Reading FC Match Report: 2020/2021 Season - Championship


Reading: --
Wycombe: F Onyedinma (49)

A demoralising result and another poor performance against bottom of the table Wycombe has, for the second time this season, stalled Reading's drive for promotion. Four defeats in five games has allowed the chasing pack to rapidly gain ground on the Royals. Even greater cause for concern is the inability of a talented Reading team to find a way through packed opposition defences. Even against a Wycombe side with the poorest defence in the league, having already conceded fifty-one goals this season, and reduced to ten men for the last twenty minutes, Reading could not find the back of the net. Reading’s best chance came when Rinomhota was brought down the box after they had fallen behind to a scrappy goal. Joao had missed from the spot recently and didn’t look confident about the task in the first place, but the unnecessarily lengthy delay in taking the kick by a fussy referee, provided even more time for self-doubt to creep in. Having lost confidence in his ability to go for accuracy he boomed his attempt off the crossbar. Even when were unable to salvage a point. It was truly miserable evening for Reading.

The warning signs were evident from the kick-off. If Reading consider themselves to be serious contenders for promotion they should not be pinned in their own half by a side, already at this stage of the season, needing eleven points to climb out of the relegation zone. Wycombe were far from impressive but were showing more appetite and desire to win the ball and keep possession than Reading. Eventually Reading began to take control of midfield and created some promising situations in the Wycombe box. Somehow however the final pass was not quite sharp enough and too many passes lacked accuracy and penetration. There were encouraging moments. For example, Ejaria went on a run and slipped a perfect pass inside the full back to Rinomhota, but his shot was straight at the advancing Stockdale. It was, as it turned out Reading’s best chance from open play in the entire match and one which, if you are going to win promotion, must be taken.

By half time with Reading dominating possession, there was enough to suggest Reading could (as opposed to would) score the goal they needed and go on to win, but it all began to unravel in the second half. If you are playing against a team who have already ‘parked the ‘bus’ the last thing you need is for them to score a goal, and that is exactly what they did four minutes after the break. The ball fell kindly for Onyedinma in the six yard box to prod the past Raphael. Becoming increasingly desperate in their attempts to breach the home defence, the second half turned into a horror show for Reading. When Joao missed the penalty Wycombe were given a noticeable lift. Their desperate need for points and being a man down triggered extremely dubious tactics. Wycombe players sat down feigning injury to delay the game and present their team with a couple of ‘time outs’ during which they gathered on the touch line for drinks and a quick team talk from Gareth Ainsworth. The bonus being it prevented Reading from gathering any momentum and mounting pressure. Understandable, but incredibly frustrating from a Reading point of view.

By far the biggest disappointment of the evening, and indeed of recent games, is the attitude and form of leading scorer Lucas Joao. There is no doubt he is potentially one of the best, if not the best, striker in the Championship. Much has been said about his body language all season but as long as he was banging in goals nobody seemed to worry too much about that, but in recent games his touch has been poor and his involvement in the game has been patchy to say the least. If you ask any of the greatest strikers in the world they will tell you everyone goes through bad patches and the only way out of it is to work harder. Joao’s appetite for hard work is very much in doubt, and his constant whinging about referees and the players around him is having a detrimental impact on his game and the morale of the team in general. Over to you Veljko!

To be fair to Reading, there are plenty of examples of commitment to the cause within the squad. Morrison, Moore, Holmes, Rinomhota, Laurent, McIntyre and Samedo were up for it throughout but their frustration spilled over towards the end, and some began to make poor decisions and commit unnecessary fouls. Ejaria certainly upped his game compared to his previous performance and Olise’s work rate has improved of late as he continues to show promise without quite delivering. It is hard to understand why Yiadom and Richards are in and out of the team so often, although you do wonder with the latter if his mind is already on his future at Bayern Munich.

I am reluctant to identify ‘must win’ games but a fifth defeat in six against Rotherham on Saturday, another relegation threatened side, will make it very hard for Velkjko Paunovic to rally his troops for a third time this season, to begin the kind of run Reading need to have a decent chance of promotion. To use the old cliché, this season has been a bit of a roller coaster so far!

John Wells

This Championship game took place 158 days ago in the 2020/2021 season.