This was to be only my second away game of the season. I went to Portsmouth in the League Cup and the less said about that one the better. Getting tickets to away matches has proved problematic. Even though I am a season ticket holder the games have generally been sold out by the time I have become eligible which has been frustrating so I missed the joy of the wins at Brentford and Charlton and it sounds just as well I missed the others! Reading is a short train journey from Blackwater and it is therefore a fixture I look forward to. It means I have time to get a few jobs done before setting off and I drove down to my local Halfords to replace my headlight lamps, the driver’s side having blown in the week. I find the lesser illumination more noticeable nowadays which is a sign of age I suppose. It reminds me of a song we used to sing round the campfire as kids when I was in the wolf cubs many years ago. It was the chorus of ‘In the Quartermaster’s store’ which went; “My eyes are dim, I cannot see, I have not brought my specs with me, I have not brought my specs with me!” It had verses of various oddments to be found in the QM stores and one of my favourites was “There were pies, pies with great big beady eyes! In the stores, in the stores!” Daft little ditties but great fun for nine year olds.
By the time I had fought my way back through the traffic to home it was almost time to set off for the station and I caught the 12.28 and just over twenty minutes later, I was in the Three Guineas enjoying a pint while I awaited Chris, little Jack and Oscar, whom I introduced to the readership last week. This was to be Oscar’s first ever away game so he was very excited by all accounts. Their party turned up at 13.15 and this called for another pint. Will and little Will were originally coming to the game but the latter was involved in a Cup Final and it wasn’t to finish in time so Will handed his tickets to me at work yesterday. Tim, my traveling companion friend from last week was also not able to make it. This was a pity because more is merrier. Nevertheless, we didn’t allow the absence of good friends to depress us and the beer was proving excellent consolation. Furthermore, Chris and I decided that we would be best served to grab some food at the pub and the haddock, chips and minted peas were done to a turn and beat into a cock hat anything on offer at the Madjeski.
It was soon time to move off towards the bus to the ground and we arrived just before kick off. The two lads ended up right up at the back with a glorious view whereas Chris and I were lower down. It was good to see Jeremie Bela starting after his encouraging performances in recent times and the inclusion of Josh McEachran whom I rate highly was another welcome inclusion. Lukas Jutkiewicz was rested and Alvaro Gimenez started up front.
The home side started brightly and forced a couple of corners. Blues just about dealt with them but it was soon apparent where the away rearguard were going to struggle. Pele for Reading was proving accurate with set pieces and Reading were winning a fair share of the aerial duels. However, Birmingham settled into the game and were giving as good as they got as the early minutes progressed. Clarke-Salter, who had started to show why he had been brought in on loan in recent matches, fell awkwardly in an aerial duel with Yakou Meite and was substituted as he gingerly held his arm going off the pitch. I don’t know whether the injury was a dislocated shoulder, fractured collar bone or some form of injury around the elbow but it didn’t look good and Wes Harding stepped in from the bench.
Things were to get worse for Blues when the impressive Dan Crowley went down lame thus forcing another substitution in the form of Jacques Maghoma on the half hour. Despite the disruptions, Blues were playing well and at this stage were the better side. Connal Trueman had had little to do in truth apart from fielding a through ball that he dropped onto before the onrushing attacker could threaten. I do like the young keeper’s anticipation and command of the six yard box and this augers well for the future. Blues were playing some neat slick football without really threatening in the final third. Defensively, Reading always seemed to get the final block, touch or deflection to thwart Bellingham, Gimenez and Maghoma all of who had half chances that were snuffed out.
However, Blues were definitely on top and their efforts were rewarded four minutes before the break when a neat one two between Jude Bellingham and Alvaro Gimenez was intercepted by Birmingham old boy Michael Morrison. The big defender just got a toe to the ball as Bellingham was going through clear on goal but the defender’s touch looped over the hapless Cabral and into the net. Yes, there was an element of good fortune but the lead was deserved nevertheless. A halfway lead looked to be on the cards but there were four minutes of time added on and there was just enough time for the home team to equalise from a corner from our right. Pele took it and Meite’s free header at the near post netted for 1-1. Really poor defending, soft goal and it undid all the good work that had gone before. The fact that the original corner should have been given as a goal kick is immaterial, set pieces have to be defended properly.
