Reading FC Match Report: 2014/2015 Season - Championship
READING 0 MIDDLESBROUGH 0
Reading extended their unbeaten to four games as their new found resilience and self-belief helped them to match a very strong Middlesbrough side. Without doubt today’s opponents are the best team to visit the Madjeski stadium so far this season. Boro dominated possession in the first half but were unable to make it count, and in an eventful second half Reading were certainly playing to win but remained disciplined in defence. The visitors will probably feel they should have won, but three excellent saves by Federici ensured Reading earned the point they deserved for their enterprise and work rate.
It is a testament Steve Clarke’s skill as a manager and coach that Pogrebnyak was not only in the starting eleven, but actually looked like he wanted to play. He looked understandably rusty and was replaced by Blackman midway through the second half. In a promising opening Robson-Kanu slipped a well-timed and weighted pass down the left to release Obita to cross. Reading’s work rate was excellent as was the quality of the visitors passing and movement. Bamford was outstanding. On one occasion he left three Reading players in his wake as he wriggled through to set up a Boro attack. However, there were few chances. Reach fired into the side netting for Boro and then missed the best chance of the match when he scooped the ball over the bar from close range. Federici blocked a Bamford effort which was fired straight at him through a crowded box. Boro looked more likely to score from open play and Reading seemed unable make the most of their possession or set pieces. Norwood’s delivery form free kicks was uncharacteristically poor.
The second half was far more eventful as both teams went looking for a winning goal. Pogrebnyak got up too early for a cross and headed over. Mackie slid a superb ball through the Boro defence for Gunter to cross. Reading were mounting pressure too forcing a succession of corners which had Boro looking rattled. Again Boro had better chances but on each occasion they were thwarted by Federici. He made three very good saves, the best coming when he managed to get a hand to a rasping strike by Bamford from the edge of the box to deflect the ball onto the bar. Blackman replaced a tired Pogrebnyak and did a magnificent job playing as a lone striker, competing for every high ball and holding the ball up to relieve pressure on his defence. Karacan came on to a standing ovation and provided a boost to morale at a crucial time in the game. I suspect Steve Clarke opted to replace Norwood as a precaution after his warning for a lunge (he had already picked up a yellow card in the first half). It could have gone either way but neither defence were in the mood to concede.
For the second home game in a row we were treated to some incompetent refereeing. Mr Breakspear had remarkable difficulty pacing out ten yards for free kicks. He came up short on at least three occasions. I counted nine paces twice, and remarkably only seven paces for a Reading free kick in the second half. Perhaps to compensate, he then took eleven paces before squirting his shaving foam on the pitch for Reading’s next free kick. Fortunately it made no difference on this occasion. His worst decision was to book Obita for a very robust but fair tackle in the second half. Obita was also the victim of a heavy challenge by Tomlin who also received a yellow card and had far too much to say for himself.
This was another encouraging performance from the Royals as Steve Clarke continues to get the best out of his squad. Once again it was pleasure to listen to his post-match interview. He summarised accurately what we had seen from his team this afternoon. His comments were succinct and gave a clear insight into the tactical changes he made during the game.
Reading had Adam Federici to thank after an inspired performance saw Reading keep another clean sheet to draw 0-0 at home to Middlesbrough. The Royals keeper was in great form throughout the match as he did everything right to earn Reading a valuable point. A save late in the game saw Federici appear from nowhere to push a hugely powerful Bamford shot onto the crossbar and to safety. In the first half, with the visitors well on top, Federici saved a couple of point blank efforts. However, it wasn't just about his shot stopping as he calmly collected cross after cross with clean catches that eliminated most of the threat from Middlesbrough's wide play.
This was a decent performance from the Royals against tough opposition. Reading started very brightly with some good passing football all played in the visitors half. It took Middlesbrough five minutes to make their first incursions into Reading's half, but it wasn't long before they started to take control of the fixture.
Reading welcomed Pavel Pogrebnyak back into the starting eleven as he made his first start in two months returning from injury. Pogrebnyak worked really hard but was ineffective as chances up front for Reading were few and far between in the first half. His second half performance was limited as he was replaced by Blackman before the hour mark. Before his substitution he had one of Reading's better chances as he did well to get in position to power a header towards goal - but unfortunately it flew well over the crossbar. To be fair to Pogrebnyak it was his first action for some time, but Reading looked much better when Blackman come off the bench and injected some pace and urgency into the Reading attack.
After Middlesbrough's dominance in the middle of the match it was Reading that were well on top in the last third of the match. Cox nearly set up Blackman who had found space just inside the area - but the final pass was blocked. Reading nearly finished off a superb passing move down the first that involved half the side and included plenty of quick sharp passes and a clever back heel as Reading looked the more dangerous. Reading were producing plenty of good football but the final shot was missing as Middlesbrough's strong defence refused to budge.
With time running short Mackie made way to allow Jem Karacan to come off the bench for the last few minutes to complete his return from a 15 month lay off following injury. Karacan got a massive welcome from the home fans and looked immediately settled in the Reading midfield. He only had time for a few chances but looked sharp enough to suggest he could play a big part this season. With the January transfer window open it could be the return of Karacan that is more important than any new incoming player.
It was Middlesbrough that might have snatched the win but Federici was there to make the save of the match. A draw was probably a fair result, although both sides might have thought they should have snatched the win. Reading are now unbeaten in four matches after that opening defeat under Clarke's control. The ship has definitely been steadied.
This Championship game took place 1437 days ago in the 2014/2015 season.