We’re halfway through our league season – 23 games gone, 23 more to play.
An away win at Huddersfield Town just after New Year meant that we’d played every team once – plus a couple of Carabao Cup games. And at the campaign’s midpoint, we’re still up and around the top end.
Our club photographers are there at every game, capturing the action and the drama as it unfolds in real-time. And in this feature, we’re digging into their archive and taking a visual look back at our games so far in the 2020-21 season… one image per fixture, to sum up the match!
First up – a perfect September in the Sky Bet Championship.
September 5th: Reading 3-1 Colchester United
The magic number: João celebrates three goals against the U's
It’s a different kind of fixture-list this season, with a lot of games squeezed into a short period. And on this occasion, our season’s opener was in the Carabao Cup – and ended in a home win against Colchester United, on our final appearance before Pauno took his seat in the dugout.
Looking back, it seems a lifetime ago that we went behind in our opening game against League Two opposition as Jevani Brown converted. But Lucas João started as he meant to go on this season; levelling just before the break, completing a hat-trick in the second half, and demonstrating his mercilessness on opposition defences. Three and easy for the front-man.
September 12th: Derby County 0-2 Reading
Ejaria, elated: Ovie doubling our advantage in Derby
Pauno’s first fixture; a league win at Pride Park. We had gone there a few months earlier at the tail end of the previous season, and got sucker-punched with a quick-fire double just before the break. But this time, the boot was on the other foot.
João opened the scoring five minutes before the break – then he turned provider with a delightful back-heel into the path of Ovie Ejaria, who finished in ice-cold fashion. Elation etched on his face… and the start of something special as the Royals showed resilience after the break to hold on for their first three points of many!
September 15th: Reading 0-1 Luton Town
Honour-roll: Nelson Abbey becomes our 63rd Academy graduate
The first of two cup defeats to Luton Town this season – but in both of those games, opportunities for our fledgling talents to show their stuff and stake a claim for first-team involvement.
Jordan Clark scored the decisive goal in the first half for the Hatters, but there was a two-Tom Academy graduate partnership at centre-half with McIntyre and Holmes, as well as a debut from kick-off for Dejan Tetek. Lynford Sackey and Nelson Abbey also made substitute appearances in the second half, bringing out list of Academy graduates to represent the senior team up to 63 – a full honours board at Madejski Stadium.
September 19th: Reading 2-0 Barnsley
Yakou breakthrough: Méïté makes his chance count
A plucky Barnsley side, full of graft and energy, needed matching all the way. And this fixture was one which hinged on some small moments where the Royals managed to get the better of their visitors in RG2. They say it can be more difficult to play against ten men. But again nine, you just have to be favourites… and we made it count.
João, again causing havoc on a counter attack, had his heels clipped when in on goal to result in Michal Helik receiving his marching orders. Yakou Méïté made the breakthrough midway through the second-half with a close-range header, before Mads Andersen was the second Barnsley defender to get sent off for a hand-ball. Michael Olise’s first ever professional goal, a rasping volley from 25 yards, sealed a cracking afternoon for Reading.
September 26th: Cardiff City 1-2 Reading
Team ethic: Royals celebrate Michael Morrison's headed goal
A third Championship win on the bounce to kick off the campaign… our first goal conceded in the league campaign made for a nervy finish in South Wales, but ultimately our boys had enough to see us over the line as the wider footballing public began to see what the Royals were all about.
The opener was a real bread-and-butter Championship goal – one Michael delivering for another, as Olise swung in a delightful free-kick from deep for Morrison to apply a diving header. More magic from João – which we’ve come to expect, in truth – doubled the advantage before the break. Lee Tomlin finally squeezed in via the post to cut the deficit, but again a stern defensive display from the whole squad was enough to get Reading over the line.
Pauno: Manager of the Month
Worthy winner: Pauno takes the trophy
One more… technically, this is a photo taken in October, commemorating the achievements of the previous month! A brilliant start to the season meant the first bit of silverware on the mantelpiece – we all know that it’s a trivial award in the grand context of a full league season, but a great September was recognised with a Manager of the Month award.
Pauno’s first month in England was a perfect one in the perspective of league fixtures; in particular professional and classy away wins in Derby and Cardiff, two sides broadly tipped to be in the mix, was a sign of a squad making a strong start. And typical Pauno - not one to hog the acclaim or steal the limelight... he ensured that everyone was in on the photo!