Reading FC Match Report: 2021/2022 Season - Championship


Reading: L Joao (5), G Puscas (22), M Morrison (45)
Huddersfield: D Sinani (9), D Ward (15), D Ward (25), D Ward (53)

After a highly entertaining first half in which Reading shared six goals with a team pushing for promotion, Reading fell behind for the third time to a tremendous strike by Huddersfield's Ward early in the second. There was clearly no lack of desire and commitment from the Reading players to fight for a point but they simply ran out of steam and Town ran down the clock to take the points. After such a dismal performance against Luton earlier in the week, this was a much improved display. In the first half Reading looked likely to score every time they attacked, unfortunately so did Huddersfield.

Reading fielded possibly their strongest team of the season so far. Bolstered by the return of Yiadom and Rahman from international duty with Ghana, and Joao making his first start of the season Reading attacked with a confidence and belief which has been lacking for too many games this season. The fragility at the back and the persistent errors blighted what could have been a positive result. Reading had a fairly shaky start with Drinkwater alarmingly giving the ball away around his own penalty area as Town started strongly.

Reading however, opened the scoring after only five minutes when Puscas, linking up nicely with Rahman, released him run through and slice open the Town defence with a perfect pass to Joao who confidently lashed the ball past Nicholls. The lead lasted all of four minutes before Sinan was given time, space, and a huge slice of good fortune, his shot from outside the box which deflected off Morrison wrong-footing Southwood on its way into the net. Another six minutes elapsed before Ward put the visitors ahead and again there was an element of good fortune about it. Thomas had two shots blocked before his third attempt which was going wide went straight to Ward who reacted quickly to tuck his chance away smartly. This is typical of the misfortune which often afflicts teams going through a difficult patch.

Frustrating though it was to see a lead vanish so quickly, with Joao’s touch and movement, and Puscas playing his best game for a very long time, Reading always looked like they might score. Seven minutes later Reading were level. Swift found Puscas inside the box who tucked the ball away inside the far post. It was a finish of the highest quality and hopefully signals beginning of return to goal scoring form from the Romanian striker. There can be no doubt the change of formation and the presence of Joao had given him a new lease of life and his confidence grew visibly in this game.

Reading’s joy was again short-lived as another horrific error from Southwood gifted Town the lead for the second time. One of the Southwood’s great strengths is the ability to command his penalty area and come to collect high balls in to the box. On this occasion he made the catch but landed awkwardly allowing the ball to slip from his grasp and Ward was on hand to knock the ball into the net with Southwood sprawling on the deck. I hope this series of errors has not eroded the confidence of the promising young goalkeeper who has made so many superb and crucial saves and catches this season. The futile and unjustified protests that he had been fouled were correctly dismissed by referee Robert Jones. Some of his other decisions were far more contentious or should I say completely wrong. Hopefully Reading will receive more benefit from the incompetence of referees at some point later in the season.

Shortly before half time Reading did enjoy their own slice of luck when Morrison’s poorly directed header was deflected past Nicholls. Nobody could justifiably argue Reading did, at the very least, deserve to be level at the interval.

The game was settled eight minutes into the second half when the ball sat up nicely for Ward on the edge of the box and he completed his hat trick with an absolute screamer. There was no lack of effort from Reading to find an equaliser, but they looked increasingly weary as the game progressed and Huddersfield’s tactics prevented them from gaining any attacking momentum. Most teams now are adept at running down the clock and slowing the tempo of the game when required as illustrated by Huddersfield. (Reading please note!) Substitutions at regular intervals, delaying goal kicks (Nicholls was booked for this but it didn’t deter him from continuing to do so). Kicking the ball away when a free kick is awarded (unpunished by the referee). Not retrieving the ball when it went out of play. Keeping the ball in the corner. Wiping the ball on the shirt excessively in at throw-ins etc. All legitimate if irritating tactics, and often the difference between winning and losing and dropping points.

Also, and not for the first time this season, Paunovic resisted the option of using players on the bench to revive a flagging team earlier. Those players have now had sufficient experience and ability to compete effectively at this level. The introduction of Clarke after three minutes of stoppage time was nothing less than bizarre, not to mention playing into our opponent’s hands by delaying the play with two minutes remaining!

Reading are now well and truly in a relegation battle which will not be won one or lost over a couple of games. It is from now until the very end of the season going to be a test of skill and character for players and manager alike, and I have every confidence their potential to keep our club in the Championship.

John Wells

This Championship game took place 430 days ago in the 2021/2022 season.