Reading looked to bounce back from their home defeat in the league game against Bristol City with a Carabao Cup fixture against Premier League strugglers Swansea.
The Royals made numerous changes to their starting XI from the draw at Brentford, with Anssi Jaakkola coming in in goal, Tiago Ilori, George Evans, Leandro Bacuna, Roy Beerens, Adi Popa and Pelle Clement all coming in alongside Chris Gunter and Liam Moore. Jordan Obita and John Swift also made their first starts since injures hampered the starts to their seasons.
Surprise, surprise - the first half was a fairly quiet one, with few chances for both sides. It was interesting to see the Royals again operate without a recognised striker, but undoubtedly interest turned to frustration for most Reading fans. At times the Royals looked the better team, a particular bright spark being Romanian Popa, who’s Reading future has been talked about in his home country. The diminutive winger was a pacey threat on the right, and a cross from that flank led to Reading’s best chance of the first half, a John Swift shot from the edge of the area that was tamely struck into the chest of Nordfeldt in the Swans’ goal.
The main threat from Swansea was expected to come from big-name midfielder Renato Sanches, or the big man up front Wilfried Bony. Both disappointed in the first half, the main threat instead coming from the pace of Wayne Routledge against the returning Jordan Obita. Their battle moved from Reading’s left side to the right towards the end of the half, spilling over into some argy-bargy between the two. Bizarrely the argument continued and descended into a full-on shemozzle between both teams after the half-time whistle. Angry scenes as both sets of players walked off the pitch, which seemed to lead to no cards for any of the players as the officials lamely watched on.
Both teams emerged unchanged after half time, perhaps surprising as John Swift looked off the pace in the first half and surely needs to be nursed back to match sharpness.
Swansea started the second half with more intent, a clumsy Sanches foul on Bacuna followed by more pressure from the men in red shirts. Wilfried Bony saw two of his shots blocked, eventually winning a corner from the heroic Liam Moore. The Sanches corner that followed did not seem to be of particularly high quality, but it fell to the ever-dangerous Alfie Mawson, who hit the back of the net with a neat finish. The Swansea centre-back had already headed wide in the first half, but his marker seemed to lose him entirely at the near post for the goal.
Once the goal went in, there seemed an inevitability about the result. The Royals brought on top-scorer Liam Kelly for the disappointing Swift, but even the little Irish playmaker could not spring the team into life. Promising build-up play failed to produce quality shots on target for the home team, with fans around me bemoaning the lack of a genuine number 9 on the pitch.
Reading made further changes, Obita only lasting 62 minutes on his return to the starting XI as he was replaced by Blackett and Bodvarsson replacing the dangerous Popa.
Things went from bad to worse when George Evans’ misplaced pass deflected off the referee Andy Davies, into the path of the Swansea midfield. With half of the players in blue and white stranded upfield and the rest back-pedalling against a pacey City counter-attack, the ball reached Jordan Ayew, who cut in on his right foot to slide a composed finish passed Jaakkola.
It was the biggest ref assist since Neale Barry’s backside helped Norwich to score a late winner at the Mad Stad 13 years ago.
So what does Ayew's goal remind us of? But of course, it's Norwich stealing a jammy win at the Mad Stad in 03/04..! pic.twitter.com/ljkqlvgA9O— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) September 19, 2017
The night petered out with the Royals pinging a few shots from distance at the Swansea goal, none troubling Nordfeldt as the game finished 0-2.
Another frustrating home performance from the Royals. I thought we coped well with the Premier League side in the first half, but lacked any genuine threat on their goal.
It would have been nice to see Sam Smith on the pitch, rather than the bench, as a genuine striker could have provided a different focal point for Reading’s attacks.
While Pelle Clement drifted around and linked up play much more effectively than Swift, who has yet to recover from a slump in form towards the end of last season, he is not an effective substitute for a striker.
That being said, and Swift’s performance aside, there were very few bad performances from anyone in a Reading shirt.
Roy Beerens is a player who relies on confidence and starting games – last season he popped up with some important goals. This evening he came close to scoring with a curling effort, but without finding the net I’m not sure he’s threatening for a starting berth against Hull.
I’d be excited to see Popa given a chance, especially if Mo Barrow is unfit – they are similar ‘luxury players’, full of pace and trickery. We have to find a way to score more goals, otherwise unrest will start to really take a hold in the Reading ranks.
Next up is the league game at home to Hull – here’s to some Reading goals!
Reading: Jaakkola, Gunter, Ilori, Moore, Obita (Blackett), Evans, Bacuna, Swift (Kelly), Beerens, Clement, Popa (Bodvarsson)