Reading FC Match Report: 2021/2022 Season - Championship


Reading: M Morrison (13), T Harwood-Bellis (og 63)
Stoke: R Sawyers (44)

Reading took another huge step towards consolidating their status as a Championship side next season with victory over a Stoke side which looked distinctly jaded for most of the first half. Reading dominated the opening phase of the match and a perfect curling cross from Hoilett was met by Morrision at the far post in the thirteenth minute. Morrison’s close range header struck City ‘keeper Bonham and ricocheted back off Morrison into the net with City appealing frantically and unjustifiably for hand ball. Reading then went into their shell allowing Stoke more possession without looking likely to concede - until the last minute of the first half. Reading’s season has been blighted by goalkeeping errors and Nyland added to the collection. The Reading ‘keeper failed to stop Sawyers fierce strike which was driven straight at him.

The goal changed the complexion of the game and after the interval Stoke, inspired by the equaliser played with greater energy and belief. The game hung in the balance and Reading were struggling to find any cohesion going forward. Something had to give. In the sixty-third minute Joao, who had a poor first half, suddenly came into the game. With Ince preparing not one, but two substitutes, Reading won a corner. Swift delivered a great ball into the box and Joao timed his leap to perfection, and although his header struck Harwood-Bellis on its way into the net. The press deemed it to be an own goal but in my biased opinion it was Joao’s goal.

Paul Ince has been incessantly criticised for his reluctance to make changes. Tactically this evening he made a bold and correct decision proceeding with the planned substitutions and it worked a treat. Ejaria had a pretty poor game all round, but his lack of awareness and inability to spot a simple obvious effective pass, had been particularly frustrating to watch so he was an obvious candidate for the hook. Hoilett had posed the threat combining effectively with the tireless Yiadom on the right wing, particularly early in the game, and drew a good save from Bonham in the second half, was also replaced. On came Azeez and Dele-Bashiru to provide just lift Reading needed to keep Stoke on the back foot. So often this season Reading have come to grief by sitting back and hanging on to a narrow lead. It was a welcome change to see a Reading side going forward to seal the points with a third goal.

The third goal did not materialise but Reading managed the game well enough to hang to their lead. Azeez pushing forward down the right cause problems for the Stoke defence and helped to put Reading on the front foot. Joao started to get on the ball and compete for possession. Dele Bashiru took pressure off the Reading defence with his willingness take players on and carry the ball forward. Showing blistering pace he went on a run which took him deep into the City half leaving three City players trailing in his wake. Fortune favours the bold and Reading were greatly relieved when Brown missed an absolute sitter near the end. Ultimately Reading earned their three points through playing with confidence, energy and determination.

There have been few occasions for Reading fans to celebrate in recent seasons, and although the current aim may only be survival, it was a joy to watch the players celebrating with the fans in the South Stand at the final whistle as they appear to be closing in on that achievement.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 357 days ago in the 2021/2022 season.