Blues started on the front foot in the second half and a thirty yard drive from Sunjic was only just over with Cabral struggling. Just before the hour, Blues won a free kick about 28 yards out. Jeremie Bela and Josh McEachran stood over the ball and although Bela looked the most interned I thought McEachran’s angle with his left foot the better bet. What do I know? Bela did take the kick, curled it right footed across the keeper but on his favourable side but no matter; a superb strike into the top corner with Cabral clutching air.
The Blues contingent behind the goal went wild and Chris remarked that we haven’t scored like that from a free kick for years. Blues could have increased their lead when Maghoma crashed a left footed shot off the bar and Bela had another free kick well saved by Cabral. Reading went in search of an equaliser and nearly had one when Liam Moore hit the bar with a close range header from another corner. I felt that the only way Blues were going to fail to win was going to be ineffectual defending from set pieces.
As Reading pressed, Blues were breaking out at pace and from one such sortie Gimenez secured the points for Blues. Driving into the box one on one with Michael Morrison. Alvaro attempted to curl his shot around the defender but Morrison blocked it but the ball ping-ponged back onto Gimenez then Morrison and the forward found himself clear with a second bite at the cherry. He made no mistake with an adept side footed finish into the far corner on 88 minutes to send the away contingent into raptures.
Once again there was a fair amount of time added on and after five minutes of this Reading scored a consolation second from a free kick when Joao got the wrong side of Sunjic to score from close range; very poor defending again. This type of error combined with our defenders dropping like flies are the only drops of rain on our parade. We must figure out how to keep clean sheets; 2-3 flattered Reading whose defeat could and should have been far more comprehensive. Great game; well done Blues!
The Good: Jeremie Bela’s goal! We haven’t, as Blues fans, seen a free kick like that in years. It was worth the admission fee.
The Bad: Not being allowed back into the Three Guineas for a post match pint. Apparently it was because some Villa fans had kicked off in there the week before; enough said!
The Ugly: The injuries to Clarke-Salter and Crowley.
Reading: Rafael Cabral Barbosa 6, Michael Morrison 5, Matt Miazga 6 (Lucas Boye 45, 6) Liam Moore 6, Andy Rinomhota 6, Garath McCleary 6 (Santos Joao 66, 6) Andy Yiadom 6, Yakou Meite 7, Omar Richards 6, Tuncara Pele Gomes 6 (Charlie Adam 76, 5) George Puscas 5.
Subs not used: Sam Walker, Chris Gunter, Danny Loader, Tyler Blackett.
Goals: Meite 45, Joao 90 + 5.
Birmingham City: Connal Trueman 6, Maxime Colin 7, Jake Clarke-Salter 6 (Wes Harding 17, 6) Harlee Dean 6, Krystian Pedersen 7, Dan Crowley 6 (Jacques Maghoma 29, 7) Jeremie Bela 8, Ivan Sunjic 7, Jude Bellingham 8, Josh McEachran 7 (Lukas Jutkiewicz 69, 6) Alvaro Gimenez 7.
Subs not used: Lee Camp, David Davis, Jefferson Montero, Odin Bailey.
Goals: Morrison 41 og, Bela 59, Gimenez 88.
Yellow cards: McEachran 60.
Referee: Tim Robinson 8; This was a great game of football contributed to in a large part to good solid officiating. The reason why I think the referee and his assistants were so good was the fact that I hardly noticed them all game. As a fan you can ask little more. Well done, Mr Robinson.
3 Comments on View from the South – Reading v Birmingham City
For the first time in years Blues are playing entertaining football, that is fun to watch. I just wish they knew how to defend free kicks and corners, every time one goes into our box I panic, sadly so does our defence.
I agree Roy and I think it has got worse with the loss of Roberts. Clarke-Salter tends not to win as many aerial duels although to be fair, he has been better during his latest spell in the team.
From what a few professionals have told me today that Bela’s free kick goal was what they call a ‘knuckle shot’. Has anyone else heard of this. I for one haven’t.