Reading FC Match Report: 2015/2016 Season - Championship


Reading: N Blackman (9), G McCleary (13)
Bristol C: --

Post transfer window Reading FC continued their run of fine form as they had a comfortable day in the sun strolling to a 2-0 victory at Ashton Gate. Steve Clarke’s new look Royals played with swagger and confidence as they gave the newly promoted Robins a torrid afternoon. The only surprise being that the deficit was no more than two.

As Orlando Sa was suspended McCleary started on the right with Blackman pushing into the central striker role of a standard 4-4-2 formation. Danny Williams returned to the side for Aaron Tshibola with Paolo Hurtado and Simon Cox joining Tshibola on the bench. Reading looked in control of the game from the very first minute. Oliver Norwood, again, was conducting the tempo and play from the middle. He was a terrier in the tackle and was spreading the play quickly and effectively.

Paul McShane and Chelsea loanee Michael Hector worked hard to keep the dangerous Kodjia quiet. Rejuvenated Nick Blackman, fast becoming a cult hero, was positive in possession looking to use the spaces generated by the runs of hard working Matej Vydra.

As Bristol City continued to allow room for both Blackman and McCleary to drive forward with the ball it wasn’t long before they were punished. With City pushing the play forward it was broken up in typical fashion by a resolute Reading midfield. McCleary, Vydra and Williams worked the ball well with some neat one touch play before releasing Nick Blackman into space on the right. Blackman drove into the area, turned inside the covering defender and with the aid of a deflection found the bottom left corner.

It was a fine goal from the free scoring front man and whilst he might never seem happy, it was the signal for the adoring Reading fans to sing his name at full volume. It wasn’t long before Reading doubled their lead. The new look Royals seem to have a trademark of fast one touch football when in possession and it was this style that broke the City backline again.

Danny Williams won the ball in Reading half, moved it quickly to Stephen Quinn who, as well as being everywhere, released a first time pass into the path of Gareth McCleary. With Bristol City failing to pressure his drive forward, McCleary was allowed to hit a shot from 30 yards into the bottom left corner of the goal and out of reach of the despairing dive from Fielding. With only 14 minutes gone, the game seemed like it was already over.

As the half continued, the frustration from the crowd filtered through onto the pitch. Bristol City seemed intent in getting entwined into personal battles right across the pitch. At times McShane looked to rise to the bait, challenging every decision and getting involved in little fracases. It was from one of these with Aden Flint that resulted in a cut to the head. In both halves he spent five minutes receiving treatment on the side-lines.

Michael Hector on the other hand looked calm and collected as he swept up any dangerous City attacks. His pending move to Chelsea seems to have given Hector focus and he looked an accomplished and quality defender throughout the game. His block on Kodjia in the 34th minute being the pick of the bunch from some sublime defending.

The Royals looked threatening every time they attacked and in the 38th minute should have made it three. McCleary worked himself free on the right with a clever headed flick over two defenders. As he drove to the touchline it looked like a simple cross to the far post for the onrushing Vydra. Instead McCleary opted to pull the ball back to Blackman. His pass was slightly short and easily cleared by the relieved City defence.

Bristol City changed their formation for the second half but it did nothing to change their fortunes. Reading did a perfect professional job on them. Controlling the game and preventing any time or space on the ball for Bristol to muster any attacking intent.

Despite a late City scare in injury time Reading looked the more dangerous. Nick Blackman, in particular, perhaps should have done better with two opportunities midway through the half. He fired both high and over the top.

All in all it was a perfect away performance. A solid display from a Reading team that is starting to look very slick and dangerous. The only criticism you could aim at the side is the goalkeeper. Jonathan Bond continues to look shaky. As I saw someone say on Twitter he couldn’t handle air. He dropped two corners and saw another wayward kick go out for a throw in. The clean sheet was in spite of Bond not because of him. I understand he is young and it might hurt his confidence for him to be dropped but we can’t allow these mistakes to continue if we want to challenge for the top two. The problem being, is Ali Al-Habsi any better?
Dave Roberts

This Championship game took place 1432 days ago in the 2015/2016 season.