After the last two positive results with the away win against play-off contenders Sheffield United and the last-minute draw at home to Swansea City, the Royals were keen to secure their survival this Saturday as they travelled to East Yorkshire to face Hull City. The home side found themselves two places above Reading in the table (due to our six-point deduction) with both teams having exactly the same balance sheet: 13 wins, 8 draws, 22 defeats. Definitely an opponent at eye level.
With Tom Holmes, John Swift, Alen Halilovic and Femi Azeez all out injured (as well as the long-term absentees Scott Dann, Felipe Araruna, Dejan Tetek and Andy Rinomhota), Paul Ince opted for the same line-up as against Sheffield United at home.
Orjan Nyland was between the posts, in-form goalscorer Tom McIntyre partnered captain Michael Morrison in the centre of the back four, with Andy Yiadom and Abdul Rahman Baba as fullbacks. Danny Drinkwater and Tom Dele-Bashiru both took over the deeper midfield position while Tom Ince (right), Josh Laurent (middle) and Junior Hoilett (left) supported lone strike Lucas Joao. Ovie Ejaria was back on the bench.
The Royals started the game well-organised, in good control and with more possession. Overall, it was a pretty quiet beginning from both sides with no real chances during the first 20 minutes. Midfield battles and mistimed passes characterised the game as most of it took place far away from the boxes.
29 minutes had been played when for the first time you could say there was something like a scoring opportunity. Honeyman’s corner from the left found Greaves in the middle. The Hull defender couldn’t get enough power behind his header so the ball went clearly wide. Suddenly the match came to life now…
Within two minutes Reading had their best efforts of the half. Both times Junior Hoilett was the man who created the danger. In the 35th minute, he dribbled his way down the left and crossed the ball beautifully to Josh Laurent, who headed it straight at Tigers keeper Baxter. Seconds later the Canadian played a good ball into the overlapping Baba Rahman. The left back's pass found Tom Ince inside the area, and his shot from close range went wide of the far post.
And just when you felt the visitors were the ones closest to score, the goal fell on the other side. Tom Dele-Bashiru was dispossessed in midfield and lost the ball far too easy. Keane Lewis-Potter received it on the left, burst into the box and fired it past Nyland from a tight angle (40th minute). Although it was a strong strike it looked as well as if the Norwegian keeper could have done better. Soon later it was half-time. The Royals hadn't played badly, but a lack of concentration from TDB meant the Tigers were on the front foot.
No changes were made during the break while Reading began a bit more offensive-minded on the search for the equaliser. The home side remained dangerous in their counter-attacks. It was a free-kick though that led to Hull’s second in the 53rd minute. The Royals were unable to defend the in-swinging ball well enough. Jones was quickest to react and made no mistake from a short distance. Seconds later Lewis-Potter could have made it three when he met Coyle’s header but had his effort saved by Nyland.
In the 57th minute, Paul Ince brought on Ovie Ejaria for the unlucky Tom Dele-Bashiru. Josh Laurent moved back into a deeper midfield position alongside Drinkwater, while Tom Ince played centrally behind Lucas Joao. That substitution brought back life to the blue and white as the Royals looked a lot better.
Right before the hour-mark, Lucas Joao had the golden opportunity. Tom Ince held the ball well against two defenders and sent the big Portuguese alone on goal with a perfect-timed pass. However, Joao’s shot was not good enough to get it past keeper Baxter. A striker of his quality should have done better.
Reading kept pushing forward but were just missing that final touch. In the 70th minute Ovie Ejaria (who had a positive impact) was released down the left. His low delivery was just cleared by Hull defender Greaves. Eight minutes later a Hoilett corner was flicked on to Michael Morrison on the far post. The Reading captain’s touch went only inches past the right post. Then Ovie Ejaria controlled a long ball perfectly, only to find his left-foot effort saved by Tigers keeper Baxter. It just didn’t seem like our day…
Six minutes before the end Paul Ince went all in and brought Yakou Meite on for his son Tom. Reading tried, but again the goal fell on the other side. In the final minute of stoppage time Lewis-Potter broke through one-on-one before placing his finish into the bottom corner. That was it. Directly afterwards it was full-time. Hull 3, Reading 0!
BUT there was still some brilliant news after the final whistle that brought the away end into celebration-mood! Peterborough United lost at home to Nottingham Forest. The result meant that, despite the 3-0 defeat, Reading were safe and had secured Championship football next season! After a disappointing performance at the MKM Stadium, it was a happy ending to the trip up north. What a relief!
Aside from all positivity and with a view to next season, there is one thing clear though: we must work on our defensive play! To concede 85 goals in 44 matches is by far too much. It’s too easy to score against us. Today’s match is a good example. Hull weren’t better than us, they just made fewer mistakes and converted their chances. We didn’t. Something that happened throughout the whole season.
On the other side, there is also the hope that a solid pre-season campaign without such a large injury list might help the team to progress and be stronger. But to be fair, I had the same hope after the last season…