Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League


READING 1 STOKE 1

Reading: Le Fondre (90 mins, pen)
Stoke: Kightly (34 mins)

Reading marked their return to the Premier League with a solid performance and a crucial point against a Stoke side proven to be hard to beat in recent seasons. League debuts for new signings Pogrebnyak, Guthrie and Gunther, and Marriappa and McCleary on the bench, Royals fans eagerly anticipated a new season. Stoke finally fell victim to their over-physical approach when Wilkinson clattered into Mc Cleary two minutes from time and Le Fondre calmly stroked home the spot kick. A point was, as Brian McDermott commented after the game, the least the Royals and their fans deserved.

There was a good atmosphere, as expected, for this opening fixture and the Royals dominated the first twenty minutes of the game. Reading knocked the ball around confidently but were unable to create any clear openings. Le Fondre shrugged off a challenge and sent in a cross which flew harmlessly past everyone and Gorkrss powered a header wide from a corner. Stoke were content to contain Reading, often unfairly with some heavy challenges from behind. The leniency of referee Kevin Friend gave them all the encouragement they needed to persist, not that they need much. (Ask Arsene Wenger.) Having soaked up the pressure, Stoke came close to scoring with a glancing header from Walters after half an hour. Federici had an easy stop to make a minute later before the Royals fell behind to an appallingly soft goal after thirty-five minutes. The Royals defence were outnumbered as the Royals midfield were spectating on the edge of the box and Kightly found himself with an unbelievable amount of time and space in front of goal. Stoke’s new signing mis-hit a bouncing ball into the ground. The lack of pace in the shot seemed to confuse Federici and he fumbled the ball into the net to give the visitors and unexpected and undeserved lead. The goal took the wind out of Reading’s sails and the game went very quiet. Le Fondre hinted at a revival with a shot and a header both just wide as half time approached.

Stoke started the second half more positively and clearly fancied their chances of increasing their lead. It took some desperate defending by the Royals to keep them out as the ball ricocheted around the goalmouth eight minutes into the half. There were a couple of appeals for a penalty as Pogrebnyak tumbled in the box as he tried to burrow his way through a packed City penalty area.

In sweltering heat Reading, freshened by the introduction of McCleary, gradually began to expose Stoke’s vulnerability. City feigned injury to waste time, slow Reading’s momentum and take on water. It was McCleary’s excellent pass that provided Pogrebynak with his best chance of the match but his effort was blocked. He was then replaced by Hunt having battled well against a City’s uncompromising centre backs. With time running out McCleary’s run into the box created a chance for Hunt which Bergovic saved but play was brought back for a penalty as result of Wilkinson’s late challenge on McCleary. Having wasted time throughout Stoke tried to unsettled Le Fondre with a lengthy debate about the incident. They need not have bothered. Le Fondre finished the job superbly.

Kevin Friend finally caught up with Berkovic’s protracted goal kick ritual and booked him for time-wasting. In added time yet another clumsy challenge presented Ian Harte with a chance to secure all three points but his strike was tipped over and a goal kick was awarded. Another five minutes might have produced a Royals victory as McCleary running tormented City’s defence and Guthire’s appetite for the ball increased and his range of passing improved as the game progressed. It will be interesting to see if Leigertwood can hold on to his place when Karacan is fully fit. It will be a matter of which pairing works best.

Reading are certainly stronger than last season but they will need to be. On this showing there is cause for optimism but the away game against Chelsea next week will give us a better idea of how the season might go.

John Wells

This Premier League game took place 2256 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.