Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship
BIRMINGHAM 2 READING 1
Reading: Y Meite (35)
Birmingham: L Jutkiewicz (4), H Dean (71)
Reading continue to stumble towards the finishing line in this season's promotion race and once again came unstuck against a well organised, aggressive and physically strong side. With Lee Bowyer installed as their new manager this week, City had a very different look about them from the team that had been in free fall with only one win in their previous nine games. Bowyer as a player was not averse to 'putting a foot in' so unsurprisingly brought in the old guard including the old war horse Lucas Jutkiewicz. Jutkiewicz wasted no time in making his presence felt clattering in to Joao after sixteen seconds for the first free kick of the game, and then after four minutes climbed all over Moore to head in Bela's cross to give City the lead.
It took Reading nearly twenty minutes to settle in to any kind of rhythm as City chased long balls, and pressed Reading all over the pitch. With Semedo, McIntyre and Laurent in midfield Reading were well equipped to deal with City’s physical approach but the intensity of City’s play left Reading with little time on the ball and they were unable to get at their back four. Gradually the tide of the game began to turn and City were forced deeper in to their own half. Meite levelled the scores with a good header from a tight angle at the far post from Olise’s corner. Reading were dominating possession although City looked dangerous from long throw—ins and set pieces but by half time Reading were looking the likelier side to take the lead.
Reading continued to pass the ball around comfortably in midfield but were not getting into the final third and Etheridge was having a very quiet evening in the City goal. A disappointed Meite was replaced by Puscas on seventy minutes to freshen up the attack. A minute later a rare City excursion into the Reading half earned them a corner. Reading had struggled all evening to deal with anything in the air in the box and Joao’s weak defensive header fell to Dean who thumped a powerful header past Raphael to put City ahead again. It was their cue to waste time and kick Reading to break up the play, a familiar theme this season. Referee Andy Woolmer was similarly lenient when Millwall were kicking Reading off the park in February and only Gardner and Colin picked up yellow cards.
There was a kind of inevitability about the result after City took the lead. Olise came closest to saving a point for Reading with a superbly struck shot from outside the box which Etheridge saved well and reacted quickly as Puscas closed in to the rebound. There can be however no excuses for this defeat. Reading had pretty much the full squad available with plenty of options on the bench but still were unable to convert possession in to chances and goals. Joao looks as if he wants to make more of a contribution but was again a peripheral figure rather than the focal point of the attack.
The cushion Reading had to keep them in the top six has been eroded to two points with Barnsley on an amazing run, and Bournemouth breathing down their neck. It is too late in the season to adopt any kind of radical tactical change with the personnel available, so the challenge for Veljko Paunovic is how to return to the form of the early part of the season for the last nine games of the season. Reading could and should be in the mix at the end of the season but they are making hard work of it.
This Championship game took place 35 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.