Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


Reading: --
Stoke: Tyrese Campbell (23), Steven Fletcher (35), Jacob Brown (90)

For the second time this week Reading dominated possession and failed to find the net against well organised but fairly ordinary Championship sides at home. Worse still, avoidable defensive errors have proved costly conceding a total of six goals in those games. The promising start to the season now has been overshadowed by three successive defeats as a significant lead at the top of the league has rapidly been whittled away to one point. Veljko Paunovic is finding out about life in the Championship and it remains to be seen how well he responds to recent performances. So far this season Reading have played some outstanding football, but that alone does not win games.

Reading started very brightly indeed with Samedo testing Rudd twice in the opening minutes with headers, the second effort producing a very good save from the City ‘keeper. Samedo was everywhere in the opening quarter breaking up City attacks, spraying passes around and getting into the box from midfield. Stoke were scurrying around denying time and space as Reading passed around in midfield. The precision of Reading’s passing, excellent touch, and good movement had the visitors at full stretch to keep them at bay. In the Stoke penalty area it was different matter where a very tight and physically strong defence attacked everything that came into the box with relish. The referee didn’t do Reading any favours adopting a lenient attitude to some untidy challenges, merely awarding free kicks (fifteen to Reading’s seven), but apart from an early card for Thompson, there were few consequences. City clearly felt free to maintain their physical approach, and they were in many departments, physically superior. Again the presence of Meite and Moore was sorely needed .

After twenty-three minutes of Reading dominance Stoke took the lead form a rare foray into Reading territory. Esteves fatally nodded a cross back in to the danger area and the ball fell nicely for Campbell to stroke home through a crowded penalty area. The goal didn’t dent Reading’s confidence or change the pattern of the game and they still kept City on the back foot. Then came the turning point in the game when poor distribution from Raphael gifted possession to Stoke and with Reading appealing for offside, veteran striker Fletcher ran onto the forward pass unchallenged to put Stoke two up. More pressure from Reading followed and the ball fell to Gibson from a cross, but at an awkward height, and he made a poor connection from close range. Reading had a good claim for a penalty in a melee from a corner but there was so much going on around the ball it was hard for the referee to spot one of the many infringements and in the end gave none of them.

The second half was disappointing from a Reading perspective. Paunovic made appropriate changes to try and revive the hopes of a comeback but City never really looked likely to relinquish their grip on the game. Basically whenever Reading got anywhere near goal there were so many Stoke bodies around the ball it stifled any chances they tried to create. Stoke were strong in the air and very quick to close down and block any strikes on goal. There were pretty feeble long range attempts from Olise, Baldock and others which smacked a little bit of desperation and lack of belief in their ability to open up stubborn defence. Aluko looked lively and managed a shot on target but it was straight at Rudd. As the game drew to an end the body language of the Reading players said it all. There was an air of resignation about the outcome. Reading’s misery was complete deep into stoppage time when Gibson, who had had a decent game at the back, under-hit a back pass leaving Brown the relatively simple task of taking the ball away from Raphael and rolling it into an empty net.

With results going Reading’s way again, after three defeats in a row, remarkably they still sit a point clear at the top of the league. The real concern however is not their position in the table, but the nature of the recent dip in form going into the international break, leaving fans wondering how they are going to get back to winning ways.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 266 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.