Reading FC Match Report: 2017/2018 Season - Championship


Reading: L Kelly (16), M Barrow (32), J Bodvarsson (80)
Derby: K Palmer (6), R Keogh (35), T Lawrence (46)

Ironically a game in which both sides deprived of two experienced strikers, Martin and Kermorgant for Reading, and Vydra and Nugent for County, produced a flurry of goals in a highly entertaining draw. Arguably Reading could have won the game but for a series of calamitous defensive errors. Having gifted the visitors with an early lead they came back strongly with two very good goals from Kelly and Barrow. Frustratingly for Reading, more slack defending provided the Rams with an undeserved equaliser before half time. Derby started the second half strongly and unbelievably Reading’s defence was punctured a minute after the restart. Showing the resilience and character which has not always been evident this season, Reading came back again to level the scores through Bodvarsson ten minutes from time and looked likely to go on to take all three points as they piled on the pressure following the dismissal of Baird for a reckless challenge on Barrow.

A significantly improved attacking performance from the Royals had the visitors on the back foot for most of the half but they had to recover form a goal which came about as consequence of Ilori making an absurd decision hook the ball back over his head into a potentially dangerous area without having a clue what was behind him to set up County with an opportunity which they gratefully accepted. Palmer finished after the ball fell kindly for him when it came back off Mannone from Weiman’s shot. Undeterred, Reading continued to play incisive passing football. There was noticeably more movement in the attacking half of the pitch and when Kelly equalised with a stunning thirty yard strike no-one could argue it was not deserved. Kelly and Bacuna were dropping deep to pick up the ball and getting forward to build attacks. Bodvarsson’s touch was outstanding and he was laying balls off to bring players into threatening attacking positions. Reading took the lead when Barrow’s pace took him through the Derby back four with ease but crucially kept his composure to slip the ball past Carson. At that point a Reading victory looked on the cards. Against the run of play Derby equalised following a free kick floated in to the box. It seemed an easy ball to clear but Ilori’s header was far from convincing and it hit the back of Clement diverting it goalwards. The Reading defence collectively froze as Keogh unopposed slammed the ball past Mannone. Any number of expletives could not adequately express the frustration felt by Reading players and fans alike!

A slightly disappointing half time scoreline gave way to despair in within the first minute of the second half when Lawrence ran at Ilori who could not sort his feet out and Lawrence brushed past him to give Derby the lead. Reading wobbled for a while as Derby realised that pressing the Reading back four produced panic and yielded possession. Mannone was at full stretch to keep out Jerome’s ferocious drive after Bacuna had gifted him possession with a very risky square pass across his own penalty area. Jerome then headed against the bar from a corner. Reading however were in no mood to surrender and played their way back in to the game. Kelly came close to adding a second spectacular goal with a long range dipping volley which Carson did well to keep out. Kelly surprisingly made way for McCleary and Clement was replaced by Swift to freshen up the attack as Reading went in search of an equaliser. With ten minutes remaining more good play by Barrow on the left resulted in a near post cross for Bodvarsson. Having got in front of the defender to stab the ball goalwards he reacted smartly to poke in the rebound off Carson from close range. The goal was the reward for his sharpness in the six yard box and all round play this afternoon.

Derby had tried (and failed miserably) to bully Reading all afternoon at set pieces in particular. Their appalling lack of discipline might have cost them the game. Their constant whinging to the referee did them no favours, and Baird’s reckless lunge at Barrow saw them reduced to ten men for the last five minutes. Carson travelled along long way to get himself booked following the pathetic melee after Baird’s dismissal. Only he knows what he was doing on the half way line. By the end Reading were not only numerically superior but looked far more likely to finish the job with good football. Unfortunately it was not to be but they draw consolation from a much improved performance and securing a valuable point. Reading enjoyed seventy-two percent of the possession against a top six side, and on this occasion the possession produced goals and plenty of opportunities.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 1380 days ago in the 2017/2018 season.