Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League


Reading: --
Man City: G Barry (90 mins).

It is the hope in the end, they say, that kills you but few Reading supporters could have made this expensive pre-Christmas hike up to the north west with anything other than expectations of cold comfort and little joy. Myself, I decided to give myself a festive reward for a miserable first half of a season following Reading around the country in futile pursuit of Premier League points by indulging in some comfort. My return train from Manchester was a first class reservation so at least I could ponder certain defeat in relative luxury.

Upon arrival at Manchester I treated myself further to a couple of lager shandies and a seasonal hog roast in a barm cake. Northern delicacy, this ‘barm’ turned out to be basically a bun which was not much bigger than a heavyweight boxer’s fist and although the filling was tasty enough, I remarked to myself that at more than a fiver spent you don’t get an awful lot more for your money these days. This was not to be the last time on which this particular thought came through my head on this day. As I walked towards the stadium along by the canal on a sub-scenic stroll past various derelict warehouses, suddenly and without warning the name ETIHAD illuminated the winter gloom, attached as at was to the front of some giant spaceship which turned out to be the City of Manchester sports complex. An impressive set up, but a wave of pride hit me at this very point of my – and indeed our - journey.

Reading’s ownership are light years away from the Arabs who have taken City into the footballing stratosphere. They have spent billions on investing in a playing personnel the envy of most clubs in Europe and beyond in their attempts to create a global brand. The Arabs have made no secret of their desire to purchase the kind of success which this particular club has seen only fleetingly in its long existence. Some would call it 'financial doping'. The mission-statement of Reading’s ownership by contrast is.....basically undetermined? Arriving in a hosed-down blaze of unwanted publicity nearly a year ago, TSI has overseen our elevation to the Premier League almost by accident and now it is time to prove their assumed desire that the club should compete with the likes of City, albeit on hugely unequal terms. The silence has been deafening.

For which of these two clubs can honestly have achieved the more success in the past year? City won the Premier League on goal difference having shelled out disastrous amounts of money on a squad which a club of their admittedly large size could frankly never hope to afford in terms of potential income in terms of fanbase. They are, after all, by some distance the second biggest footballing draw in their own city for starters and to reverse that trend will take a generation or two. Reading meanwhile lived relatively within their means, achieved their goals with two games to spare in obtaining promotion. Reading will almost certainly be relegated this season, but will surely live to fight another day and re-invest wisely in returning from whence they have come. For City, if – when – the success comes to an end with all that they have laid out then the risk of freefall will be much steeper.

Not that this makes Reading’s truly uncomfortable first half to the season easier to bear, but it is worth taking stock of the situation we have had to adapt to. On paper, Reading should have absolutely no right to turn up at the Etihad and return home with a point but that is so very nearly what we achieved, largely thanks to a tactical rethink by McDermott. Karacan was brought back into the midfield from injury, we went 4-5-1 with Pogrebnyak to plow the lone furrow, with Harte recalled presumably for his set pieces and a team set up to defend deeply thus negating any concern over the veteran Irishman’s pace. It worked a treat. Mariappa was booked inside 90 seconds, but he and Pearce enjoyed an excellent game with lots more protection in front of them. City naturally dominated possession but they were tracked around the park but a team showing good shape and work ethic and such was City’s inability to create clear openings against a side assembled for a miniscule fraction of the cost that their best chance came when Tevez was foiled by Federici after a sloppy non-clearance by the otherwise excellent Kebe.

Reading were a threat themselves from set pieces and Pearce nodded narrowly over twice from corner kicks and on the break we were set up to play expansively and a Kebe run and centre narrowly skipped past the outsretched boot of the hard-working Pogrebnyak. Pog had earlier escaped down the other channel and fed a similar ball into the area which Tabb could not got onto, claiming he was fouled by Rekik and it would not be the last time this afternoon on which referee Dean’s decisions would upset the underdogs. Reading had played an excellent game, denying the hosts space, closing down efficiently at all times and with home fans streaming out the end it was only Reading’s own familiar naivety which cost them a richly deserved point against a richly assembled side. Leigertwood in possession sent an aimless long pass which Hart mopped up and an attack built up on the left hand side and resulted with an accurate long cross being plunged home by Barry, who pictures show was quite clearly leaning all over substitute left back Shorey. But you’re not going to see spoiled millionaires denied in the last minute by fair officiating, so it is pride and hope we take from this showing rather than points.
Neil Maskell

This Premier League game took place 2432 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.