News and Views

End Of Season Can't Come Fast Enough

20 April 2016
By Alex Bower

"It's a horrible run at the moment, we just need to get a point or something to get out of this little run. And we've got to keep going... all we can do is dig in and go again on Saturday."
- Reading Manager Brian McDermott

"We got off to a horrible start when we didn't pick up the man but the response from the players was very good. I thought we were a threat and the biggest plus is that we saw an improvement. It was a typical Championship game but thankfully it went our way."
- Hull City Manager Steve Bruce

Reading suffered their fourth successive defeat on Tuesday evening despite initially taking the lead early on through Jake Cooper. A first half goal from Abel Hernandez levelled the score for Hull and a late strike from defender Andrew Robertson was enough for the Tigers to secure all three points. While it was another night to forget for Reading, Hull's victory secured them at least a spot in the play-offs as they look for promotion back into the Premier League.

Brian McDermott made a couple of changes going into the game with Anton Ferdinand coming into defence and Deniss Rakels was handed a start up front alongside Matej Vydra and Simon Cox. With three of Reading's four strikers starting at once, it was one of the more attacking line-ups to be seen at the Madejski this season and one that appeared to work early on.

After just four minutes of the game Reading were to take the lead, but it was not through one of their strikers. Instead it was Oliver Norwood who delivered an inch perfect free kick into the box for Cooper to head into the Hull goal. While it was poorly defended by Hull, it was put away well by the young centre-back. The problem with scoring so early on, however, is that you then have to hold onto the lead for the majority of the game. Despite being the better team for large periods of the first half, Reading could only hold out until the eighteen minute mark.

Hernandez will have been earmarked as a threat prior to the game due to his pace- An asset that was demonstrated with Hull's opening goal. Following a long through ball by Tom Huddlestone, Hernandez outpaced Cooper before slotting home his nineteenth goal of the season through the legs of Ali Al-Habsi.

Hull had the better chances as the first half drew to a close, with Adama Diomande and Huddlestone coming closest to giving the away side the lead. Reading had their chances too, however, when Norwood tested Allan McGregor in the Hull goal and Harry Maguire only narrowly avoided putting the ball into his own net following an attempted clearance by Curtis Davies.

As the second half got under way, there was little to report for either side. That was to change on the hour mark when Rakels appeared to be fouled in the box by Maguire. The referee initially signalled for a penalty but following a discussion with the linesman opted instead for a corner. While the attendance was only 12,949, it was clear that the vast majority were dismayed at the referee's decision and it would appear that perhaps Rakels is already getting himself a reputation.

With continuous decisions not going Reading's way, the players became increasingly determined to try and grab a goal. Yann Kermorgant, on in place of Vydra, was linking up nicely with Rakels and the latter could only find the side netting with his effort. Stephen Quinn, playing against his former club, was also to have an attempt with his cross come shot but it was gathered by McGregor. Kermorgant then had his headed effort saved for the home side and Hernandez failed to give Hull the lead when his shot from the edge of the area was hit directly at Al-Habsi.

Just ten minutes from time, however, Hull were to grab their second goal of the game and ultimately seal the win. After being given far too much space by Garath McCleary, Robertson was able to run at the Reading defence and drill in a long range effort into the bottom corner of Al-Habsi's goal. While Reading's players often lacked the confidence to have an effort on goal, it was something that could not be said of Hull's left back.

Hull could have had the opportunity to increase the score further when substitute Chuba Akpom was fouled on the edge of the Reading area but the referee failed to give the decision once again. Ultimately, just two goals were needed for the away side to secure their comeback victory as they saw out the game. While the overall performance was an improvement on recent times, it was still not enough for Reading to take anything from the game.

Despite wanting to end the season on a high, the Royals are still struggling to make their superiority count. The players are clearly good at keeping possession most of the time, but the strikers are nowhere near clinical enough and the formation at times is not doing them any favours. Nine times out of ten, the Reading players will play the extra pass instead of taking on the shot. The end result is a wasted opportunity and a frustrated fanbase. With so much going against them this season, and refereeing decisions consistently being poor, the Reading players do not appear to have the mental strength to be able to hold onto games especially with nothing left to play for.

It is clear that the problems continue to pile up for Reading; The side have lost their fourth consecutive game in front of their lowest attendance in over twelve years with two players currently out through suspension due to fighting with one another. The fans are clearly not liking what they are seeing on the pitch and the players are struggling to get the results that give the fans something to get enthused about. It has been said for weeks now, but the end of the season could not come around fast enough.

Royals Slump To Fourth Consecutive Defeat

20 April 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The Royals slumped to their fourth consecutive defeat against promotion chasing Hull City leaving Brian MCDermott with the unenviable task of trying to motivate a squad containing a high proportion of loan signings through the final three games of a now meaningless season. There was little incentive for the players to raise their game, and judging by the extremely poor attendance, little incentive for the home fans to turn up to watch their team. Even a bright start, including an early goal from Jake Cooper in the fourth minute, failed to lift the mood of the crowd. Reading dominated possession but two defensive lapses allowed City to come back and snatch victory with a late Robertson goal.
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Royals Found Wanting In Home Defeat

09 April 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

"It's just a bad day. Bad days happen in football. We'll have to take that on the chin and go again at Middlesbrough on Tuesday."
- Reading Manager Brian McDermott

"We know what we're good at. We've got to work very hard and, when we're very organised and finish off one or two of the chances that we create, then we're an excellent team. I can't remember them having one meaningful chance."
- Birmingham City Manager Gary Rowett

Prior to Saturday's game at the Madejski, Reading's home form in 2016 was impressive. The Royals remained unbeaten and suggestions were being thrown around that their home ground was becoming a fortress. Two goals from Clayton Donaldson and Ryan Shotton were to put an end to that, however, and hand Birmingham their first Championship away win since January.

