A goalless draw ends a roller-coaster season for Reading and Birmingham

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Reading welcomed Birmingham to the Madejski Stadium to conclude each side’s Championship campaign. With the two clubs starting the season full of optimism and hope, both sets of supporters endured a series of trials and tribulations since August last year.

For the Royals, there has been visible instability on and off the pitch; three managers within a six month period and a major turnover of players, it left the Berkshire outfit staring down the barrel of League 1.

However, with the latest boss Jose Gomes guiding them clear to safety, the club as a whole knows the importance of kicking on again. Writing in the match-day programme, chief executive Nigel Howe underlines the necessity for Reading to re-discover their identity:

“Perhaps recently as a club we have lost our way a little. It will now be a collective aim – myself, my staff and our supporters to re-inject our identity into all we do.

I expect this summer’s transfer window to be even busier than last. Our challenge must be to reduce the cost of the first team squad. We have a big summer ahead of us.”

The visitors were flying mostly under the radar and a play-off charge was on for the most part of the campaign. Yet a turbulent month of March halted their progress and caused their season to become a tale of two halves.

Birmingham were deducted nine points for profitability and sustainability breaches, suddenly leaving them looking down rather than up.

Nevertheless, a trip down south represented a good opportunity to end the season on a high. With Birmingham winning the reverse fixture in October 2-1 and scoring six goals in their previous three away matches, the St Andrew’s side were in confident mood.

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Academy starlet and newly crowned scholar of the year Michael Olise battles for the ball – Image: Reading FC

Reading’s planning for the future looked immediately underway when Jose Gomes started a front three of Josh Barrett, Danny Loader and Michael Olise, all of which were products of the academy.

On a Sunday afternoon that was being celebrated as ‘Portugal day’ by the fans expressing their gratitude to the manager, the Royals took no time to join in on the party spirit.

Birmingham could barely manage to get a touch in the opening stages as the home side settled into action instantly. They were moving the ball fast from side to side looking to probe and exploit any holes in the West Midland’s outfit.

In the eighth minute, the Royals went close to grabbing the opener when a Chris Gunter cross found it’s way to an unattended Barrett who scuffed his shot into the ground and let the combination of a Birmingham City defender and goalkeeper scramble the ball clear.

The academy attacking trio were causing all sorts of havoc to the Brummies with their constant patterns of rotation and impressive energy. Reading’s dominance was slowly starting to break the visitors down with them sustaining numerous waves of attacks.

However, against the run of play Che Adams had a golden chance to hand the visitors an unlikely lead. With 22 goals already to his account this season, the forward was the quickest to react to a parry from goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez but somehow managed to hit the ball wide from just three yards out.

On the 20th minute mark, the man at the opposite end was called into action. A low cross went across the six-yard box and Loader was waiting at the back post to tap in what seemed a certain goal.

However, Lee Camp had other ideas; diving the other way, the former Nottingham Forest and Sunderland man managed to stick out a strong left hand and make a sublime save.

The match had an entertaining end of season feel; both sides were creating chances at will with the first half having an openness and flow to proceedings.

Despite Reading controlling the first 45 minutes, Birmingham were a threat on the counter and set pieces with centre-back Marc Roberts and Kristian Pedersen going close from free headers. The two sides had their moments but it remained goalless at the break.

Che Adams had a frustrating afternoon, left ruing missed chances – Image: @BCFC Twitter

With the final three-quarters of an hour of their season approaching, each set of supporters helped lift the atmosphere, hoping their team could cap off the campaign with all three points.

A change of formation to a 4-4-2 system allowed Birmingham to come out the traps quicker, playing with a renewed vigour that was missing for much of the first half. A couple of tame efforts were either blocked or comfortably gathered by Reading on loan keeper Martinez.

On the hour mark the home side started to regain their footing on the match. A hustling and bustling run from full-back Andy Yiadom almost produced a bizarre own-goal from defender Roberts whilst Loader also blazed a shot wide moments later.

10 minutes later Loader was in on the action again, hitting a venomous half volley just outside the 18-yard box. Camp could only watch on as it went agonisingly over the bar for the Royals, producing a collective ‘Ooo’ from the 15,135 Reading eyes watching on.

In the dying embers, Adams had a chance to a chance to steal all three points from the Madejski. A corner was nodded down to the striker in the six-yard box but could not get his feet sorted which allowed the Reading keeper to smother the effort.

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Jose Gomes was delighted with support shown for his team – Image: Jasonpix

Four minutes from time veteran John O’Shea replaced Josh Barrett in what would be the final appearance of his career. The Irishman called time on his playing days last week after going on to make 464 appearances for various clubs.

The 118-time capped Irish defender was given a guard of honour from both sets of players as well as the 17,247 in attendance rising to their feet to applaud him. A rapturous wall of noise was met every time he touched the ball in the remaining stages.

Referee Keith Stroud’s whistle blew without any stoppage time being added on, highlighting the flow and freedom the match was played with.

And as the players and management took a routine lap of honour to thank the supporters, a season that began with a sense of expectancy ended with a feeling of relief. A rebuild in the summer is pivotal to Reading’s future hopes of achieving the heights they were once at not too long ago.

Speaking in the post-match press conference Gomes was optimistic ahead of embarking on his first full season as Reading manager providing the club sells players before they can buy:

“We have good young talented players that we must help to grow. The success of next season depends on the next two, three weeks maximum. We need to reduce the players we have to get some money to make a good job next season.”

Reading end the season in 20th spot whilst Birmingham finish 17th.

Teams:

Reading (4-3-3): 

Emiliano Martinez; Chris Gunter (Teddy Howe 89′); Andy Yiadom; Liam Moore; Matt Miazga; Lewis Baker; Ovie Ejaria; Andy Rinomhota; Josh Barrett (John O’Shea 89′); Danny Loader and Michael Olise (Mo Barrow 71′.)

Unused Substitutes:

Sam Walker; Sam Baldock; Garath McCleary and Saeid Ezatolahi

Birmingham (4-5-1):

Lee Camp; Kristian Pedersen; Maxime Colin; Marc Roberts; Wes Harding; Charlie Lakin (David Davis 74′); Craig Gardner; Kerim Mrabti; Isaac Vassell (Lukas Jutkiewicz 70′); Jota and Che Adams.

Unused Substitutes: 

Jake Weaver; Josh Dacres-Cogley; Gary Gardner; Jacques Maghoma and Connor Mahoney

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About Author

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

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