Huge boost for Reading’s survival hopes as they end Preston’s unbeaten run


Preston North End made the trip down south knowing a win would leave them in a great position of reaching the play-offs after being one of the Championship’s most in form teams. Unbeaten in 12 matches, Alex Neil’s side began the day seventh with inferior goal difference separating them from Aston Villa, who sit just in front.

For the Royals, the clash represented a must win for boss, Jose Gomes. Flirting dangerously with the drop zone and just one point above 22nd place Rotherham, the home side were in desperate need of a boost to their relegation hopes. Following Preston winning their last six consecutive away games, Jose Gomes knew the magnitude of task that faced his side:

“We know that today will be tough, Preston are full of confidence at the moment, but it is our job to get the points we need for ourselves.”

Reading got the match underway with the away side hoping to an extend a terrific run of not conceding in the first 15 minutes of any match this campaign, scoring on nine occasions during that period.

The opening stages of the game started cagey with both teams understandably airing on the side of caution. Preston, set up in a narrow 4-4-2, were the ones who settled the slightly better, controlling the tempo with the lions share of possession but not posing a threat to Reading goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Tension was apparent in the Madejski Stadium, with the two sides knowing what was potentially at stake at either end of the table. On the 18th mark, Reading had a shout for a penalty when Andy Yiadom went down from a coming together with Preston full back, Josh Earl. Despite the home supporters disapproval, referee Mr Harrington turned the appeal down.

Reading supporters started to grow in voice after seeing their side gradually build into the game. Yakou Meite and Ovie Ejaria had a couple of half chances in the space of a few minutes but their respective shots were unable to test Lilywhite’s goalkeeper Declan Rudd.

Reading took on Preston in a vital game for both sides – Image: Get Reading

On the half hour mark Reading’s good play earned their just rewards. They took the lead when Mo Barrow found himself in behind the Preston defence and laid the ball across the box to onrushing forward Yakou Meite who slotted home from six yards out. The goal was met with an eruption of noise, mostly a sense of relief from the home fans who knew what an important goal it could turn out to be in the context of their season.

Just five minutes later things got even better for the Royals, when Mo Barrow turned from provider to scorer. A defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Declan Rudd and Ben Davies allowed the winger to nick in and round the keeper before passing the ball into an empty net.

Cries of “we are staying up” began to reverberate around the ground as Reading now had their tails up; they began chasing every ball, hunting in packs and closing down the once calm Preston back-line. The Preston players struggled to regather their composure. Boss Alex Neil could only watch on as in a space of just five minutes the assured nature of the away side had totally disintegrated. On the stroke of half time things almost got worse for the visitors when Declan Rudd had to tip the ball onto the post after a curling Ovie Ejaria shot almost found the far corner.

The half time whistle came at the wrong time for Reading who had Preston on the ropes. For Alex Neil, he had 15 minutes to somehow galvanise a side that appeared despondent when trudging down the tunnel.

After the interval Alex Neil introduced forward Jayden Stockley and Brandon Barker to proceedings in a reshuffling of formation, reverting to 4-3-3. The aggressive switch almost paid off immediately, when substitute Brandon Barker got himself to the byline before attempting to cut the ball back. Unfortunately for the 2000 travelling faithful, his pass went agonisingly wide of any green shirt.

Despite some huffing and puffing from Preston, Reading were slowly killing the rhythm of the game through long spells of possessions and regularly breaking up play. On the hour mark Alex Neil rolled his final dice when he brought on Louis Moult to partner Jayden Stockley up top. With two strikers that possessed aerial prowess, Preston began playing more directly, delivering crosses from deep but without any real success.

Jose Gomes responded to the change of style from Preston not long after, replacing midfielder John Swift with club captain, Paul McShane who slotted into a back five. With still the best part of 30 minutes to go, Reading began to invite pressure sitting deep in their half, playing on the counter attack.

With all three substitutes used, defensive midfielder Ben Pearson effectively played on one leg for 20 minutes after struggling to shake off a knock he received in the first half.  Five minutes before the end, he eventually hobbled off reducing the Lilywhite’s to ten men for the remainder. Although the tide was now firmly against them, Preston continued to search for a goal that would get them back into the game.

In the dying embers Jayden Stockley grabbed one back for the visitors as he managed to put in a loose ball from just six yards out. Despite some nervy moments at the end, Reading managed to seal the win.

The final whistle brought a chorus of cheers around the stadium and more importantly, the much needed three points. Speaking in the post match press conference, Royal’s manager Jose Gomes was delighted to halt Preston’s 12 game unbeaten streak:

“I’m happy for the players. They followed the plans from the beginning and we attacked with a lot of danger. It was a very important three points against a team that are a very difficult team.”

Climbing two places to 19th, Reading will be hoping to continue the momentum as they embark on a defining 21 days for the club, with six games within that period. Meanwhile Preston fall to tenth after defeat at the Madejski Stadium.


About Author

Football, Boxing and Cricket correspondent from Hampshire, covering southern sport. Editor and Head of Boxing at Prost International. Accreditated EFL & EPL journalist.

Comments are closed.