Reading FC Match Report: 2018/2019 Season - Championship


Reading: O Ejaria (31)
Rotherham: S Ajayi (79)

Reading paid the price for their over cautious approach to this crucial match against fellow strugglers Rotherham. A golden opportunity to move three points clear of the drop zone was squandered in attempting to hold on to a narrow one goal lead, as once again the Royals failed to hold on to a lead and conceded late in the game. United rely almost exclusively on set plays from free-kicks, corners, and long throw-ins to create scoring opportunities. Reading's second half tactics played right into their hands. Sitting back simply provided Rotherham with more opportunities to launch more high balls into the Reading box and almost predictably a chance fell to Ajayi eleven minutes from the end, who scored from close range when the ball dropped to him from a Robertson header at the far post. It could have got even worse for Reading when Newell shot narrowly wide in stoppage time after a late flurry of chances were wasted by the Royals. This was not a disastrous result for Reading but a worrying performance nonetheless.

Given the importance of the outcome of this game it was surprising to see how slow Reading were to put their opponents under pressure. United dominated the opening minutes with a succession of long throw-ins and corners and an unmarked Rotherham player should have given them the lead but missed the ball with the goal at his mercy. Reading’s attempts to open up the United defence were hampered by a lack of sharpness in their passing and movement. Reading dealt well with the anticipated aerial assault on their defence. It was a cagey and cautious opening thirty minutes and then Reading created a superb goal with a sweeping move starting deep in their own half. A string of passes released McCleary on the left who accelerated past this full back and cut the ball back with his weaker foot. Ejaria had intelligently held his run unto the box and adjusted his feet well to get a well-placed finish past Rodak. There was surprisingly little reaction from the visitors to this setback. Excellent distribution from Martinez released Oliveira down the left but in isolation he was unable to make the most of the situation.

Rotherham were out early for the second half and immediately pressed Reading back, and although they lacked creativity and subtlety, they dominated possession. In a rare break Oliveira turned well and in spite of being restrained by his marker wriggled free to release McCleary with a good pass but again he had to wait too long for support to make use of the opening. Generally Meite and Oliveira looked sluggish and were unable to hold the ball up to allow Reading to get forward, not that there seemed much desire to do so. Ejaria demonstrated his potential with a great run and shot, and Swift showed some nice touches, but overall Reading’s midfield struggled to impose themselves on the game. The obvious need to introduce either Barrow or Harriot to put some pressure on Rotherham and give Reading’s defence some respite was resisted by Jose Gomes until it was too late. Meite was replaced by O’Shea with a little under twenty minutes to play which clearly indicated a lack of ambition to create a crucial second goal and when Oliviera tried to hang on to the ball to long instead of laying it off, United mounted an attack from which they produced the equaliser.

The introduction of Harriot and Barrow had an immediate impact but it was a case of too little too late. Harriot took players on and forced United to track back. Barrow’s pace enabled him to nip in to take the ball away from Rodak and with the United ‘keeper stranded, he rolled the ball across the United box. Unfortunately Oliveira was not quite sharp enough to get to the ball and Rodak scrambled back to recover the ball. Oliveira capped a pretty average performance missing an absolute sitter at the far post when the ball fell to him a couple of yards out. Ejaria came close to scoring a second but Rodak saved well. Baker had a header saved but his effort lacked power and accuracy.

I thought the addition of some very good new players had overcome the Royals long term problem of failing to finish teams off when they have taken the initiative, but clearly it hasn’t yet. Losing Bacuna and the temporary absence of Rhinomota has compromised the defensive resolve in midfield. However, it was encouraging to hear the crowd getting behind the team and to hear more positive comments coming from The Radio Berkshire commentary team – it all helps the cause! Once again results elsewhere went Reading’s way to limit the damage of this disappointing result but Reading will need to play better than this if they are to survive what increasingly seems likely to be a struggle to the very end of the season.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 738 days ago in the 2018/2019 season.