Reading FC Match Report: 2016/2017 Season - Championship
READING 3 BRENTFORD 2
Reading: J Swift (22), D Williams (77), R Beerens (81)
Brentford: Jota (63), L Vibe (66)
In a quite remarkable match Reading somehow snatched a victory from an excellent Brentford side. It was a game which had everything. A heady cocktail of great goals, superb defending, free flowing play from both teams, and numerous errors (not least from referee Stroud) which produced one of the most entertaining games of the season. Brentford fans will be wondering how they lost a game in which they played some outstanding attacking football and outplayed Reading for long periods of the game. Royals fans will not care having seen their team come back in spectacular fashion and move within touching distance of the play-offs.
New signings Mutch and Grabban started, and Swift returned as Jaap Stam made the most of the strength in depth of his squad. His selection appeared to be justified as Reading swarmed all over Brentford in the opening twenty minutes and took the lead with a sweeping move. Kelly typically shrugged of a challenge and threaded a perfectly weighted pass down the line to send McCleary clear of the Brentford defence. His attempt to pick out Grabban was thwarted by the outstretched leg of a Brentford defender and when the ball came back off the post Swift joyously slammed the ball into the net to give the Royals the lead against his former employers. Reading were rampant and should have added two goal in quick succession. Moore mistimed his header at the far post with the goal at his mercy. (Ironically Moore was dominant in the air all evening constantly winning the ball with perfectly timed headers.) Minutes later McCleary picked out Grabban with a perfect cross who swung a leg and missed the ball entirely. It was a coach’s nightmare. With the pace of the ball there was no need to swing across the line of the ball, he could have side-footed the ball past Bentley.
Brentford responded with an onslaught which Reading did well to survive. Wayward finishing and at least three good saves from Al Habsi enabled Reading to hold on to their lead until half time. Mutch had a mixed evening and almost helped Brentford to draw level on two occasions. His appalling pass exposed the Reading defence and Al Habsi rescued the situation with a good save and why referee Stroud did not penalise him for the most blatant two handed shove which sent Canos sprawling is mysterious to say the least. He was not alone though as Reading wilted under the pressure of Brentford’s assault on their goal. Even given the half time interval to re-group Reading were unable to keep their composure and shape and it was not long before the inevitable, and it has to said , deserved equaliser arrived. A dubious free kick was awarded to the visitors deep their own half, and while some Reading players paused to discuss the decision, Brentford broke away and scored Joozefzoon crossed through Gunter’s legs for Jota to tuck away from close range. There was no respite for Reading and Brentford took the lead a couple of minute later this time courtesy of a lapse in concentration from the referee’s assistant as Vibe was allowed to receive a through ball in a clearly offside position. Vibe finished with a shot deflected into the net by Gunter.
At that point Reading were in disarray and staring at defeat. A triple substitution by Jaap Stam turned the game on its head. Kermorgant, Beerens and Evans replacing Grabban, Swift and Kelly allowed Reading to steady the ship. Evans anchored a midfield which had lost its grip. Beerens provided some much needed width on the left and Kermorgant linked up play and opened up Brentford with some excellent passing. From one down Reading recovered almost immediately. Kermorgant dropped a perfect ball behind the Brentford defence for McCleary to drive on and whip in a near post cross. Williams released from the chore of protecting Gunter, bust a gut to get to the near post across the centre back and finished with some style to level the scores. (Reading forwards please note!) In a matter of minutes Reading and regained their lead. Bentley came out for a long ball hopefully pursued by McCleary and made a hash of the clearance. Kermorgant prodded the ball towards the open goal and Beerens, unopposed, helped it over the line. The home fans went wild and then had to endure just over ten minutes of torture as Joozefzoon continued to torment Gunter and a fingertip save by Al Habsi kept Brentford out. It was a typically determined rearguard action to secure the points epitomised by mature a defensive display by the ever improving Obita. Also worth noting Al Habsi is starting to catch the ball which certainly helps relieve the pressure on the defence.
It is hard to see where the next win will come from with away matches against Huddersfield, Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday, and home games against Leeds and Newcastle looming. Thankfully a nine point cushion between Reading and seventh place Norwich allows room for slippage without dropping out of the top six. Reading however will not roll over like they used to, and I will be surprised if they don’t pick up a few points from those games.
This Championship game took place 105 days ago in the 2016/2017 season.