Another disappointing away trip for the Royals. A good Coventry side had more of the game, but the Royals battled hard and were close to getting the draw over the line. A last-second winner from Godden destroyed all hopes to return home to Berkshire at least with a point.
After Tuesday’s defeat at home against Bristol City, manager Veljko Paunovic, who celebrated his 44th birthday today (congratulations to him!), opted for the same line-up as in the second half. That meant in midfield Tom Dele-Bashiru was handed his full debut in place of young Ethan Bristow. New signing Junior Hoilett took a seat on the bench. There was some pressure on Pauno’s side after just three points from three league matches and an exit from the League Cup.
A decent atmosphere before kick-off and again an away end in full voice. The Royals had the familiar 4-2-3-1-system with McIntyre as left back, Dele-Bashiru ahead of him and Azeez at right wing.
A misunderstanding between Moore and McIntyre nearly gave Coventry an early lead. Gyökeres was left totally alone in the box, but his header was saved by Rafael. Apart from that it was a quiet start. Reading mostly tried to slow down the tempo in order to get the game under better control. The Sky Blues on the other hand were more dangerous with some quick attacks over the wings.
In the 16th minute, it was again Gyökeres who came close. After his first shot was blocked by Morrison, his second attempt looped over Rafael and hit the woodwork. Luck for the visitors. The Royals themselves found it difficult to create something. Whenever they entered into Coventry’s half, the final pass or touch was just not good enough. Apart from that Puscas seemed lost as lone striker. It was not only the fault of the Romanian. Whenever he managed to defend the ball well against the first defender, no support was near and he lost the ball (understandably) against the next men.
As consequence Coventry kept being offensively the better side. After 23 minutes the Sky Blues had a double opportunity through O’Hare, but both shots from the number 10 were saved by Rafael. Ten minutes later the Brazilian was lucky that a corner from the left passed through the six-yard box with no player getting the final touch.
The only half chance for the visitors came after a decent cross from Yiadom which was caught comfortably by keeper Simon Moore (37th minute). And just when every Reading supporter might have been happy with a 0-0 draw at half time, Puscas won the ball in midfield and passed it into the box to the onrushing John Swift. The Royals’ midfield maestro was pushed down by the Coventry defence. Penalty! And it was Swift himself who cooly took it, sending Moore the wrong way for the 1-0 lead. Not richly deserved but who cares?
The Royals started the second half a lot better. The 1-0 lead seemed to give Pauno’s men self confidence. They attacked their opponents more aggressively and moved the ball around better. In the 50th minute, Femi Azeez and John Swift combined well on the right wing. The 20-year-old’s cross just missed Puscas in the middle. A nice right-footed shot from Josh Laurent was cleared seconds later for a corner.
Bad news on the hour mark: Tom McIntyre injured himself in a 50-50 tackle and had to come off. Tom Holmes was substituted on for him to play as right back while Andy Yiadom moved to the other side. Seconds later Junior Hoilett made his debut in place of Femi Azeez.
At the same time, Sky Blues manager Mark Robins brought on Jamie Allen and Matt Godden. And these two seemed to give Coventry new offensive power. Seconds after his introduction it was Allen on the edge of the box who controlled the ball well after a blocked corner and smashed it past Rafael. Even if it was a good strike, it seemed that the Brazilian could have done better.
Now the home side was in full control (again). Michael Morrison had to make a strong block after a shot from Godden. A brilliant interception from Andy Rinomhota prevented Maatsen from having a clear strike. The following corner was tipped over the bar by Rafael. It was only Coventry.
For the last seven minutes, Jahmari Clarke was substituted on for Tom Dele-Bashiru, who was one of the better performers. But it was all about defending for Reading as Coventry kept the Royals under pressure. Moore, Morrison and co had to battle hard to not concede a further goal. Six minutes of extra-time were added. And just when this sixth minute was reached, Puscas had by surprise even the chance to get the lucky punch, but his shot was blocked by keeper Moore for a corner.
So, game over? No! Referee David Webb made no indications to blow the final whistle even after that corner and Coventry started a final attack. Holmes and Morrison were unable to block O’Hare, the ball fell to Matt Godden and 2-1 it was! In the 98th minute! Incredible!
Veljko Paunovic was fuming as he couldn’t understand why a further two minutes were added. It was difficult to see what Webb’s reasons were. Maybe it was for the yellow card shown to Pauno’s assistant Marko Mitrovic minutes earlier. Who knows?
But aside from all anger about this decision the Royals have to question themselves. The easy rule is that a match isn’t over until the referee blows the whistle. Furthermore, you have to admit that over the whole game Coventry deserved this win. Reading were only on the front foot once, between the 40th and 60th minute. Apart from that, the Sky Blues did just more to get the three points.
There is plenty of work to do for the gaffer. To concede nine goals in four matches is just too much. But it’s not only a defending problem. The team just seems unbalanced. It’s true that at times we were sloppy at the back. But today you could see as well quite often that there was no way to relieve Coventry’s pressure.
This is a side that most probably won’t be winning the league title. That was mainly due to a faulty offensive play: misplaced passes, balls lost too easily… All this made it simple for the Sky Blues to attack again and put the pressure on the defence high. And when you’re under pressure mistakes will be the consequence.
Surely, you can’t really blame Pauno too much. He wasn’t allowed to strengthen his squad like he would have wished to. Meite, Ejaria and Joao are all out injured. At this stage, it will be crucial to keep being patient. With some new faces added the team will have a more balanced face.
There is still enough time. Last season we started brightly and finished winning only one game out of 11. Why not achieve the opposite this year? Come on Urrzzzzzz!