Reading FC Match Report: 2023/2024 Season - League One


READING 1 OXFORD 1

Reading: S Smith (43)
Oxford: C Brown (39)

A huge contingent of travelling fans helped to generate an atmosphere under the floodlights reminiscent of happier times for the Royals. It has been over twenty years since these two club have faced each other in the league and the outcome was significant for Reading in many ways. Not only did they earn a valuable point against a top six side with aspirations of promotion, they had to come from behind to achieve it. Too often this season Reading have wilted after falling behind, often after taking the lead. Neither did they concede when pinned in their own half by United later in the game. This evening we saw a side to Reading which has not been evident this season.

United started with a confidence expected of team in their position in the league. In spite of that Reading matched their opponents in every department, and arguably deserved to be leading at half time. With Holmes back in the side organising the defence providing some much needed leadership, Reading looked secure at the back, and played some direct and entertaining football. Reading were positive in everything they did. Passing was sharp and penetrative enabling Azeez to get behind the United defence. The back four hardly put a foot wrong. Runners were picked up, marking was tight and there were seriously strong but fair challenges going in notably from the impressive Dorsett. (Only Selles could explain why he took him off thirteen minutes into the second half!) With Craig snapping at opponents heels in midfield Reading contained a lively United attack limiting them to only one attempt on target in the entire match.

Six minutes from half time, and somewhat against the run of play, Reading fell behind to very good goal from United. Mills whipped in a cross form the right and Brown used the power of the cross to head past Button from close range. The lead only lasted four minutes. Wing found Smith with a perfect ball to Smith who delivered the equaliser with a composed finish. The ball dropped over his shoulder and with his first deft touch brought it under control, and with his second, stroked it past the advancing Beadle. Reading had their tails up now. Some Knibbs trickery won a free kick just outside the box and it required a good save from Beadle to keep out Wing's strike.

The second half was strangely subdued in contrast, with United dominating possession without really threatening to score. Selles made some puzzling changes replacing Craig (on a yellow card) Dorsett, and Craig, with Savage, Mbengue and Bindon, which weakened Reading defensively and upset the rhythm of their play. Vickers had a quiet game and was replaced by Elliott who had an immediate impact, holding onto the ball under pressure and moving inside to link up play going forward. I imagine many Reading fans began to anticipate their team conceding their customary late goal. There was one scare when Murphy fizzed a shot past the post in stoppage time. Had it gone in it would have been harsh on Reading.

With Holmes, Yiadom, Azeez and Smith anchoring a solid performance Reading looked a stronger side all round, and closer to achieving their true potential, indicating they are potentially better than many of the teams in this league. Two wins and a draw in the last four games adds up to encouraging progress overall.

John Wells

This League One game took place 79 days ago in the 2023/2024 season.