Reading FC Match Report: 2018/2019 Season - Championship


READING 2 BLACKBURN 1

Reading: J Swift (45), N Oliveira (86)
Blackburn: A Bell (82)

An outstanding finish from Nelson Oliveira gave Reading the win they desperately needed as they climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time since Boxing Day. Rovers dominated possession in the first half, flooding the midfield and stifling any attempts by the Royals to play their passing game. Then in stoppage time a penetrative run and pass by Yiadom found Swift in the box, who shifted the ball out of his feet and squeezed the ball past 'keeper Raya inside the far post.

Reading came out for the second half on the front foot and, with Meite replacing Aluko, looked a far more potent attacking force. Inside the last ten minutes Bell broke through on the left and levelled the scores giving Reading fans that familiar sinking feeling. Rovers were in the ascendency and sensed they might even push on to take all three points. Oliveira had other ideas, and when Swift’s excellent long ball found him deep in the Rovers half he ran at the visitors defence, cut inside the centre back, and hammered the ball past Raya. The Madejski Stadium erupted as the home fans acclaimed what proved to be the winning goal.

Oliveira, protected by a mask, bravely started the game in spite of his recent serious facial injury and although he was understandably reluctant to attempt to head the ball he certainly didn’t shirk any challenges. His presence kept Rovers defence on their toes and he came close to scoring a spectacular goal from just inside the Rover half when he spotted Raya off his line and drove the ball narrowly over the ball leaving the Rovers ‘keeper floundering in a vain attempt to get back on line. In general the first half was played in the Reading half but Rovers rarely threatened to score. Their best chance came when Kelly was caught in possession on the half way line and Rovers broke outnumbering Reading by four to two. Much to Kelly’s relief Martinez pulled off a smart save. Reading’s midfield looked lightweight with Kelly, Aluko and Swift unable to impose themselves on the game. The defensive strength and the penetration of injured Rinomhota was clearly missed. Swift’s goal came out of the blue and allowed Rovers no time to respond before the interval.

Before Reading took the lead, Jose Gomes had already decided to replace Aluko with Meite at half time. Aluko had been particularly ineffective, giving the ball away with stray passes and getting caught in possession. Most of his passes were going backwards so he was the obvious candidate to make way for the more physical and direct Meite. Playing wide on the right Meite tested the Rovers defence getting beyond his full back and delivering crosses. Tony Mowbray had introduced Dack and Graham his leading scorers in a quest to get back into contention and the game really opened up. On sixty-eight minutes Meite drifted inside, and Ejaria (who was having more impact in the centre of midfield following Aluko's departure) found him with an astute pass.

With Rovers defence unwisely assuming he was offside Meite found himself with only Raya to beat but he dragged his shot horribly wide. With under ten minutes remaining Meite had another chance to seal the victory but his powerful close range header also flew narrowly wide. A minute later he was tracking back to pick up Bell but fatally hesitated and then tried, too late, to recover. Bell ran in on goal and the power of his strike hit the back of the net off Martinez. It was now a test of character and with new signings Martinez, Maizga and Oliveira forming the spine of the side they came through with flying colours. Rovers pressed for the winner but from deep in his own half Swift got his head up and instead of just lumping it forward, picked out a great long pass to Oliveira who obligingly finished in style.

Reading played out an anxious four minutes of stoppage time having to a deal with a bombardment of two corners and a free kick but they held firm and were applauded off the field by a very relieved and grateful home crowd. This win might well prove to be a turning point in Reading’s season. A run of four games without defeat for the first time this this season could not have come at a better time and the big push to avoid relegation gathers momentum.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 186 days ago in the 2018/2019 season.