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Report | Points shared from Millers meeting

Ejaria strikes; Ajayi replies

23 February 2019

Reading had to settle for a share of the spoils from Saturday's match with Rotherham United; Ovie Ejaria's first goal for the Royals was cancelled out in the second period by Semi Ajayi, leaving the two teams still level on points.

John Swift's inclusion in the starting XI was his 100th appearance in Royals colours; he was one of three changes from a week ago, along with the return of Garath McCleary and Tyler Blackett.

The game kicked off in glorious sunshine, while the bumper Madejski Stadium crowd were playing their part. Nevertheless it was something of a nervy start; the Millers keen to go long-ball from the off.

On the break, Yakou Méïté was the first to go close for the Royals. Ovie Ejaria collected from the goalkeeper, set John Swift on his way, but the Ivorian forward shanked his effort off target when he cut off the right.

Rotherham caused an almighty scare when Michael Smith found room to send in a low cross from the right; somehow Anthony Forde found space to arrive unmarked, but mercifully couldn't make true contact as he arrived.

The momentum was soon back in Reading's favour as Méïté put on the afterburners to get into the right channel. He held up the ball, played into the path of Swift's run, and the midfielder's dipping effort narrlowly cleared Marek Rodak's goal.

While the Millers arrived with the reputation of being dangerous in set-piece scenarios, a bit of magic from the dead ball could have opened the scoring in the Royals' favour. A delightful delivery from deep by Swift was attacked at the far post by centre-half partners Liam Moore and Matt Miazga - it was a Millers player who nipped in first to put behind for a corner.

It had been a largely uneventful half - that was until Ejaria's maiden goal for Reading gave the home side the advantage and cranked up the decibels inside Madejski Stadium.

The move which created the opening goal was all about bravery on the ball. It started with Lewis Baker trusting himself under pressure in his own half, working back to the goalkeeper, and setting off a flowing move downfield. McCleary stole in down the left and clipped back for Ejaria, who looped his shot high into the net.

The Liverpool loanee could have doubled his tally a few minutes later, but was wayward with his strike from the edge of the area. Baker had the initial effort as the ball broke his way after a period of ball retention, but his left-footed shot deflected through to Ejaria, who couldn't find the target.

As the board went up for two added minutes, the home crowd were up in arms appealing for a hand-ball that was never given. Nélson Oliveira flicked past Billy Jones in the centre circle, but the only people in the stadium which missed the ball striking the Millers man's outstretched arms were the match officials.

Half-time: Reading 1-0 Rotherham United

The visitors put Reading under some early pressure after the break; the boys in blue and white stood firm. Ritchie Towell's goalbound shot was hit with venom from the edge of the area; skipper Moore bravely threw his body in front of it.

When Oliveira picked off a pass in his own half, he showed strength and guile to hold off the nibbling challenge of Will Vaulks and release McCleary down the left. The winger strode into the area, offloaded to Swift, but the midfielder's effort didn't have enough bend to find the target.


Oliveira almost capitalised when goalkeeper Rodak misjudged a direct ball forward by Swift; with teammate Michael Ihiekwe in close quarters, he spilled the ball and landed heavily. The striker was first to the ball but the angles to goal were closed off quickly by recovering defenders.

The Millers were seeing more and more of the ball after the break, and the Royals were soaking up the pressure. Emiliano Martínez was rarely tested by way of shots, but willingly battled for high balls into the box and commanded his area well.

Goalscorer Ejaria showed fresh legs when he picked up possession on halfway and jinked through some tackles; from the edge of the area, he pulled his strike wide of the far side.

Méïté had been a willing runner, but he was withdrawn with 20 minutes remaining as John O'Shea was brought on as a bit of extra insurance ahead of the back four.

McCleary came close to extending the lead; Andy Yiadom surged forward boldly and found Swift on the edge of the box. A quick step-over, a prodded ball into the winger, but not enough power on the shot at the end of it.

And gallingly, Rotherham went level with 10 minutes remaining. A ball banged into a crowded area from deep was cushioned down into Ajayi's path, who nipped in from point-blank range.

Reading pushed to get back ahead in what was looking like a grandstand finish. McCleary was released down the right by Swift and drew a great save from Rodak, and Oliveira couldn't quite convert as he rushed in.

Moments later Ejaria jinked into the area and hit a piledriver, which Rodak kept palmed away from the top corner. From the resultant corner, Miazga rose highest but nodded just past the post.

And when sub Callum Harriott slipped through to Oliveira in the channel, Baker rushed onto the delivery but headed straight at the goalkeeper.

Five added minutes signalled and Mo Barrow nearly grabbed the points at the death. He didn't give up the chase and nipped in ahead of the goalkeeper, squared across goal, but the stopper scrambled back just before Oliveira could tap in.

There was a heart-in-mouth moment deep into added time when Rotherham sub Joe Newell struck low and hard in a crowded area, but off target.

Neither team could quite grab a winner. A point apiece for the two teams as the ref called time on a battling affair.

Full-time: Reading 1-1 Rotherham United

Reading: Martínez, Yiadom, Blackett, Moore (c), Miazga, Baker, Swift, Ejaria (Harriott 86), Méïté (O'Shea 71), McCleary (Barrow 86), Oliveira.
Unused subs: Walker, Gunter, McShane, Loader.
Goal: Ejaria (31).
Yellow: Swift.

Rotherham United: Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks (c), Ajayi, Forde, Taylor (Williams 58), Towell (Crooks 89), Robertson, Ihiekwe (Newell 70), Smith, Jones.
Unused subs: Price, Vyner, Wood, Yates.
Goal: Ajayi (80).
Yellow: Mattock, Williams, Vaulks.

Attendance: 15,958 (763 away)

Referee: Mr J Simpson

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