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Kick off 19:45 (UK)

2-0
09 April 2021 Venue Vicarage Road Attendance

Kick off 19:45 (UK)

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English Football League - Championship

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Match Previews

🔜 Ahead of the game | Vying for victory at Vicarage Road

Royals headed to Hertfordshire for Watford test

8 April 2021

As we approach what is very much the business end of the campaign, with just six games and a month left of a crazy campaign, the Royals travel to Vicarage Road to face automatic-promotion contenders, Watford.

After coming through the Easter weekend with four points from a possible six against Barnsley and Derby County, Veljko Paunovic's side will be seeking three more points on the road, when they make the short trip to Hertforshire on Friday night. 

The Hornets, our hosts for the televised contest, have won six of their last seven outings and find themselves clear in second spot going into the visit of the Royals. Victory for Reading would see them become the first team to complete a league double over Watford this season, after edging them out with a 1-0 win back in October.

How to watch

Friday evening's meeting with the Hornets has been selected for live coverage by Sky Sports, which means on this occasion supporters will not be able to watch via iFollow.

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If you’re not a Sky subscriber, you can get a Day Pass on NOW TV for 24 hours’ worth of access to all 11 Sky Sports channels.

Soccer Sight: audio descriptive commentary service

Watford offer home and away supporters who are visually impaired the opportunity to listen to audio descriptive commentary via their Soccer Sight service. This takes place via a conference call system via telephone.

In order to request to listen to this commentary, please send an SMS or WhatsApp to 07584 518 504. Please also specify what number you would like to receive the call, and what time you would like to be added to the conference call (available from 7.15pm ahead of 7.45pm kick-off).

If for any reason you drop out of the call during the match, please send an SMS or WhatsApp message to the same number to be re-added to the call.

NB. This service is specifically aimed at supporters with visual impairments.

The opposition

Having taken over from Vladimir Ivic who suffered a dismissal in December, Xisco's first few months in English football have been a resounding success, and he has lifted the Hornets from play-off contenders, to favourites to secure one of two spots securing an instant return to the Premier League. 

The Spaniard and former-winger was won 14 of his first 21 games in charge at Vicarage Road, and this impressive vain of form has seen his team surge into second with a handful games left to tick off. Watford have not suffered defeat in seven games, since a 1-0 loss to AFC Bournemouth in late February.

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Last time out, Watford were held to a 1-1 draw by Neil Warnock's Middlesbrough, as Ismaila Sarr's early effort was cancelled out with 12 minutes left on the clock. Since Xisco took to the dugout, the Hornets have tasted defeat just four times. 

One to watch: Ismaila Sarr

Having joined Watford for a reported club record fee of approx £30m in August 2019, Sarr had a lot to live up to. In his first season with the Hornets, with whom he signed from Ligue 1 side, Rennes, Sarr netted five goals in 28 Premier League outings but was unable to prevent his side from suffering relegation to the Championship.

This season, the 23-year-old Senegalese international has stepped up to become arguably Watford's star man, with 10 goals to his name in 35 appearances so far. 

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The winger began his career as part of Dakar-based side Generation Foot's academy, before making his move into France with Metz in July 2016. A year later, having proved a hit at Metz, Sarr moved to Rennes, reportedly favouring them over a switch to Spanish giants Barcelona.

While at the Roazhon Park, Sarr won the Coupe de France, and the Europa League Goal of the Season. This year, he has netted to inspire his side to wins over Stoke City, Coventry City, Norwich City, Bristol City, Blackburn and Rotherham. He also scored Watford's opener in their last outing, to earn an Easter Monday point against Boro.

Pre-match chat

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Head-to-head

The Royals have won just four of their last 15 meetings with Watford, but will take hope from this season's reverse fixture, when we ran out 1-0 winners over the Hornets thanks to an early George Puscas strike which sealed us victory in early October. 

We haven't visited Vicarage Road since March 2015, when we suffered a 4-1 defeat during which Jem Karacan was the man to find the net on a tough afternoon for Reading.

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Our last victory at the home of the Hornets came in January 2014, as the Royals put in a perfect away performance to come away with a 1-0 and all three points thanks to a single goal from Latvian midfielder Kaspars Gorkšs.

Reading have won 45 and drawn 26 of a total 119 clashes between the teams, dating back to our first meeting, a 2-1 win for the Royals all the way back in February 1921.

Ref watch

James Linington will be the man bearing the whistle at Vicarage Road on Friday evening, for what will be his second Reading game of the season.

Linington last took charge of a Royals fixture back in late January, as he officiated our 3-1 win over fellow play-off hopefuls AFC Bournemouth at Madejski Stadium.

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George Bryne and Sam Lewis will assist Linington in Watford, while Dean Whitestone will be the fourth official on this occasion.

During his 26 league games to date, Linington has brandished 58 yellow cards and three additional red cards.

Reminder

A polite reminder to our supporters that no unauthorised access will be permitted to this game, so supporters must not travel to Vicarage Road.

We can’t wait to see you all again soon – but for now it’s important that when we play, please stay away.

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Match Reports

📰 Match report | Quickfire Sarr double denies spirited Royals

Reading put in a performance full of ability and endeavour but were denied anything by two fine strikes from Ismaila Sarr

9 April 2021

An impressive performance counted for nothing as Ismaila Sarr's double first half strike separated the sides at Vicarage Road.

Early on, Ismaila Sarr looked to get in behind the Royals back line but Rafael was off his line swiftly to slide in and smother the ball before the Hornets forward could pounce.

Reading won a free kick 30 yards out but a floated ball was easily gathered by Daniel Bachmann and Watford caught the Royals on the counter. Sarr played in Pedro and with Olise tracking back the Watford man took aim but dragged his effort wide from a difficult angle.

