Reading FC Match Report: 2022/2023 Season - Championship


READING 2 STOKE 1

Reading: L Joao (2), Lucas Joao (pen 57)
Stoke: B Wilmot (40)

Reading once again bounced back from a heavy away defeat in Yorkshire to extend their 100% home record to four games with a well-earned victory over struggling Stoke City. Further depleted by injuries, Paul Ince reshuffled the line up to include Shane Long and Lucas Joao in the starting eleven. A much improved Joao gave Reading the perfect start opening the scoring in the second minute. Wilmot levelled the scores just before the interval, before Joao sealed the points tucking away a second half penalty after he was brought down by a clumsy challenge from Wilmott. In a match which was scrappy at times, Reading were far more creative going forward and is spite of having less possession, were more threatening in the final third. The win, with Sheffield United playing later, lifted Reading temporarily in to second place in the table.

Both 'keepers were significantly involved the opening goal. Lumley gathered the ball and launched a searching and accurate long ball into City's half towards Joao. City 'keeper Bonham anticipated the danger and rushed out but completely misjudged the bounce and as the ball looped over his head Joao ran onto the ball and from a wide angle steered the ball into the empty net in spite of desperate attempt to clear the ball by a City defender as it crossed the line.

For most of the first half Reading were content to sit back in their 5 – 3 – 2 formation allowing City to pass the ball around aimlessly in front of them, occasionally conceding a corner. Long spurned the chance to double Reading's lead putting the ball over from two yards. Just before half time, one of City's corners finally produced the equaliser. Flint out-jumped Holmes at the far post to head back across goal and the ball dropped for Wilmott to poke the past an unsighted Lumley who was not helped by a deflection off Yiadom's arm.

Stoke, encouraged by the goal stepped the pace and Reading responded positively to produce an entertaining second half. Reading also began to pass the ball with greater urgency and accuracy and Stoke increasingly resorted to some fairly brutal challenges to keep them at bay. Referee Coote was extremely lenient in his response, keeping his cards in his pocket apart from a deserved yellow for Hutchinson for his challenge on Campbell from behind in the sixth minute, and a yellow for Lumley (again!) for some ludicrously blatant time-wasting.

Tom Ince was looking to get forward at every opportunity, and struck one absolutely superb cross field pass following a brilliant run down the left. He had an excellent game all round apart from some stray passes in the first half (jeered loudly by the City fans), but his work rate alone made him stand out. Fornah, playing wide on the left, was not far behind in terms of work rate and willingness to get forward. His touch and passing was exemplary. His perfectly weighted pass put Joao into a scoring position on fifty-four minutes drawing the foul to win the crucial penalty. In truth every one played their part and there were good performances throughout the team. The returning Rahman's cameo appearance reminded us of his outstanding ability at left back.

The coaching staff also deserves credit for the mentality of the players. There is no finer example of this improvement than Joao's transformation. We all know he has great touch and finishing, but today he was more proactive, competing for the ball, using his strength to hold off defenders and looking to bring others in to the game. His game had an edge today we have not seen before. Add that to his goal-scoring prowess and we really do have match winner.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 22 days ago in the 2022/2023 season.