Reading FC Match Report: 2017/2018 Season - Championship
READING 0 MIDDLESBRO 2
Middlesbro: G Leadbitter (14, pen), B Assombalonga (74)
The Royals inability to find the net resulted in yet another disappointing defeat this time at home to a Middlesbrough side also in poor run of form. The stadium emptied soon after the visitors scored their second and crucial goal with a little over fifteen minutes left to play. It has become an all too familiar pattern of possession football with no end product from Reading. Defeat was compounded by a serious head injury to Ilori after twenty-eight minutes when he collided with Liam Moore as both players attempted to head the ball clear on the edge of the penalty area. Reading have now lost over half of their opening thirteen fixtures and although the defence has been generally quite slid a meagre return of only eleven goals has seen worryingly them slide down the table.
Reading started the game brightly and for the opening twenty minutes there was a refreshing intensity about their play. With Bodvarsson unavailable Smith was given his chance to lead the attack after Stam’s recent failed experiments with other squad members playing out of position to fulfil the role. The young forward contributed a couple of neat touches in the opening spell. All was well until the fourteenth minute when Assombalonga took full advantage of a poorly timed challenge in the box by Van den Berg to tumble for a penalty. Leadbitter rifled the spot kick high into the net giving Manone no chance to put ‘Boro ahead. Going behind so early leaves plenty of time to recover but with Reading’s poor scoring record this season a comeback seemed a tall order. A slick exchange of passes ended with Aluko shooting wide of the target but Reading struggled to create chances. Things got worse for Reading when a clash of heads between Moore and Ilori resulted in a lengthy delay and both players leaving the pitch for treatment.
Moore was motionless for some time but gamely returned with a dressing to protect his stitched wound. Ilori initially got to his feet but looked extremely unsteady on his feet and eventually sat down and left the pitch on a stretcher. He did not return and by all accounts will be absent for a couple of weeks at least. The defence re-shuffled with McShane coming back into the centre of defence and Blackett coming on to replace Ilori and slotting in at left back. Not sure McShane was entirely comfortable at right back anyway. Reading showed willing but 'Boro were tough to break down and Assomolonga was being a pain, diving and falling over. McShane got wound up by his antics and received a yellow card. Assombalonga had to wait until the second half to receive his deserved yellow card. Just before half time Gunter delivered a decent near post cross for Smith but although his header was well directed it drifted wide of the far post.
Undeterred by their difficult first half Reading pressed forward in search of an equaliser and did muster a couple of shots on target. Smith made room for a strike from the edge of the box which had Randolf scrambling after failing to gather the shot. Swift also manged to draw a save from a similar position but this time Randolf gathered the effort comfortably. For all their possession Reading lacked penetration. The game was settled after seventy-four minutes when Gunter inexplicably let Assombolonga run into box unmarked and Howson found him with a good cross right in front of goal. He could hardly miss and he didn't. McShane’s frustration at the defensive lapse expressed the feelings of the home fans perfectly – anger and frustration.
One small crumb of comfort for Reading fans was the return of Yann Kermorgant who immediately made his presence felt with a good pass inside the full back and a winning headers around the 'Boro box. Sadly though even he seemed to have been afflicted by the loss of scoring touch when he blasted over from close range when the ball dropped at his feet following a corner in the last minute.
Reading desperately to stop the rot with a home win against Forest on Halloween. A scary prospect following Forest’s away win at Hull today!!
This Championship game took place 144 days ago in the 2017/2018 season.