At the other end, Olise nearly intercepted a cross-defence pass from Troost-Ekong to Sierralta - but the latter slid in to clear just before Olise could get a toe in. Ejaria did steal possession moments later though and won a free kick which was floated towards Holmes at the back post - his central header looked for Moore but the Hornets cleared their lines as the captain shaped to hook an effort goalwards.

The hosts had the lead soon after though. Appeals for offside were dismissed when Sarr collected a direct ball on the right and he was found again with a neat pass inside. Cutting onto his left boot he curled a shot past the helpless Rafael and inside the left upright for 1-0.

A minute later it was 2-0. Again Sarr escaped the attentions of the Reading defence and from a tight angle he bulleted the ball high past Rafael and into the roof of the Royals net. 

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The Royals looked to reply but a long ball looking for Meite found him - but by the time he had brought the ball down the angle was too narrow and he lashed the ball high into the stands.

Reading were playing some tidy football and Olise worked a yard to cross towards the back post and win a corner. But Bachmann punched the ball clear and Reading, although keeping possession well, couldn't force the opposition keeper into a save.

Laurent did sting the palms of Bachmann with a short from 25 yards out, but it was easy for the Hornets stopper mid-way through the first half. Laurent burst into the box moments later and took another shot at goal, but this was was dragged across goal and wide.

The woodwork denied Reading a quite superb goal back - Olise embarked on a fabulous run, beating two or three before feeding Meite to his right inside the box. He controlled the ball and fed a cross into the near post where Puscas met it but it cannoned off the right post to Watford's relief. A difficult chance but a chance.

Sarr thought he had his hat-trick when he stole in to stab home a cross from the right from 10 yards out - but the offside flag was rightly raised to deny him his third. 

Bachmann did well to deny Laurent with five minutes of the first half remaining - the midfielder had scurried onto a good pass from Ejaria and powered inside towards goal but his low stabbed effort was stopped by Bachmann at the near post.

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Lovely feet from Ejaria earned him a position to shoot on the edge of the box, but it was charged down and Gibson volleyed the dropping ball high and wide of the target from just outside the area.

And again Reading nearly got one back when Meite intercepted a loose crossfield ball at the back from Watford and powered past his marker and into the area. He rippled the net with his thunderous right-footed strike but it was side netting to the Royals' frustration.

Reading were finishing the half brilliantly and Yiadom scuttled into the box down the right and drilled low at the near post where Bachmann had to produce a good low save.

The visitors had enjoyed more possession and had created plenty of opportunities but Watford had been clinical in their finishing to go into the break with a two-goal lead.

Half-time: Watford 2-0 Reading


The second half started as the first had ended, Reading stealing possession and looking for a goal that would bring us back into it - but Rinomhota's clipped ball forward wasn't read by Ejaria.

A good header from Moore saw off the threat of a dangerous cross from the right. And Laurent nearly played in Pedro with a back pass that thankfully skidded behind the striker and into the palms of Rafael as intended.

Just after the hour, Lucas Joao and Omar Richards were brought on to try to change things but time was ticking away without the same amount of incident despite Reading's dominance on the ball. Ejaria won a free kick 25 yards out which Olisew struck but it was straight at Bachmann who saved comfortably.

Watford countered from that set piece and a whipped Masina cross was headed wide by Zinckernagel in the middle. Reading were running out of energy and time.

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Richards chipped a cross in from the left which Joao tried to control and shoot, but he couldn't get it out from under his feet to test Bachmann. At the other end Pedro caught Holmes in the head with a challenge that seemed to see him lead with an arm, but the referee didn't see the incident.

Zinckernagel had the chance to put the result beyond doubt when a ricochet fell kindly for him but he skied his left-footed shot over the crossbar from the edge of the box.

Moore thundered into a wonderful 50:50 in midfield with Carlos Sanchez and almost set up a chance for Joao, but the Hornets buzzed around the Royals sub and regained possession. Sanchez saw a shot whistle inches wide of the left upright soon after.

Seven minutes remained when Richards hooked a hopeful shot over the crossbar from outside the box, but Saar nearly completed his treble when a cleared corner fell for the forward; he dragged a shot wide of the left post.

With his first touch of the game, Aluko nearly halved the deficit. Good work from Yiadom and Baldock on the right saw the ball centred and Moore's effort was charged down but Aluko's squirmed through and the Watford stopper did well to get down low to his right to keep it out.

Six minutes of injury time were signalled and the Royals refused to give in, crossing twice into the box from the left but the ball just not falling for Joao in the middle.

And the last chance of the game summed up the Royals' frustrations - a cross from Richards was glanced on to Baldock at the back post whose drilled cross was met by the sliding boot of Meite but he couldn't get enough on it to direct it on target.

Reading could be very proud of the performance and the effort that never relented until the very last whistle, but missed opportunities meant Sarr's strikes separated the sides.

Full-time: Watford 2-0 Reading

Watford: Bachmann, Troost-Ekong (Cathcart 70), Zinckernagel, Pedro (Gray 78), Masina, Sema (Success 78), Chalobah (c) (Sanchez HT), Hughes, Femenia, Sarr, Sierralta.
Unused subs: Foster, Ngakia, Gosling, Lazaar, Hungbo.
Yellow: Zinckernagel, Hughes
Goals: Sarr 11, 14

Reading: Rafael, Yiadom, Gibson (Richards 64), Moore (c), Holmes, Rinomhota (Baldock 87), Laurent, Ejaria (Aluko 87), Olise, Meite, Puscas (Joao 64).
Unused subs: Southwood, Esteves, Dorsett, Richards, Tetek, Semedo.
Yellow: Rinomhota

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