On a sunny spring afternoon, Reading took a potentially big step towards securing their Championship status with a hard-fought win over Brentford. This week, Reading have managed to push themselves four points clear of Rotherham United with the same number of games to go.
With their goal difference also being 10 better than Rotherham, Reading can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. The victory at the Madejski Stadium ended up being nervier than it should have been, but at this stage of the season it is the result that counts.
It was clear from the start that Reading’s excellent midweek draw away at league leaders Norwich had given the team a real confidence boost. Straight from kick-off, Reading dominated possession and the game was only eight minutes gone when they took the lead.
Liam Moore picked out Modou Barrow on the halfway line with an excellent pass. The Gambia international then played in Yakou Meite with an even better pass and Reading’s top goalscorer confidently slid the ball into the corner of the net.
The Royals should have doubled the lead following good work by Nélson Oliveira, but Barrow somehow failed to get a touch in front of an open goal. It mattered not, as soon after the second goal did come; Meite beautifully glanced in a pinpoint Lewis Baker free kick.
The confidence was flowing through the home team, whilst Brentford looked very much a team with nothing to play for. However, the second goal seemed to wake the visitors up and they started to gain a foothold in the game.
For the last 15 minutes of the first half Brentford controlled the possession and territory. Oliveira could have done better with a half chance on a counter attack; he maybe should have been less selfish and played in Meite.
In the minutes before the break Brentford started to have their first real chances of the game. With Reading clearly counting down the seconds to the half time whistle, Andy Rinomhota carelessly gave the ball away and had to pick up a yellow card to stop the counter attack. From the resulting free kick Emiliano Martínez fumbled the shot and Neal Maupay easily headed in the rebound.
Half time gave Reading a chance to gather themselves and stopped Brentford gaining momentum. The second half would be much a closer affair with neither team truly dominating.
Brentford enjoyed more possession without creating any real clear-cut chances. Martinez was forced to make two smart saves to deny Sergi Canos and Mads Bech Sorensen, but it was Reading who came closest to scoring.
Baker almost caught out Luke Daniels with an audacious free kick near the centre circle. Soon after Oliveira should have done better from close range after good work by Andy Yiadom.
Five minutes of injury time added to the tension, but Reading’s defence stood firm to collect three crucial points. The value of holding onto the lead was only enhanced with Rotherham and Millwall both gaining away draws from losing positions.
In the first 20 minutes it had looked like Reading were in for a nice easy relaxing Saturday afternoon. Brentford will rue starting the game in holiday mode, but it was encouraging to see Reading take full advantage of the visitor’s slow start.
This was another promising game for Reading under José Gomes. They looked confident on the ball, created chances throughout the game and stood firm when under pressure.
The five January loan signings all once again showed their value and their futures will be a major topic for debate this summer. Any chance of them staying will almost certainly hinge on what division Reading are playing in next season. This week may have gone a long way to deciding that.