Royals kick off 2024 with an important win at home. – Reading Today Online

Royals kick off 2024 with an important win at home. – Reading Today Online

Reading kicked off the New Year in style as they beat Exeter City 3-2 at the Select Car Leasing Stadium thanks to goals from Harvey Knibbs and Femi Azeez.

That result takes the side out of the relegation zone on goal difference as they look to kick-start their survival campaign in League One.

The Royals took the lead three times in the game as both sides showed their hunger to take home all three points in the tightly contested relegation battle.

This game came just three days after the Royals drew away to Cheltenham, having come back from two nil down to keep their unbeaten streak going.

Selles made three changes to the side that played on Friday with Mola, Bindon and Vickers coming into the team, replacing Holmes, Mbengue and Mukairu dropping out of the starting eleven.

Holmes was not involved at all in the matchday squad after having such a heavy presence in the team over the last month with Bindon taking his place in the back four.

Andy Yiadom missed out once again through injury with Selles saying the defender’s knee injury is still not quite sorted.

The last time Exeter faced the club was earlier this season at St James Park, with the home side winning two-one in added time to take the three points.

The game started lively with Reading attacking from the off. There was a penalty appeal four minutes in from Sam Smith, but referee Anthony Backhouse waved it away.

Exeter wanted a goal and went after one with some attacking crosses, but it was the Royals who took the lead thanks to Harvey Knibbs who dinked it in after some good build up play with Smith and Mola.

Femi Azeez nearly doubled the lead with a curling shot going just wide of the target as he cut in from the right wing.

However, the lead only lasted eight minutes as the away side equalised with a goal from the edge of the box shot by Zak Jules. His shot had too much power on it for Button to save as it flew into the back of the net.

The visitors nearly doubled their lead as Alex Hartridge missed from close range after beating the defence from a freekick.

Reading kept going though and just as the fourth official announced two added minutes an attack went underway. Knibbs whipped in a cross from the left wing towards Smith but it was Exeter’s Hartridge who got there first and headed it into his own net, giving the Royals the lead.

At the half-time whistle the home fans let out a cheer as their side went in ahead after a tough half of football in the first game of 2024.

There were no changes at half time for either side, but they both came out fighting in the second half. Exeter started the strongest with Jules looking to create a chance down the left before Bindon blocked the subsequent shot.

Selles made his first change by bringing on Paul Mukairu for Caylan Vickers in the 56th minute as he looked for some more energy down the left flank.

The visitors did not relent and equalised in the 68th minute thanks to a goal by Dion Rankine. The defenders failed to clear a cross, and the attacker was in the right place to slot it in.

Reading did respond as Savage and Mbengue replaced Mola and Craig in the 73rd minute with chances also falling for Knibbs and Azeez inside the area.

The Royals restored their lead in the 78th minute with Dorsett drifting into the middle and laying it off for Azeez to fire into the bottom corner from the edge of the box as the SCL erupted in celebration.

As the clock ticked on Ben Elliott replaced Azeez who received a round of applause as he made his way round to the dugout.

Following six minutes of added time the referee did blow the final whistle and confirmed the victory as Reading now make it six games unbeaten as they move out of the relegation spots on New Years Day.

 

They will look to continue their good form in their next game when they face Brighton U21’s at the Amex on the 9th of January.

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