Reading FC Match Report: 2018/2019 Season - Championship


Reading: --
West Brom: --

Reading virtually guaranteed their place in the Championship next season with a gutsy performance against promotion chasing Albion. The point gained in such a spirited manner coupled with a Rotherham's home defeat at the hands of Birmingham City left Reading six points clear of the Yorkshire side with only two games remaining and a goal difference thirteen goals inferior to Reading. Make no mistake about it, Reading are safe and deservedly so. The celebrations which greeted the final whistle were certainly not premature. Relief and joy were evident in equal measures amongst players and fans alike.

The home crowd were in good voice as the wave of optimism which had gathered momentum in recent weeks continued. Reading fielding a strong side for this crucial match were hampered by losing key players in the opening thirteen minutes. Oliviera pulled up with a hamstring injury in the first minute and limped off five minutes later and then a minute later Meite turned awkwardly and appeared to twist his knee and he too had to be replaced after thirteen minutes. The disruption created a strangely subdued opening to the game and left Reading without their two most potent attackers. Neither McCleary nor Loader could be described as like for like replacements. With Albion playing five across the back, including three towering centre backs, Reading looked unlikely to threaten the visitor’s goal. Albion however seemed content to sit back and only manged to muster a couple of long range efforts which Martinez dealt with without too much trouble. Reading did create some promising situations and passed the ball well but Johnstone was not really tested. Rinomhota had a sight of goal but delayed his shot and his effort was easily gathered by the Albion ‘keeper.

Albion with their play-off spot virtually assured and automatic promotion out of reach had rested some of their players with one eye on the imminent play-offs but with Gayle on the bench and Rodrigues up front Reading were clearly going to have a comfortable ride in the second half. If the first forty-five minutes had been subdued, the second half in contrast turned out to be a highly entertaining end to end contest. Reading went about their task with just the kind of spirit and determination required to overcome supposedly superior opposition. Nobody shirked their responsibility and the team spirit was there for all to see. Rinomhota was relentless in his desire to close players down and win the ball, and was always looking to get forward to put pressure on the Albion defence. Baker was nothing less than inspirational. His attitude was exemplary, winning tackles, plugging gaps in midfield, taking players on, and without neglecting his central defensive role he came close to scoring what would have been strong contenders for goal of the season. Spotting Johnstone off his line almost scored from just over the half way line and when Barrow was felled on the edge of the box he struck a magnificent free kick which drew a quite brilliant save from Johnstone as it arrowed towards the top right corner of the net. Loader, growing in confidence forced another good save from Johnstone and hit the target with a diving header from a Yiadom cross.

McCleary tormented the Albion defence with his pace and direct running and might have won a penalty but the referee decided he had gone down too easily and received a yellow card for his trouble. It was not the only contentious decision made by referee Ward. He failed to penalise what seemed clear fouls but awarded free kicks for some legitimate tackles, leaving players from both sides bemused and frustrated. Albion had spells of pressure forcing corners and winning free klicks in dangerous areas but the Reading back line stood firm. Taking advantage of Reading’s willingness to attack in the latter stages Albion hit the woodwork twice, Gunter cleared off the line, and Martinez had to be alert to keep out some well struck shots. Miazga had to make a superb recovering tackle after carelessly giving the ball away, but both he and Moore were outstanding in repelling what is one of the prolific attacks in the league. Reading were ultimately rewarded for their positive approach and thoroughly deserved their point. The referee’s final whistle was greeted by the home crowd as if their team had just won the league. Reading’s day was complete when shortly afterwards when the Rotherham result appeared on the screen behind the goal.

Reading can now enjoy the final game of the season and looked forward to next season with considerable more hope and expectation than at the beginning of the current campaign. The recent run of form has not only brought survival but some excellent entertainment. It bodes well for next season and there is every reason to expect we will be chasing points for a different reason come next April.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 524 days ago in the 2018/2019 season.