REPORT | Reading 2 v 1 Rotherham
FORMER Miller’s Lewis Grabban and John Swift came back to haunt their former club as their second-half strikes saw Reading overturn a half-time deficit to secure a 2-1 victory over Paul Warne’s men.
The Millers were duly rewarded for their bright start at the Madejski Stadium when Tom Adeyemi tapped home for his sixth goal of the season.
‘Keeper Richard O’Donnell preserved the Millers slender advantage with a series of fine saves before Grabban finally broke the visitors’ resistance with a sweet volley.
With the game in the balance, Swift finished off a superb home move involving Danny Williams and Chris Gunter to turn the game on its head and leave the Millers still searching for just their second away point of the season.
Following their hard-fought draw with Birmingham City on Good Friday, Millers manager Paul Warne kept faith with the majority of his starting line-up for the visit to Berkshire as he made only one change with Adeyemi recalled to the visitors engine room at the expense of Joe Newell, who had to settle for a substitutes berth.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Danny Ward cut inside from the left flank with menace to drill a low effort from distance which had home ‘keeper Ali Al Habsi scurrying across goal to smother the danger.
Moments later, Tyler Blackett’s slide-rule pass out of defence was intercepted by a timely Millers leg and Carlton Morris pounced on the loose ball to drive hard at the Reading backline but his effort from the edge of the box was blocked en-route to goal by retreating home defenders.
In Reading’s first foray of note, Garath McCleary attempted a training ground move by pulling a corner back into the path of Jordan Obita, who volleyed harmlessly wide of the target.
Minutes later, Jon Taylor’s outswinging corner saw Adeyemi emerge from the ruck of bodies to loop a header towards goal but Al Habsi was quick off his line to collect smartly under pressure.
There was a moment of controversy when Will Vaulks clipped Williams’ heels twice, in a matter of minutes, which saw the home midfielder react angrily to confront the ex-Falkirk midfielder, on the second occasion, which saw the Millers midfielder cautioned in the aftermath.
The Millers had started the game in a positive vein and they were rewarded for their early work as they broke the deadlock on 19 minutes following a smart move.
Smart play from Vaulks down the left touchline paved the way for Ward to curl an inviting centre which looked inch-perfect for Morris, who nodded goalwards and although the ball was straight down the throat of Al Habsi, the Omani ‘keeper was unable to prevent the ball spilling into the path of Adeyemi, who had the simple task of tapping home from close range.
The home side responded positively to the setback and the Millers had Joe Mattock to thank for a timely tackle as Yakou Meite looked to shoot goalwards before the visitors’ defence got in a tangle and a ricochet fell into the path of Meite, who fired a snap shot towards goal but Richard O’Donnell bravely stood up tall at his near post to deny the Ivorian winger.
The visiting faithful had their hearts in their mouths when Meite cut inside to fire a left-footed effort which stung the palms of O’Donnell, who produced a smart, reflex save, but the ball rolled tantalisingly into the path of Swift, who looked certain to tap home but Semi Ajayi came out of nowhere to produce a superb, goal-saving tackle to preserve the Millers’ slender lead.
Meite was in the thick of the action and his deep cross-cum-shot had O’Donnell backtracking nervously as he tipped the ball to safety before Ward tried his luck with an ambitious effort from distance, at the other end, but it failed to trouble the Royals goal.
Moments later, McCleary’s defence splitting pass released Chris Gunter but his pull-back narrowly evaded home runners before Swift’s dangerous free-kick was headed clear by Vaulks.
With half-time approaching, Obita’s tantalising corner was headed towards his own goal by Ajayi, who was under pressure from a Royals’ attacker but Mattock spared his blushes by heading clear from his own line.
Half-time- Reading 0 Rotherham United 1
The home side were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and McCleary’s low effort was straight down the throat of O’Donnell before Yann Kermorgant headed wide from Roy Beerens’ centre.
Moments later, Darnell Fisher took man and ball with a superb crunching tackle on Beerens in the box before O’Donnell showed great bravery to punch clear McCleary’s dangerous centre.
The Millers had a scare when Gunter galloped into the box to pick out the unmarked Beerens, but the Dutchman fluffed his lines as he slashed at thin air and the chance was lost.
Minutes later, Beerens almost made amends when he jinked inside to deliver a fantastic cross which was flicked on by Swift forcing O’Donnell into a superb, acrobatic save as the ball arrowed towards the far corner of the goal before the ball was scrambled to safety before the Millers were once again indebted to their ‘keeper when McCleary dug out a cross which saw Kermorgant leap highest to power a header which brought the best out of O’Donnell, who superbly tipped the ball over the bar one-handed.
Just past the hour mark, sub Liam Kelly’s dragged shot was deflected wide of the target before Reading levelled matters with 24 minutes remaining as sub Grabban scored with his first touch.
The dangerous McCleary proved a thorn in Rotherham’s side as he weighed up his options to deliver a delicious centre which was inch-perfect for the onrushing Grabban, who kept his nerve to volley a low effort, from the edge of the box, which flew past a motionless O’Donnell as it whistled into the heart of the visitors goal.
The Millers almost responded immediately to the setback when sub Newell drilled a low effort which stung the palms of Al Habsi before Kermorgant headed straight at O’Donnell following Gunter’s pinpoint centre.
Moments later, Danny Williams planted a point-blank header narrowly wide of the target following Kermorgant’s centre before Reading took the decisive lead with 12 minutes to go when Williams’ superb pass saw Gunter get on the wrong side of his marker to play a slide-rule ball across the face of goal and Swift had the simple task of tapping home from close range.
In the dying minutes, Williams almost added gloss to the scoreline with a low effort which had O'Donnell at full stretch, to keep the ball out, but Jaap Stam's men successfully ran down the clock to maintain their play-off push.
Full-time- Reading 2 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Reading- Al Habsi, Gunter, Beerens (Grabban 65), Swift, Obita, McCleary (Popa 90), Moore, Kermorgant, Meite (Kelly 46), Williams, Blackett. Unused- Evans, Ilori, Jaakkola, Oxford.
Rotherham- O’Donnell, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood, Ward, Morris (Newell 58), Taylor, Ajayi, Fisher (Clarke-Harris 74), Adeyemi (Yates 83), Smallwood. Unused- Belaid, Bray, Purrington, Bilboe.
Referee- C Kavanagh
Attendance- 16711 (156).