Five matches… just four points. In an excellent campaign to date, November was a comparatively tough month for the Royals...
As we continue our photo features series, rounding up our season at its midpoint, we reflect on a challenging month which tested the mettle of our squad.
November 4th: Reading 0-3 Preston North End
Heads up: Pauno consoles his side after the match
Defeat away at Coventry was the start of what would prove to be a difficult week – this time out, the three goals conceded were without reply from a Royals point of view, as the Lilywhites ran riot at Madejski Stadium.
In truth, the performance probably deserved a slightly less unflattering scoreline. But after Rafael saved a Daniel Johnson penalty, North End finally grabbed two quick goals midway through the second period through Scott Sinclair and Emil Riis Jakobsen, before Brad Potts picked off a third in stoppage time when the Royals were going all-out to grab one back. But Pauno, pictured, wasn’t one to let heads drop.
November 7th: Reading 0-3 Stoke City
Full-time frustration: Royals react at the final whistle as efforts come to nothing
All talk was about trying to bounce back quickly – but it was almost a carbon copy the following Saturday. Two goals shipped, strenuous efforts to try to get back into it, and another conceded in injury-time to make the scoreline of an evenly contested encounter look particularly lopsided.
The only real difference was the timing of the first two – the Royals trailed 2-0 at the interval this time, with Tyrese Campbell and Steven Fletcher getting on the scoresheet early. The third and final goal came five minutes into added time as the Potters broke away and slotted in through Jacob Brown. Once again, a result that needed the Royals to reflect and learn…
November 21st: AFC Bournemouth 4-2 Reading
On the spot: Semedo taken down early on for a Royals penalty
A true rollercoaster on the south coast – three straight defeats going into the game didn’t stop the Royals coming out in rambunctious fashion… Lucas João struck in from the penalty spot after Alfa Semedo’s brilliancy down the left byline drew a foul from goalie Asmir Begovic. Then Sone Aluko sent us into the break two up, racing onto a through-ball by Ovie Ejaria and converting.
But the Cherries, recently relegated from an extended Premier League stint, called on their top-tier quality to turn then game on its head after the interval. Dominic Solanke and Arnaut Danjuma fired in three minutes apart to pull things level. And when your luck’s out, it’s out – as proven when Lewis Cook, who hadn’t scored for four years, curled in from 25 yards, off the underside of the bar. Solanke capitalised on a defensive mix-up late on to compound the misery – three points missed and all part of our learning curve.
November 25th: Millwall 1-1 Reading
Unstoppable: Rafael powerless to stop Wallace's stunning free-kick
If there’s a theme running through our season, it’s spirit. Time and again we’ve shown it… this game a case in point. Four straight losses were a bitter pill to swallow, but it was never for want of trying. And that streak of defeats came to an end at The Den – it was revealing that the Royals felt frustrated to only leave with one point, even after having gone behind!
The half-time team-talk needed changing when Jed Wallace curled in an unstoppable free-kick right before the referee sounded the whistle for half-time… another example of our opposition trying to record their ‘goal of the season’ contenders against us! But soon after the restart, Michael Olise clipped a ball round the corner for João – who drilled in through Bartosz Bialkowski. Each goalscorer had a chance to net the winner in stoppage-time – Wallace steered a first-time shot straight at Rafael, and with the last kick of the game João shaved the post with a low drive. So,so close to all three… but a point represented a step back in the right direction.
November 28th: Reading 3-1 Bristol City
Snapped: Celebrations, caught on camera!
Our month to date had been tough. But then when you turn in a performance like this… it shows that the Royals are made of tougher stuff. It had been a fairly nondescript first half – the exception being another acrobatic Yakou Méïté effort which was well-saved – but Reading turned on the style after the break.
There was a touch of fortune about our opener – Ovie Ejaria worked room to shoot, but it was a deflection which beat Daniel Bentley. A perennial thorn in our side throughout the years in Nahki Wells grabbed one back from a nod-down… but the Royals reacted instantly though Méïté, who had until then found himself frustrated time and again by Bentley. This time, racing clear, he slotted in – and then João swivelled and shot in stoppage time after a bullish run by Méïté. A fine way to set the record straight for the Royals as we headed into the final month of the year!