A swashbuckling second-half performance from Reading saw them deservedly win 3-1 against an in-form Bristol City side.
The Robins had reverted to a 3-5-2 against Watford, and kept that same formation here. A tight and cagey first 15 minutes were dominated by both defensive set-ups with Meite and Laurent only able to take speculative shots from distance.
City’s pace and directness of running in attack began to cause Reading problems and earn set-pieces in dangerous positions however, they amounted to nothing more than a dangerous Diedhiou header from an offside position.
Having been scandalously denied last month’s goal of the month award, Meite set about creating his own opportunities and had the best effort of the first half. A Morrison knockdown fell in his path, before rifling an overhead kick towards the bottom corner – not for the last time, Bentley produced a wonderful save to keep parity.
Bristol grew into the half, with Liam Moore having to be alert on a couple of occasions to Diedhiou’s dangerous movement into the box which would have given the striker good chances. The second of these led to a contentious penalty shout waved away by the referee.
Late in first-half stoppage time, Joao had a firm shot tipped over by Bentley, and the teams went in at half time all square. Reading creating better opportunities and being notably more efficient with their possession.
After the break, the first opportunity fell to the hosts. Joao drove too easily past Dasilva before laying the ball off to Meite whose shot was well saved by Bentley and smuggled away by the reactive Hunt.
Reading were nearly made to pay for their profligacy as they failed to deal with a Hunt cross. Rowe drove into the box but Morrison’s solid block set off a breakaway from which Reading would finally breakthrough.
Another Joao drive in the Bristol half drew too many defenders for no gain, he laid the ball off to Ejaria who fired straight at Bentley from the edge of the area. Vyner’s attempt to block the shot fired off his thigh and wrongfooted the visiting keeper and nestled in the bottom corner.
Bristol responded by moving to a 4-3-3 and bringing on Wells (who loves a goal against Reading) and former Royal Martin. On the hour mark, O’Dowda provided the Robins with their first shot as an audacious 25-yard attempt trickled into the arms of Rafael.
City were lucky to have 11 players on the pitch, as their frustration grew. Taylor Moore’s reckless two-footed lunge on Laurent just about returned to Earth as he narrowly missed the Reading midfielder; and shortly afterwards, Martin decided to clean his studs on the back of Moore’s leg. Paunovic was booked for his bench’s protestations, legitimate though they were.
But Reading still dominated, Morrison, Moore and Holmes all going close with headers, before a second Holmes header flashed across goal only to beat the onrushing Morrison and Joao when faced with an open goal.
Still Reading pressed with Bentley making another save from a Meite one on one. The Reading forward overran the ball slightly, but Bentley was becoming the sole reason City were still in the game.
Reading were made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal as a questionable free-kick was awarded on the Bristol right after Laurent appeared to win the ball off his man. After four red shirts were in an offside position, the ball fell to Nahki Wells to poke home from close range following the knockdown.
Reading of the past may have folded, but the response from the hosts was instant. Olise, brought in ahead of Semedo, bisected the Robins’ defence with a glorious through ball that Meite latched on to. This time he made no mistake in beating Bentley, finding the bottom corner with his left foot.
Soon after, Meite should have had a second and wrapped the game up. Richards’ deflected shot caught Bentley out as it looped on to the bar. With Bentley disentangling himself from the net, Meite was unable to find the open net heading an inch wide of the far post.
But the game was sewn up in injury time. The visitors failing again to break down the well organised Royals defence. A frustrated pass fell kindly to Meite who ran past half of the red shirts streaming back to help before delivering the ball to the talismanic Joao for his 9th league goal of the season.
This was the complete performance from Reading and frankly should have been a lot more. City were sluggish in the second half and unable to unlock the Reading defence in open play, Holden was refreshingly honest in his post-match interview observing that his side deserved nothing out of this game.
Another Wednesday night game for the Royals this week who head up to Yorkshire to play Sheffield Wednesday, for Bristol it’s a visit to Loftus Road on Tuesday where they’ll look to bounce back against one of the league’s more excitable defences.