Reading fans went into Saturday’s game with hopes of coming away from their final match of the season at home with all three points. To do so, however, they would initially have to find the back of the net. Prior to the game, Reading had failed to score in ten out of fourteen games at the Madejski. This was to extend to eleven by the end of the match, with Brentford taking victory. Goals from Alan Judge and James Tarkowski were enough to take the Bees one step closer to their target of the play-offs. Reading, meanwhile, have taken ten out of a possible forty-five points in their last fifteen games. To describe their form as disappointing would be an understatement.
Reading manager Steve Clarke made four changes to the side that lost 1-0 only days before to Birmingham City. Alex Pearce returned in central defence in place of Jake Cooper, while Danny Williams and Oliver Norwood took the places of Jem Karacan and Nathan Ake in central midfield. Hal Robson-Kanu also came into the squad in place of Nick Blackman. A questionable decision by Clarke was to play Robson-Kanu as the lone striker, and one that he may have come to regret.
It was Robson-Kanu, however, that created the early chance for Reading when he found Garath McCleary on the edge of the box. His tame effort was easily saved by David Button in the Brentford goal. Reading were off to a good start, with Nathaniel Chalobah also having an attempt at goal from the edge of the box.
Brentford were to get into the game fairly quickly, however, keeping possession amongst themselves. After a good spell for the way side, they were to take the lead with only seven minutes played in the game. Andre Grey was the creator down the right wing, as he unleashed a driven cross to Reading’s near post. Judge was on hand to dispatch the ball into Federici’s goal with a first-time volley. It was a beautifully worked goal by the away side, and one that the home fans would have been deeply envious of.
“We give everybody a game but, unfortunately, the opposition always seem to get more goals than us. That’s the reality of the situation.”– Reading Manager Steve Clarke
As soon as the ball hit the back of the Reading net, the heads of the home players visibly dropped. Coming back from 1-0 down was going to be difficult for the Royals, especially with the incentive of the play-offs spurring on the away side. Reading did come back into the game, however, creating several chances for themselves. As Reading fans are somewhat used to by now, the chances were not put away.
Chalobah had another opportunity to score, but his glanced header went wide from a Chris Gunter cross. McCleary had a better opportunity when the ball fell to him in the box, but he could only hit it over the bar. Jamie Mackie, playing out wide, had another chance when he broke down the right but he sliced his shot wide. Reading had the greater number of chances, but Brentford were the more threatening. Grey and Pritchard came closest to making it 2-0 before half-time, but both efforts were deflected wide.
The Bees nearly got off to the perfect start in the second-half, when Grey found himself one-on-one with Federici. The Reading goalkeeper, however, pulled off a great save to keep his side in the game. Reading thought they had levelled the game up moments later through Chalobah, who followed up after a Robson-Kanu attempt, but was deemed offside.
Brentford were to seal the game through a Judge free-kick. Judge found Tarkowski in the centre unmarked and headed the ball past Federici. Despite Reading morale being depleted, a couple more chances to score came their way late on. Simon Cox, who came on for Chalobah, had a great chance but his attempt as saved by Button. Jack Stacey, on for McCleary, had another opportunity when he broke down the right wing. With Cox in the middle, he chose to take an effort on goal which was once again saved by Button. To say that Cox was angry with the youngster would be an understatement, and his reaction was somewhat unwarranted.
“We weren’t at our best today but got an early goal that calmed the nerves and were much better in the second half. The game was too open at times but we got the three points.”– Brentford Manager Mark Warburton
It could have been 4-0 before the final whistle blew, with another great save from Federici preventing Judge and Jon Toral hitting the post. Two goals were enough for the away side to take victory against a side who once again were not clinical enough. With Reading players seemingly incapable of aiming anywhere other than straight at the goalkeeper, it was never going to end well.
The highlight of the day, for the several thousand Reading fans that stuck around after full-time anyway, was the presentation of the “Player of the Season” award. The fans opted to give the award to goalkeeper Federici, only the fifth keeper to win the award in 51 years.
The Royals now go into their final week of a highly disappointing season, playing against Rotherham and Derby away from home. Reading will be hoping to take something away from their remaining fixtures, or at least hope to score a goal.