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Match Reports

Royals earn third straight win with Preston triumph

João and Swift strike to bring points back to Berkshire

29 December 2019

John Swift and Lucas João both scored for the Royals away at Preston on Sunday, as Reading came away from Deepdale with a 2-0 victory in the Sky Bet Championship.

Swift's first-time finish and João's slotted strike both came courtesy of assists from Tyler Blackett on the day, while Rafael made a string of saves to keep a fourth consecutive clean sheet.

Only one team had beaten Preston at Deepdale prior to Sunday's game, but Reading were able to dent their near-perfect home record to win their third straight Sky Bet Championship match for the first time since April 2017.

Reading started the day unchanged from their Boxing Day win over Queens Park Rangers, with Garath McCleary replacing Danny Loader on the bench in the only change to the Royals' squad on the day.

A cagey start at Deepdale saw the hosts, who had won 30 of their 39 Championship points at home up to this point in the season, dominate the early possession in the game. Reading's defence had to hold firm early on as the Lilywhites tried to find a way through.

Josh Harrop danced through midfield and was the lucky recipient of Tyler Blackett's tackle. He worked his way into the area and laid off to Brad Potts to let fly, but Rafael got down to it and saved well.

But with 11 minutes on the clock, Reading's first meaningful attack resulted in the opening goal.

Charlie Adam saw a gap and surged forward into the attacking third, with Tyler Blackett overlapping to receive his pass. Ovie Ejaria was fouled in the box, but advantage was played as Blackett cut back to Swift 10 yards out, who calmly slotted first time past Declan Rudd to give the Royals the lead in a well-worked team goal.

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Reading weathered immediate pressure from the hosts, and doubled their lead shortly afterwards in another display of clinical finishing.

Blackett was provider once again for the assist, as he won the ball in midfield and danced his way past two markers.

He then slid the ball through to the on-rushing João in the box, who made no mistake in sliding it under Rudd to have the Royals two up on the quarter-hour mark.

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Preston weren't going to fade easily, though. They looked to pull one back quickly as Potts spread play to Billy Bodin on the right, whose arrowed low ball into the box was smothered by Rafael before it could be turned in.

Alex Neil's side tried to crank up the pressure from a corner, where Bodin found himself in space outside the area to bend a left-footed effort at goal, but it bounced comfortably wide of Rafael's post.

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A show of tenacity up the other end from Swift saw him win the ball high up the field on the half-hour mark, squaring to Yakou Méïté on the edge of the box for him to shoot, with his out-swinging effort swirling wide of the post on this occasion.

Reading were certainly good value for their lead against their promotion-chasing opponents, and they thought they had a third goal when Ejaria's 25-yard strike came clattering off the post. João followed up to put the ball in the net, but the flag belatedly went up on the far side to disallow it.

Up the other end, a Harrop free-kick crept past the Reading wall, but Rafael was able to claim and set Reading off on a counter, with Ejaria working his way through the middle. The playmaker cut between his left and right foot, opting for the latter as he tried to bend one into the top corner - scraping the outside of the net on that occasion as dusk fell over Deepdale towards the end of the first half.

Clinical finishing from the Royals, coupled with wastefulness in front of goal from the hosts and stout defending from Mark Bowen's side saw Reading two goals to the good at the interval.

Half time | Preston North End 0-2 Reading

Unsurprisingly, Preston flew out of the traps in the second half with a point to prove. And when Bodin rocketed a strike towards the top corner, Rafael had to be at full stretch to be able to tip over the bar, in a fine save from the Brazilian.

It was a scenic sunset surrounding Deepdale on Sunday, but all eyes were firmly on the pitch as Reading looked to add to their advantage.

An Adam corner was recycled and Ejaria was the recipient to the left of the box. He headed towards the byline and managed to cut an inviting ball back into the danger zone, narrowly avoiding a clutch of Reading shirts on its way through and Preston could clear their lines.

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A near-miss for the Royals followed shortly afterwards, when a looping ball forward from Pelé had Ben Davies under it. João gambled on the direction of the backward header as the striker steamed towards goal in a foot race with Rudd. João got there first, but Rudd was able to stick a leg out to make a vital save and prevent Reading's third.

In the Reading area, crucial blocks kept Reading's lead. Ben Pearson appeared through on goal and Liam Moore's last-ditch tackle found its way to Alan Browne in the box, with Michael Morrison throwing his body on the line to deflect clear.

Rafael was called into action once more when a cross from the left flank found its way all the way through to Tom Clarke at the far post, with the goalkeeper making another important save on the line as the hosts pushed to pull one back.

Andy Rinomhota made his senior league debut off the bench when the Royals visited Deepdale last season, and he was called upon to replace Charlie Adam midway through the second period.

Reading remained under pressure, however, and struggled to get out of their half as Preston continued to press, although Reading's defence was holding firm, with Liam Moore nursing a pair of blows to the face from a flying ball in quick succession. 

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Goalscorer Swift was replaced with 15 minutes remaining for the Royals, as McCleary entered the fray and looked to aid the effort to hold onto the points.

Mark Bowen's men were very much playing on the counter-attack as the second half wore on, keeping their defensive shape as much as possible to limit the opportunities Preston could create - with only West Bromwich Albion having come away with a win from Deepdale this season.

To that end, defensive reinforcements were added to proceedings in the shape of Jordan Obita, who replaced Méïté in the Royals' final change of the afternoon.

Reading weathered the pressure admirably to the final whistle, finishing with just 27% possession but 100% of the goals scored on the day, and all three points came back to Berkshire along with 557 happy Royals who had made the journey north.

Full time | Preston North End 0-2 Reading

Preston North End: Rudd, Clarke (Stockley 69), Huntington, Davies, Hughes, Pearson, Browne, Harrop (Barkhuizen 59), Bodin, Potts (Gallagher 59), Maguire.
Unused subs: Ripley, Fisher, Ledson, Bayliss.

Reading: Rafael, Gunter, Morrison, Moore (c), Blackett, Pelé, Adam (Rinomhota 65), Ejaria, Swift (McCleary 74), Méïté (Obita 83), João.
Unused subs: Walker, Miazga, Boyé, Olise.
Goals: Swift (12), João (16)

Referee: Mr J Gillett
Attendance: 13,680 (557 away)


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