Michael Morrison proved to be the difference in this game, as the Royals managed to grab a vital three points after a woeful performance in midweek. Join Adam for his match report.
At 1:45, I was sitting patiently waiting for the team news to come out with a can of Pepsi in hand (other cola brands are available) – but what did I want? Omar Richards and Andy Yiadom at full back, the diamond I was talking about in the match preview, Yakou Meite back on the bench, Ovie Ejaria more central and George Puscas up top with Lucas Joao to take the game to the opposition.
The Royals had made a very slow start at Adams Park in midweek and with an increased emphasis on attacking, I just felt we could get the first goal at the New York Stadium and from there, go on to win a precious three points. After all, we didn’t want a repeat of the exploded portaloo and Sim’s nervous breakdown in the previous match report. Today simply had to be better.
The team news came out and we lined up like this: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Semedo, Olise, Joao.
Richards and Yiadom back in the side? Check. The rest of what I wanted? Nay. The ayes to the right: one. The noes to the left: four. The noes have, the noes have it. There was one particular thing I was concerned with before kick off though: having Alfa Semedo, Andy Rinomhota AND Josh Laurent all in midfield. I like Semedo (unlike many others) and how he has performed since his arrival from Benfica – but how much could the trio create together?
There’s no doubt Semedo can do a decent enough job in a deeper position, whilst Rinomhota and Laurent can supply a huge amount of energy from midfield. However, I just felt we needed someone else in the creativity department to help Ejaria and Olise feed Lucas Joao up top.
In all likelihood, one of Ejaria and Olise would have to be shunted out wide in Pauno’s current system but I wanted at least one playing centrally with Aluko as an option out wide. This would have helped us in our quest to make a fast start on the front foot. Tom McIntyre was also very unlucky to be dropped with Liam Moore taking his place in central defence.
In all fairness though, I was pleased with the return of actual full backs for this game and in this match especially, we needed to make that extra effort on social media to get behind the boys at such a critical time. Would Reading now go on to shut me up? In a word, yes.
The home side had their maiden chance in the first few minutes when Lewis Wing’s free kick was headed over the bar by Michael Smith, who should have done better with his effort. Reading had their own opportunity a minute later when Rotherham keeper Johansson was caught in no man’s land. Luckily for him, Joao was unable to make a good connection on the half-volley.
This was a better start from the Royals though, who struggled to get a foot on the ball in the first 15 minutes against Wycombe. A couple of corners soon followed after Joao’s effort, with Richards having a shot tipped over the bar.
But whilst Rotherham had their own chances early on, you could see the Millers were there for the taking defensively if we could improve in the final third and play to our potential.
And Reading did take the lead in the 25th minute when Michael Morrison made the made of an inviting cross from Richards to put us 1-0 up. Although it did take two bites of the cherry for Morrison to prod the ball home, credit to him for being in the right position at the right time. P.S. Thank you goal-line technology.
The away side even had a golden chance to make it two a couple of minutes later when Liam Moore broke the offside trap and put the ball on a plate for Lucas Joao, who failed to convert.
At this point, the main point of concern was the aerial threat of Rotherham – and with the Royals failing to fully take the game by the scruff of the neck – we could have easily conceded an equaliser in the first 45.
Thankfully for Rotherham, Alfa Semedo’s sitter right at the end of the half kept the home side in it at the other end – and it left us wondering if we would go on to rue a couple of glorious chances to make it two.
However, the fact we were ahead after Tuesday’s shambles was enough for me to be satisfied at half time and had the following thoughts at the interval:
- We needed to take the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half and play like a team currently sitting in the top six, have that arrogance and take control of possession
- If/when we get our next golden chance, we have to take it
- Rotherham are dangerous, let’s kill them off before they get their opportunity to equalise
- KEEP IT TIGHT AT THE BACK!
Within a minute of the restart, Rotherham had a belter of a goal disallowed for offside through Smith, although I have to pay tribute to Semedo’s tackle in the lead up to it. What was less impressive was Joao’s attempted ‘chip’ a few moments later – but I would like to move on from that one quickly and just hope the Portuguese forward gets himself in and among the goals once again in the next few fixtures.
But again, the home side showed their defensive vulnerability and it had to be Reading’s time to show what they could do up top. We needed to kill this this game off. Yes we had missed a few great chances – but we needed to control possession and create even more opportunities.
Midway through the second half though, clear cut chances dried up for both sides and the one main highlight from that period in the game was one of the Rotherham coaching staff shouting ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING’, in that beautiful Yorkshire accent.
On the field, Pauno’s first sub came in the 76th minute when Ovie Ejaria made way for Tom McIntyre. Bit of a strange sub – but who cared as long as we kept a clean sheet?! Esteves came on for an injured Rinomhota ten minutes later and at that point, I was already on the edge of my seat praying we would hold on.
The five minutes added time (not sure where the ref got that from, probably from his backside) didn’t exactly do anything to calm my nerves. One saving grace was the arrival of Tom Holmes because we didn’t already have about 100,000 defensive players on the pitch. But in all seriousness, getting over the line was the most important part and that’s exactly what we did, just.
Every point is crucial at this stage of the season and to win three today was priceless after such a demoralising performance and result on Tuesday night. For today, our job is done.
And trust me, we weren’t at the top of our game today but we must take the momentum we now have into next week’s fixture against Blackburn.
Well done lads!