Reading FC Match Report: 2021/2022 Season - Championship
READING 2 BIRMINGHAM 1
Reading: L Joao (67), J Swift (pen 73)
Birmingham: T McIntyre (og 82)
On Saturday Paul Ince joked that Reading had 'played like Barcelona' in the first half at Deepdale. Last night, after a first half performance which was more akin to Barnsley than Barca, Lucas Joao set Reading on course for a crucial home win with a goal which would not have looked out of place at the Camp Nou. With City defenders closing in on him just outside the box, Joao made room for a strike on goal and curled the ball just inside the upright as Etheridge came off his line. It was in every respect an outstanding finish. Awareness, touch, composure and laser like accuracy, it had the lot. Six minutes later, Reading increased their lead. Tom Ince slipped a perfectly weighted pass through City's defence to put Yiadom clean through on goal. His progress was ended abruptly by a clumsy challenge earning Hernandez a yellow card and crucially, a penalty for Reading. Swift composed himself before lashing the spot kick into the roof of the net.
There was little evidence of new manger 'bounce' in the first half of Paul Ince's first game in charge. In fact Reading looked unusually uncomfortable in possession and lacking a cutting edge in attack. Hein and Etheridge had little to do before half time. Ince squandered the best chance just before the interval when he swung his weaker right foot at Hoilett’s excellent ball to the far post sending the ball high and wide. A composed side footed-strike would probably have given his Dad the start he desired. However he more than made up for his profligacy with a dogged and committed performance and his part in the second goal.
City started the second half strongly, using width to stretch Reading’s defence and looked more likely to find the opening goal than Reading. Hein again demonstrated what an accomplished shop stopper he is with good saves from James and Taylor. If there was a difference about Reading this evening it was their composure and confidence to play out of their own half when under pressure. Swift played a key role in relieving the pressure and bringing his side back into the game by holding up the ball before releasing it to someone in space. With Rinomhota’s energy and work rate complementing his ability, Swift was allowed to dictate play in midfield. It was his simple but perfectly weighted pass which sent Joao on his way after sixty-three minutes to give Reading the lead.
There was something about the demeanour and body language of the players which somehow felt re-assuring when City came back at Reading after the goal. Even when, with only eight minutes remaining, Reading conceded their now customary comical self-inflicted wound after Swift had provided a two goal cushion. High-spirited Reading fans decided it would be amusing to delay returning the ball to the pitch after City were awarded a throw-in level with the edge of Reading’s penalty area until a replacement had arrived. It back-fired quite badly when someone decided unwisely, to return the missing ball as City took their throw-in. It may be the case this incident distracted Hein but when the new ball arrived at the far post he lost the flight of the ball and allowed to drop over his head, hit the post, and bounce into the net off a startled McIntyre.
Now, given the way things have been going recently Reading fans could be forgiven for thinking, ‘here we go again’, but it turned out not to be the case. So often this season, conceding a late goal was Reading’s cue to implode and hand over the points. Not only keep their heads, but took control of the ball and saw out the four minutes of stoppage time without torturing their fans unduly. City manager Lee Bowyer ungraciously claimed ‘there’s no way we should be leaving here with nothing’, and talked of ‘gifting’ goals to Reading. The truth is, Reading had players with the ability to find that little bit of extra quality and composure when it counted to put the ball in the net. Qualities I seem to recall Bowyer lacked himself as a player.
Reading are now looking more up the table at Hull (five points above with an extra game played), instead of over their shoulder at the three teams below now sitting eight points adrift. It is remarkable how quickly things can change. From ‘we want Pauno out’ to ‘we are staying up’ in the space of ten days.
This Championship game took place 399 days ago in the 2021/2022 season.