Reading FC Match Report: 2019/2020 Season - Championship


Reading: Y Meite (17), G Puscas (60)
Barnsley: --

Reading bounced back from a midweek defeat to win their first home game since Boxing Day. There is clearly still room for improvement but significantly better showing than the heavy defeat at the hands of Wigan three days earlier. It is invariably an indication of a decent performance when the opposition manager starts to make excuses for their underperforming team as did Barnsley's Gerhard Struber in his post-match comments. Mark Bowen made five changes to the team today, some of which were due to the return of some players to full fitness, or attributed to illness; but it has to be said it brought about the desired effect. In came Obita, Rinomhota, Puscas, Miazga and Olise at the expense of Moore, Richards, Pele, Baldock and Araruna.

Reading started in a positive mood, and the South Stand regulars, in a commendable display of loyalty, not only turned up but were in full voice from the kick-off. The more direct approach set the tone for the game as even Raphael was looking to get the ball forward quicker in his distribution. Not that Reading were intent on playing a long ball game. They had certainly learned from the previous defeat that moving the ball a bit quicker got everyone involved and unsettled the visitors defence. The impact was immediate. Linking up with Olise on the left, Ejaria worked his way into the box and registered Reading’s first shot on target after only six minutes. Buoyed by two successive away wins Barnsley also looked threatening going forward in the early stages. Reading took an early lead when Yiadom made an enterprising run into midfield and was halted illegally by Ritznaier. From the free kick, Swift floated in an inviting cross which Puscas nudged goalwards and was scrambled over the line by Meite. It was an untidy but very welcome goal for The Royals.

Reading were passing the ball well with Olise, Swift, Ejaria and Rinomhota all picking out short simple but effective passes through midfield. Barnsley could not contain the individual skill of Ejaria and Olise without resorting to desperate challenges as they were left lunging at thin air by their movement. It was however not all rosy for Reading and Morrison was caught dwelling on the ball when in acres of space and under very little pressure, was disposed by Woodrow who, thankfully for Reading wasted a great opportunity to equalise. Reading did not learn from that and on the stroke of half time Obita also carelessly conceded possession allowing Barnsley to create another scoring opportunity. Again Woodrow was the recipient of the gift. This time he was on target twice in quick succession but Raphael responded with good saves. The second was outstanding and at full stretch to push his effort over the bar. For me that was the turning point in the game. There was no time for the corner and Reading went in with a half time lead.

Again Reading were quick out of the blocks from the re-start. Rinomhota found Puscas down the right and his cross was headed wide by Meite. It was a statement of intent that Reading were certainly not going to sit back just yet. Ten minutes into the second half Struber could see he needed to freshen up his attack and made a double substitution. Sollbauer and Schmidt were thrown into the fray. Just after the changes were made Miazga decided he would contribute to the defensive dithering allowing Woodrow a free run on goal. To his credit he made up for his error with an excellent challenge to deny the Barnsley forward again. A minute later Reading extended their lead. Puscas gave his marker the slip just inside the Barnsley half and made a beeline for the Barnsley goal. As three Barnsley defenders were closing in on him, and with ‘keeper Collins coming out, he kept his head and slotted the ball perfectly into the far corner. It was a superb finish and the work of a very good striker. After a fairly ordinary first half Puscas raised his game to a higher level of intensity. Perhaps a little more restraint with his celebration would have been wise and avoided an unnecessary and predictable yellow card. However after Wednesday evening’s lack of passion and commitment, a display of unrestrained enthusiasm was refreshing!

The second goal triggered the other side of Reading’s game as they decided to sit back and contain Barnsley, and they did so effectively. Rinomotha’s work rate was admirable, constantly snapping at the heels of the Barnsley midfield. He had a very good game all round. Swift won a lot of balls in the air and seemed to be in the right place all the time to snuff out danger and set an attack in motion. It was very different performance from Swift but very effective. He was replaced by Pele for the last ten minutes which in no way reflected the quality of his contribution. Ejaria also had a very good all round game. It was hard to find too many faults with the performance overall. It was a bit irritating to see good situations wasted by forwards timing their runs so badly and getting caught offside. Perhaps the sloppiness at the back in possession is something to look at, Sheffield United might make them pay more heavily on Tuesday. Nevertheless, three points today removes nagging doubts about relegation and puts everyone in the right frame of mind for what promises to be an entertaining evening under the floodlights in the FA Cup next week. What a difference a few days can make.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 437 days ago in the 2019/2020 season.