News and Views

Royals Bounced Back In Style At Bristol City

21 September 2015
By Alex Bower

"To control any Championship game as we did today takes some doing and the team deserve enormous credit."
- Reading Manager Steve Clarke

"We had a bit of bad luck hitting the post, but I'm not sure we did enough on the afternoon to deserve anything."
- Bristol City Manager Steve Cotterill

Reading bounced back in style following their home defeat to Derby by cruising to victory in the sunshine against a lacklustre Bristol City side. Two first-half goals from Nick Blackman and Garath McCleary were enough to secure all three points and ultimately Reading never looked like losing the game.

Steve Clarke made only two changes going into Saturday's game- Danny Williams came into the Reading midfield in place of Aaron Tshibola while Garath McCleary came in for the suspended Orlando Sa. It was the man in form, however, that was to come up with the goods and give Reading the early lead.

The Royals set off at an electric pace and they were combining well from the off. Just nine minutes into the game Reading took the lead. McCleary evaded the offside trap before picking out Blackman, who calmly ran into the Bristol box before cutting in and curling a deflected effort into the far left corner of Frank Fielding's goal.

Only a few minutes passed before McCleary himself was to find the back of the net in what was his first start of the season. This time it was Oliver Norwood who picked out the player before McCleary's fierce right footed shot from near thirty yards ended up in the Bristol goal. Reading were creating chances consistently with little reply and looked very much in control. The away fans, while small in number, out-sang the home support from the off and there was a party atmosphere in at least half of the Atyeo stand.

At times in the first half it did seem as if frustration was understandably growing amongst the Bristol players. Aden Flint was the first player to be yellow carded for the home side after a fracas with Michael Hector at a corner. City had several opportunities to find a goal from corners but were not able to take any of them. Their best chance of the first half, however, fell to their top scorer Jonathan Kodjia but his effort was blocked heroically by Hector for a corner. Reading also had another opportunity to add to the score-line when McCleary was once again through on goal out on the right. His choice to cutback the ball instead of having an attempt himself may have been the wrong one but Reading went into half-time with the lead.

The Royals continued to dominate from the restart, with Norwood's speculative effort from the halfway line going just over the bar early on. It was Reading's build up play that was the most enjoyable thing to watch during the game. Yes goals are exciting, but the away side's passing and movement was at times a joy to behold. One period of play in particular saw Vydra find Quinn in a one-on-one only for him to be called offside. Another saw McCleary released down the wing once again but his cross aimed at Vydra in the box failed to make it to the intended target.

As Reading substitutes were gradually introduced, with Lucas Piazon, Paolo Hurtado and Aaron Tshibola all entering the fray, the away side did lose some momentum. Bristol substitute Keiran Agard threatened on the counter attack but Chris Gunter came to the rescue to prevent the effort from reaching Jonathan Bond in the Reading goal. The phrase "better safe than sorry" springs to mind when thinking of some of Reading's clearances late on, with more footballs ending up in the non-existent Williams Stand than in Bond's net.

The best chance for the home side came near the death with Agard threatening once more. His ball across goal was flicked on by Kodjia before rebounding off the post in a goalmouth scramble and Bristol were unlucky for it to not end up in the net. Home fans will have been disappointed with their team's performance but may have felt somewhat comforted that they only conceded two.

Reading's work rate all over the pitch was once again great to watch and made life extremely difficult for the home side. Whenever the Bristol players got hold of the ball, the likes of Stephen Quinn, Danny Williams and Oliver Norwood in the centre of the park were on them like a flash and nine times out of ten won the ball back. Paul McShane and Michael Hector are also deserving of a mention due to their dominance more often than not at the back, but it is the tireless effort of Jordan Obita and Chris Gunter that sometimes goes unnoticed. Without their pace at the back, Reading may have been in more trouble from counter attacks than they were.

Young Aaron Tshibola would have been disappointed not to start the game considering the calibre of his recent performances, but Williams was more than up to the task and was impressive throughout. The only blip of his game, and one of my personal highlights of the game, was his confrontation of a Bristol player. Reading fans will already be aware that Williams can sometimes have a temper and when he took offence to a tackle he chose to confront his opponent. Fans, having already witnessed Sa being sent off for similar antics against Derby, clamouring to talk the midfielder down from the stands was an amusing moment and thankfully one that did not result in any punishment for the American.

While it is difficult to pick a man of the match in a game where Reading as a team performed to a high standard, Stephen Quinn is a player that continues to impress me. Bristol struggled to cope with his movement on the wing and his work rate was simply sensational. Together with McShane, he is one of Reading's best signings so far this season and someone I would say is now vital to the Reading team.

If there was any negatives to the performance one would be regarding Blackman. At times the striker was a tad selfish when his team-mates were in the better position. Naturally had his attempts gone in there would be no complaints, but against tougher opposition in future his decision making may be more important. For now, however, he is Reading's main source of goals and is on a streak that is seemingly difficult to stop.

In previous seasons Reading have also often had difficulties in dealing with defensive corners. Bristol, however, had a total of eleven corners and failed to capitalise on any of them. Whether that was down to defensive strength, attacking weakness or a combination of both I do not know but it is good to see the Royals have stopped leaking goals from set plays despite some uneasy moments from Bond from time to time. Obviously against stronger sides this may not still be the case but there is definitely improvement.

Reading's victory sees the side now move up to sixth in the Championship and into the play-off places. Obviously it is still early in the season and subsequently fans should not get too excited about the prospects of promotion. This being said, it is always a positive influence on both the team and supporters for the side to be near the top of the table rather than at the bottom.

The Royals' focus will now be on the Capital One Cup as they take on Everton on Tuesday evening. Clarke has already said that changes will be made and he will subsequently give opportunities to the other members of the squad to impress. Against a Premier League side, Reading will have a challenge ahead of them but as we all know anything can happen in the cup.

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