Reading FC Match Report: 2014/2015 Season - Championship
READING 0 BIRMINGHAM 1
Birmingham: C Donaldson (83)
Whatever followed Saturday’s magnificent performance was going to be an anti-climax. Millwall’s away defeat at Blackburn yesterday guaranteed Championship football for the Royals next season so there was nothing significant at stake for either team this evening. Steve Clarke made it clear in his post-match interview he felt obliged to field his strongest team for the Brentford and Rotherham games so this was his last chance to experiment with his squad before he begins the task of re-building his squad during the summer. It was good to see Stacey make a brief but bright appearance, and Jake Cooper certainly deserved his chance for a full game, but once again the most significant feature was the lack of composure in and around the opposing penalty area. Reading simply do not have a player with the ability to consistently stick the ball in the net. Unless Reading can sign at least one good striker before the next season begins they are going to struggle to finish in the top half of the league never mind win promotion. I am sure Steve Clarke knows that too, but for obvious reasons he is not going to discuss his options with the press at this point.
Reading started the game without some key players but were still able to dominate the game from the start. The home fans did everything they could to heal the psychological harm to Adam Federici caused by his catastrophic error at Wembley, and although he ultimately failed to keep a clean sheet his confidence will have been restored with a string of saves late in the game as he was left exposed by his defence which crumbled after the re-organisation necessitated by the three substitutions.
Reading dominated possession throughout the game (65%) and had twenty one goal attempts which reflects the commitment of the players to win the game. It was only the quality of finishing that was crucially missing. Reading’s best attempt in the first half came from McCleary who cut inside and unleashed a powerful left foot strike which Randolf did well to parry. It was commendable that he should be prepared to have a go with his weaker foot again having made a poor attempt from a similar position previously. Chalobah also drew a save from Randolf after thirty minutes with another good strike from just outside the box. Several half chances came in quick succession as the ball bobbled around in the City goal mouth but remarkably nobody seemed to be able to make clean contact with ball to test the ‘keeper. Blackman was having an anonymous evening and McCleary seemed to be given licence to roam and switched wings from time to time. It was all a bit chaotic up front and there was no clear focal point for the attack. Perhaps the best moment of the half was a superb run out of defence by Hector but even that ended with a sliced cross which drifted into the stands.
It was much the same in the second half with Reading toiling tirelessly to break down the City defence. Few clear chances were created in the box, and even when they came, hesitancy let City off the hook. Chalobah and Appiah were notable culprits. Chalobah was far more menacing with his shooting from outside the box and forced another good save from Randolf. Reading made their substitutions bringing on Stacey, Appiah and Novakovich to replace McCleary, Mackie and Blackman which seemed to disrupt the pattern of play and City began to press forward. Federici kept Reading on level terms with three saves in quick succession before an unmarked Donaldson nodded in the winner to send the home fans home feeling disappointed once again. The Cup run has saved what generally has been a very poor season overall. With Brentford coming with incentive of promotion still to play for, the last home fixture of the season has the potential to be a good game. I think most Royals fans would settle for an entertaining game and a couple of goals from their team. Having been starved of entertainment so often this season it would be good to end on a high.
This Championship game took place 1371 days ago in the 2014/2015 season.