Reading FC Match Report: 2021/2022 Season - Championship


Reading: L Joao (23), A Yiadom (55)
Coventry: D Hyam (45), M Rose (47),I Maatsen (65)

A crowd of over 20,000 fans turned up at the Select Car Leasing Stadium for the first time since under that name, to celebrate the 150 years of football at Reading FC. The atmosphere inside the ground was a throwback to more successful times for the club. Unfortunately, in spite of a spirited performance, The Royals party was ruined by Coventry City and some unfortunate twists in a game from which Reading deserved at least a point. A disappointing and frustrating day was capped by unpleasant scenes at the final whistle as a handful of disgruntled Reading fans invaded the pitch to vent their feeling towards manager Veljko Paunovic. Many Reading fans will be feeling upset, frustrated and angry about their teams abysmal current run of seven consecutive defeats but invading the pitch will not be helping the player's morale, especially those who cared enough to take a lap of the pitch to thank the fans for their support.

Fielding their strongest team of the season so far, Reading withstood an energetic start from the visitors and they had the new loan signing goalkeeper Hien to thank for preventing City from taking an early lead with a smart save from Gyokeres. Reading’s defence looked exposed at times as they allowed City far too much time and space in midfield. However, the energy of Laurent and Rinomhota in the centre of midfield and Rahman combined with Yiadom and Reading pushing forward down the flanks, Reading kept City pinned in their own half for long spells. Swift was showing some nice touches, but it was Hoillett was having the greatest creative impact for Reading in the final third of the pitch. His darting runs, close control and sharp turns were causing havoc in the City defence. Laurent fizzed in a shot from outside the box after twenty minutes which flew just past the upright.

Joao was showing some deft touches but was struggling to shake off his marker find space where it mattered, but midway through the half he rose magnificently to meet an excellent Hoilett cross to execute a perfect downward header to beat City ‘keeper Moore giving Reading a deserved lead. A minute later Ince came close to making it two when he fired just wide form the edge of the box. City were looking decidedly uneasy at the back in the face of Reading’s persistent assault on their goal. Symptomatic of Reading’s dominance, City were resorting to some brutal challenges to stem the flow of Reading’s attacks. Hyam could easily have seen red for an X-certificate lunge to take out Rinomhota which had absolutely nothing the do with the ball.

Reading appeared set end the half with a one goal lead, but for some reason of which am not aware, referee David Webb added two minutes of stoppage time which proved fatal for Reading. Hyam’s feeble strike from outside the box somehow bobbled just inside the post to level the scores in the final seconds of stoppage time. It was a devastating blow for Reading and gave City a lift having been second best for most of the half.

Leaking goals at crucial times has blighted Reading’s season constantly and the curse struck again within minutes of the re-start when Rose nipped into a gap in Reading’s statuesque zonal defence to divert Hyam’s driven near post corner past Hiem. A well taken but a distinctly avoidable goal for Reading to concede. Showing commendable character and resilience Reading went in search of an equaliser and it took them a mere eight minutes to restore parity when Yiadom returned the compliment with an unlikely header at the near post. It was now game on and City looked far from comfortable.

The turning point in the game soon after the equaliser when Hoilett, already given a yellow card for a ‘tactical’ foul to halt a City attack, committed to an unnecessary challenge, arrived late and Reading were down to ten men. Up to that point Hoilett looked the most likely player on the pitch from either side to conjure up a winning goal. Things went from bad to worse two minutes later when Reading gave the ball away in their own half and were punished by Maatsen who got behind the Reading defence. Yiadom, covering superbly, got back to block his shot which then looped up and over the advancing Hiem. It was cruel luck, but ill fortune has played a big part in Reading’s season so far.

Once again Reading, energised by the return of the mighty Meite as substitute, ignited another comeback and although down to ten men came close to a second equaliser. Meite’s devastating pace and power took him past two City defenders one of whom threw himself at Meite with such force he literally bounced of the Reading forward. Meite continued his run to deliver the perfect ball across the City six yard box where Ince remarkably managed to miss the target from close range. All that was required was a simple side-footed finish into the gaping goal. It was clearly not going to be Reading’s day – again.

With many clamouring before and after the game for Paunovic to be sacked, he is increasingly under pressure, but there is no indication from this performance that he has ‘lost the dressing room’. This team is good enough to stay up, but their survival may not be in their own hands unless they can end this dreadful sequence of defeats. Ever the optimist, I think they will, but it is going to be a tight finish.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 409 days ago in the 2021/2022 season.