Reading FC Match Report: 2016/2017 Season - Championship


READING 3 NORWICH 1

Reading: Y Kermorgant (37), G McCleary (68), C Harriott (90)
Norwich: N Oliveira (60)

After a dull first forty-five minutes which saw Reading take a the lead as half time approached, the game came to life to produce a highly entertaining second half as the Royals went on to secure an impressive fifth successive home victory. City pressed and contained Reading in a first half of few chances only to fall behind to a rare moment of high quality football. Kermorgant guided Kelly’s free-kick into the net with a subtle glancing header. Early in the second half City briefly reproduced the kind of play which enabled them to recently hold their own in the Premier League, and deservedly equalised through Oliveira. The lead was short-lived, and as the game opened up, Reading regained their lead. City were reduced to ten men and Harriot finished them off with a brilliant third goal.

In the first minute Kermorgant broke down the right and almost found Kelly with an early ball into the box but the City defence quickly snuffed out the danger. It was a promising start but City pressed Reading in their own half preventing them from playing out from the back. The inability of City to make use of their hard won possession resulted in a dull first half. Dorrans had to be substituted after twenty-five minutes after getting in the way of McShane as he tried to take a quick free-kick. The City player only had himself to blame. Had he not decided to stand over the ball to prevent the kick from being taken he would not have sustained the injury. Van den Berg was booked for a typically reckless challenge. Tettey also found his way into the book having tested the referee’s patience on more than one occasion. City could only muster one feeble shot on target. Reading also created few chances. MCleary’s crossing was disappointingly not getting beyond the first defender. Beerens however was troubling the City defence down the left flank and his run was halted by a clumsy challenge by Pinto who rightly received a yellow card. Kelly’s excellent free kick to the near post was met perfectly by Kermorgant to give Reading a half time lead.

City came out for the second half in a more determined frame of mind and put Reading under considerable pressure. Kermorgant almost extended Reading’s lead with a powerful header during the minute’s applause in memory of lifelong Royals fan Dean Tomlin. (What a fitting tribute that would have been!) Reading looked vulnerable on the left side with Blackett occupying a central area and Beerens not always getting back quickly enough to plug the gap. City exploited the weakness to good effect when Jacob cut the ball back for Oliveira to stroke the ball into the net from just inside the box to level the scores on sixty minutes.

The game exploded into life as the game opened up and Reading hit back seven minutes later. Howson resorted to pushing the ball off the line with his arm, and although Reading put the ball in to net the referee had already blown for a penalty. City skipper had to go and Kermorgant stepped up to take the spot kick. Not for the first time this season Reading failed to put the penalty away, but McCleary pounced as the ball rebounded from the crossbar to thump home a header from close range. Reduced to ten men, City did their best to keep in the game, but Reading were able to open up their defence as play became stretched. McCleary forced a good save from Ruddy and Kelly failed to put the finishing touch to a chance beautifully created by McCleary’s pass and Kermorgant’s cushioned header. City fans were not amused with City manager Alex Neil’s decision to replace scorer Oliveira with Jerome with twenty minutes left, prompting chants from both sets of fans casting doubts on his future employment prospects. The referee angered both sets of fans with some bizarre decisions which all helped to ramp up the atmosphere.

Swift returning from injury showed he had not lost his touch with some excellent passing and movement. Combining with Harriot, he provided the icing on the cake, releasing Harriot with a perfectly timed and weighted pass behind a beleaguered City defence. Harriot’s left-footed finish into the top left corner was emphatic and spectacular passing close to Ruddy but giving the City keeper absolutely no chance.

The third goal emptied the stadium. City fans could be forgiven for leaving early, but it was a pity the home fans did not stick around to provide the ovation their team’s performance deserved at the final whistle. Reading are not only accumulating points but are growing in confidence and now looking a good bet for a play-off spot at least. There were some excellent individual performances today but Moore just about edged my choice as man of the match. He defended flawlessly and always looked comfortable on the ball.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 56 days ago in the 2016/2017 season.