Reading FC Match Report: 2021/2022 Season - Championship
READING 1 MIDDLESBROUGH 0
Reading: A Halilovic (55)
Without a single recognised centre back available, and a makeshift pairing of Laurent and Yiadom at the heart of the defence, Reading kept their first clean sheet of the season and extended their unbeaten run to four games. A second half strike by Halilovic gave the Royals their third successive victory as they moved into the top half of the table. Reading played some superb flowing football at times and sliced open the Middlesbrough defence on several occasions. Had their finishing matched their approach play they could have won comfortably. With so many accomplished players on the pitch and Swift pulling the strings in centre of midfield the quality of Reading's passing and movement was mesmerising at times. Considering the threat of a points deduction hanging over them, a transfer embargo and an ever growing list of injured regular first choice players, it was a remarkable performance.
Reading were given a scare in the second minute when Middlesbrough had the ball in the net from a cross on the left, but were relieved to see it chalked off because the ball had run out of play in the build-up. It was rare moment of danger for the Royals defence as they set about their task with a calm confidence. The passing and movement was slick and precise. Players were unruffled in possession, picked out penetrating passes all over the pitch and were quickly into the challenge.
They took unnecessary risk at times over-elaborating with their passing around their own box, but more often than not they played out from the back successfully and carved their way through the Boro midfield. Defensively they coped well with Boro's height advantage, winning their fair share of balls in the air, and denied them time and space in and around the box. The fact they only conceded a mere six fouls (to Middlesbrough's fifteen!) in the entire match is a testament to their organisation and self-discipline. Tetek was outstanding at right back.
Reading should have taken the lead just after twenty minutes when Halilovic found Swift in acres of space on the left, but with only the ‘keeper to beat his feeble finish let him down. Almost immediately he was given another to put Reading ahead when Dele-Bashiru was brought down just outside the box but his attempt struck the wall. Reading continued to open up the visitors' defence with Ejaria and Haliovic had shots blocked.
Reading carried on where they left off after the interval and should have taken the lead when Swift sliced open the defence with another superbly timed and weighted pass for Dele-Bashiru to run on to. Again however in a one to one situation ‘keeper Lumley came out on top saving with an outstretched leg. Ten minutes into the half, Reading finally took the lead. Swift again at the heart of the move exchanging passes before rolling the ball back to Halolovic who miscued his effort beating the wrong-footed Lumley. It wasn't the cleanest of strikes but the move deserved a goal. Reading were simply outplaying their opponents.
Reading had learned from bitter experience earlier in the season about how to manage the game and hold on to a narrow lead and rarely looked in trouble. Their task was made easier when Crooks lunged at Southwood as he dropped on the ball and referee Bankes sent him off. A number of pundits were adamant it was not a red card offence but in real time it looked like a clumsy attempt to reach a ball that Southwood looked favourite to reach first. Hoillet picked up a nasty facial injury in stoppage time which subsequently (and correctly) was extended to twelve minutes. There was very little pressure on the Reading goal until the final minute. Reading conceded two corners in succession, the second of which was met by the head of Boro's ‘keeper Lumley. Fortunately for Reading the ball flew outside the far post. It would have been a grave injustice had it gone in.
This Championship game took place 116 days ago in the 2021/2022 season.