Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship
READING 1 BLACKBURN 0
Reading: G Puscas (24)
George Puscas celebrated his return to the starting eleven with a crucial goal to earn another valuable three points for Reading, but it was a far from convincing show from the Royals. Rovers’ dominance of the game however was as much to do with Reading's inability to retain possession as it was about the quality of Blackburn’s passing. There was little evidence of Reading’s creative flair this evening, it was their defensive organisation, work rate and discipline that prevented Rovers from taking anything from the game. If Rovers had been sharper in and around the Reading penalty area it might have been a very different story.
The form of Lucas Joao is clearly becoming an issue, and the inclusion of Puscas was acknowledgement of his need for support in leading the attack. Puscas looked sharp in spite of his long absence and a when Olise and Yiadom combined to deliver a great cross to the near post he forced a save from Kaminski with a well-timed run and powerful header. The Romanian came close again with an audacious attempt from just inside the Rovers half when he spotted Kaminski of his line and launched the ball over his head. Fortunately for Rovers his attempt drifted just over the bar. The striking combination produced the only goal of the game midway through a scrappy first half. Elliot, facing his own goal just inside his own half, was pressed by the tenacious Richards. The Rovers man was not given a passing option as he retreated and Richards timed his challenged well and the ball ran to Joao. It was the kind of situation where earlier in the season Joao would have taken the ball on and beaten the ‘keeper, but on this occasion he got his head up and rolled the ball to Puscas in a better position. Showing equal composure in the box Puscas took a touch and tucked his chance away like a man who has been scoring goals all season. It was a rare moment of quality in an otherwise scrappy first half.
Reading were not looking anywhere near as sharp as they had against Rotherham at the weekend. Ejaria was having one of those games when he wanted to beat a man before he passed it and there was rarely an end product after some dazzling footwork. Joao, with Puscas up front was dropping deeper and seeing very little of the ball. He won nothing in the air up front and when the ball was played towards him on the deck he was back on his heels and the move broke down. He looked sluggish, his touch was poor, and his main contribution was defensive headers from Rovers’ corners. He just seems to lack energy and enthusiasm which is a shame for a player with so much talent and ability. It was a relief for everyone when he was replaced by McIntyre to add some energy to the Reading defensive cause as Rovers continued to dominate the game.
The second half was one way traffic with Reading often simply hoofing the ball into the Rovers half and keeping their defensive shape. Brereton was often allowed to run across the pitch, and on a couple of occasions was given the time and space to shoot but never really troubled Raphael. Pressure mounted on the Reading defence and Armstrong had the two best chances for Rovers but put them both wide. In short Reading were unable to pass their way forward and Rovers failed to open up the Reading defence. Even without Morrison, who limped off in the first half, they rarely looked likely to concede. Moore’s influence at the back was immense. Rinomhota’s energy was missing in midfield, and with Reading committing and extra player to attack, Rovers found it easy to play through midfield. Laurent was over worked and forced to press higher up the pitch. Thankfully Yiadom and Richards made a huge contribution defensively and going forward. (Congratulations by the way to the Sky commentary team for inventing so many ways of pronouncing Yiadom’s name.)
In a strange season Reading continue to hold on to their top six slot as Bournemouth decline and Cardiff emerge as strong play-off candidates. Norwich seem to be pulling away as the struggle for the second automatic promotion spot intensifies. Reading certainly can play well enough to be serious contenders but their recent performances are far from convincing. Scoring goals has become a problem. Reading have only hit the back of net six times in the past eight games.
This Championship game took place 52 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.