Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


Reading: --
Stoke: --

It is easy to see why Stoke City have now gone ten games without win. They successfully stifled Reading's attacking threat for most of the game but lacked the ability to create many scoring opportunities themselves. Reading certainly struggled to cope with City's effective pressing game and the long ball option was also fruitless against the likes of the towering Soutter, Collins and Batth who won just about everything in the air at the back. Up front Fletcher was winning more than his share of headers too against Morrison and McIntyre. Reading's first and only shot on target came from Ejaria after seventy-nine minutes which reflected the amount of time they spent passing the ball around in their own half especially in the first forty-five minutes.

Reading did not start with intensity they displayed against Bournemouth last week and it was Stoke who looked sharper generally. Swift, Ejaria and Olise were unable to play through midfield and thankfully the ever reliable combination of Laurent and Rinomhota was effective in protecting the back four. Reading’s defence is hard to break down these days, and apart from Fletcher, Stoke lacked any real threat going forward. Stoke relied heavily in knocking crosses to the far post where Holmes’ positional sense and decision-making was outstanding. McClean was shown a yellow card for a blatant dive in the box. Fletcher volleyed the ball past Raphael from close range when an excellent deep cross was nodded back across goal. Fortunately the goal didn’t stand because Fletcher was offside. Strangely Reading had more possession than Stoke up to half time but spent most of the time in their own half.

Reading certainly were better in the second half and in response Stoke’s foul count began rise sharply. Worryingly Swift, once again, had been a weak link defensively and his lack of pace resulted in Stoke players going past him with ease; and as last week, he putting pressure on his own defence by losing possession in crucial areas. The introduction of Meite in his place was a welcome sight. Meite’s presence was just what was needed to neutralise Stoke’s physicality in midfield and at the back. He was direct and made things happen in and around the box. The last action of the match typified his impact when he was first to get his head to Aluko’s corner and when the ball ran loose he was first to react but thumped his shot wide. It was also good to see a more mature performance from Olise. He was always willing to get on the ball and try to make things happen even when the going was tough and was not at all intimidated by the robust challenges coming his way. It was the kind of game where, in the past, he might have disappeared.

Towards the end Stoke were clearly getting anxious at the back as Reading began to get string some passes together going forward. Their defence had to be very careful when Ejaria was weaving his way around in the penalty area. Reading should have made more of those situations and it was a pity Richards was not getting forward to provide a passing option. Taking everything in to into account, it could have been worse. A point away from home and a clean sheet which keeps the unbeaten run going. Now if they can keep it going against Brentford next it will be worth celebrating. The Bees are currently looking like the strongest side in the Championship.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 175 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.