Reading FC Match Report: 2016/2017 Season - Championship


READING 2 SHEFF WED 1

Reading: R Beerens (57), R Beerens (76)
Sheff Wed: S Fletcher (90)

Two second half goals from Roy Beerens earned three points to keep Reading in touch with Newcastle and Brighton at the top of the league. After a dreary first half and a sloppy opening ten minutes of the second, Reading took the lead with a deflected Roy Beerens strike from the edge of the box. Beerens added a second with as composed a finish as you are likely to see in the Championship this season with just under a quarter of an hour left to play. The Royals appeared to be cruising to a comfortable fourth successive home win until substitute Fletcher nodded home at the far post two minutes into the generous six minutes of stoppage time allocated by referee Harrington. In a frantic finish Reading could have conceded an equaliser or added a third, but held out for deserved win.

In a cautious first half neither side could establish a grip on the game. Wednesday were restricted to long range efforts which failed to find the target and Reading struggled to penetrate a compact Wednesday defence. Wednesday came closest to opening the scoring when Al Habsi’s careless pass put Blackett under pressure and presented Wallace with a chance. Al Habsi redeemed himself with a good save. Quinn’s header in the twenty-eighth minute was on target but easily saved by Westwood. McCleary was Reading’s liveliest forward making good runs and showing a good touch on several occasions although his best attempt was well blocked on the edge of the box. The atmosphere was subdued, which was hardly surprising, given the sluggish play from both sides.

Reading may have been lethargic in the first half but in the opening ten minutes they gave a masterclass in sloppiness. Van Den Berg delayed his pass and was caught in possession, although why nobody gave him a shout is a mystery. In an attempt to retrieve the ball he conceded a free kick and picked up a yellow card for his trouble. Wednesday encouraged by the alarming ease with which they were able to gain possession and penetrate the Reading midfield came very close to taking the lead. Joao raced onto a long ball down the middle but having mesmerised the covering defenders and Al Habsi he shot wide with the goal at his mercy. The Wednesday fans behind the goal were acclaiming the goal as the ball drifted past the post. It was a bad miss and they were punished five minutes later when Evans touched the ball invitingly back to Beerens on the edge of the penalty area. Beerens hit the ball well but it took a vicious deflection giving Westwood no chance. The game boiled over after the goal and I have to say the referee was in part responsible. Van Den Berg went down under a challenge and play continued with McShane lunging into a challenge on the halfway line. Harrington allowed play to continue, which incensed Wallace who lashed out at McCleary from behind and how on earth he escaped a straight red is a mystery to me. Wallace had been dishing it out all afternoon and should have already been in the book. The melee that followed was embarrassing for both sides. Thankfully sanity returned and the game resumed.

Wednesday pressed forward in search of an equaliser and were made to pay again. It was ironic after so much careful possession football by Reading that the crucial gaol should be a classic ‘route one’ goal. Al Habsi’s punt upfield was flicked on by the impressive Kermorgant to Beerens. The finish was exquisite. With defenders busting a gut to stop him, he changed direction and rolled the ball inside the far post. Many coaches advocate passing the ball into the net on the principle that accuracy is more important than power, and Beerens illustrated the point perfectly. In many games this season Reading have looked shaky holding on to a lead but on this occasion they never looked in trouble – until stoppage time. Fletcher lurking at the far post behind Obita headed in off the post. With four minutes of stoppage time remaining Wednesday threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Reading. In a heart-stopping moment Fletcher found space and it took a good save low to his left to push his effort wide. The ball bobbled around in the goal mouth but somehow Reading manged to clear the ball. In the final minute, with Westwood out of his goal, Mendes and Kelly had efforts to add a third goal blocked but it wasn’t needed in the end.

Having suffered a heavy defeat away at Fulham last week Reading needed a lift, and three points against a strong Wednesday side was exactly what was needed. With Moore back at the centre of the defence Reading looked far more secure defensively and in possession. In attack Samuel tried hard to make an impression but his touch let him down at times and he had limited impact on the game apart from winning a couple of free kicks. Kermorgant on the other hand, coming on for the last half an hour, changed the game for Reading. He flicked balls on in Wednesday half, sprayed accurate passes across the pitch, and won tremendous defensive headers when Wednesday resorted to ‘hoof ball’ in stoppage time. I said after the win against Burton, to be considered serious promotion candidates the Royals must hold on to a place in the top six until the beginning of January. Six points from nine since then is a promising start.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 368 days ago in the 2016/2017 season.