half and on the stroke of half time Meite converted one of them with a powerful close range to level the scores. Neither side deserved to lead at the interval. From half time there only looked likely to be one winner.

The introduction of Charlie Adam on seventy-six minutes gave Reading a lift. His brief cameo demonstration of passing flagged up what had been missing through the absence of Ejaria and Swift. Adam, in the twilight of his career, lacks pace and the fitness to last a full game, but in the space of ten minutes created more opportunities with the quality and range of his passing than the rest of the team put together in the entire match. It was Adam’s a delightfully flighted free kick behind the defence which gave Joao the chance to prod in a consolation goal in stoppage time. It was too little too late for Reading.

Mark Bowen has constantly called upon his team to his team to perform in both sides of the game - both with and without the ball. They struggled with decision making in both aspects of the game today. Defensively they hastily committed to challenges conceding free kicks and allowing City players to go past them. The nineteen fouls awarded against Reading reflected the shocking lack of defensive discipline. Allowing City to enjoy 58% possession a consequence of too many speculative long balls. The ball was in the air far too often. The balance was lost in midfield with Pele and Riniomohta essentially doing the same holding job, and McCleary does not have the qualities required of a creative central midfield player. Passing was generally poor and with Meite or Puscas unwilling to come to meet the ball to escape their marker when the ball was played up to them it added to pressure on the rest of the team. Since Bowen took over the attitude has clearly improved but it takes more than effort and a willingness to chase to win matches and today there was no cutting edge. The return of Ejaria, Swift and Baldock can’t come soon enough for Reading.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 250 days ago in the 2019/2020 season.