Following Reading's mid-week home victory against Nottingham Forest, Brian McDermott chose to name an unchanged team. As a result, Simon Cox was chosen to lead the front line alongside Yann Kermorgant and the midfield diamond was deployed once more. While this formation was somewhat effective against a poorly performing Forest team, it did not help Reading at all against the Blues.

In reality, Reading were poor throughout but got off to a less than ideal start. After only 73 seconds, Donaldson was picked out with ease to give Birmingham the lead. With Jordan Obita left to contend with the entirety of the left wing for large periods of the game, David Cotterill was allowed too much time to get his cross away from the right flank. Playing an inch perfect pass, Donaldson then had the easy task of heading past Ali Al-Habsi in the Reading goal.

With torrential rain not helping waning spirits, Reading had a couple of chances to level the score. The first fell to Lucas Piazon who somehow managed to blaze a shot from close range over the crossbar. Simon Cox will not have done himself any favours as his contract comes to an end, with his effort also being skied high and wide of Adam Legzdins in the Birmingham goal.

Just before the hour mark, the Blues were to double their lead. Cotterill was involved once again, this time having an effort on goal from a free kick. While Al-Habsi got his hand to this one, he could only palm it into the path of an awaiting Shotton who slotted the ball into the net.

Reading were struggling to make an impact in the game; A consequence of both a failing formation and a well organised Birmingham team. Poor weather conditions were making life difficult for both sides, however, with Paul McShane's headed pass come shot nearly squirming its way into the Birmingham goal.

As the first half drew to a close, Reading fans felt that they had a shout for two penalties. The first would have been harsh on the away side but Cox was adamant that he was fouled in the area. McShane had a better claim for a penalty when he was forced off the ball by Donaldson following a Norwood free kick. The referee was having none of it, however, and did not deem either to be fouls.

Reading had one final opportunity to get a goal back in the first half when Stephen Quinn was picked out in the centre of the Birmingham box. Despite his best efforts, the midfielder could only head wide of the goal. Reading went in at half-time to a chorus of boos and 2-0 down.

With the home side struggling to generate any attacking threat, McDermott made a change after the break bringing on Matej Vydra in place of Piazon. Despite now having three strikers on the pitch, Reading still could not make an impact. Birmingham were seemingly happy to hold onto what they had and Reading could not break them down.

Chances were few and far between in the second half. One rare opening did appear in the Birmingham defence when Danny Williams was allowed to run towards goal but his effort was easily saved by Legzdins. After an hour of the game, Reading had their first shot on target but it was never troubling the Birmingham keeper.

Part way through the first half it was clear that the formation was not working and Reading were struggling. As a result bringing in a winger or two in the second half was necessary, in my opinion. Therefore, when Garath McCleary appeared on the touchline just after the hour mark, I thought that McDermott would change the formation. Much to my surprise, he actually took off Chris Gunter and played McCleary as a roaming right back. It was a change that worked in that Reading had a fresh player on the pitch who was willing to run down the wing at the opposition. When they are running to and from the defensive back line with little support on that side of the pitch, however, it makes you question the manager's decisions.

Despite bringing Ola John into the fray, Reading managed to keep the majority of possession as the game drew to a close but continued to create nothing meaningful. Two headers from Jake Cooper and Kermorgant were the closest the home side came to grabbing a goal but it was not to be.

While the possession statistics will suggest that the score should have been tighter, Reading were lacklustre throughout and Birmingham won all three points with ease. At no point did the home side look like scoring and the heated discussions occurring on the pitch amongst the Reading players suggested that they knew they were not performing anywhere near their best.

One key point of contention from this game was the choice of formation. As Tuesday's game showed, the 4-4-2 diamond can work. When given free roam on the wings against weaker opposition, Obita and Gunter have shown that they can create chances going forward. On too many occasions this time out, however, they were left isolated defensively and Reading were stretched with Williams and Quinn having to fill in as central midfielders one minute and wingers the next. While work rate should not be faulted, many players were ineffective in the roles they were being asked to play.

Another point of contention, that links nicely to the last, is McDermott's tactical decisions. His choice to substitute Gunter in favour of playing McCleary as a combined full back/ winger was strange to say the least and waiting until there were less than twenty minutes of the game left to bring John into the game was too little too late. It is clear that McDermott has a set idea as to how he wants the Reading team to play, but it would seem that it is not going to plan.

While this game will not be one to remember fondly due to the horrible weather, inconsistent refereeing and poor performance, credit must be given to Birmingham for limiting the Royals so effectively. Reading have a tough run of games over the next few weeks, taking on the likes of Middlesbrough and Hull. If they are to take anything from those games, however, they will have to improve substantially on Saturday's performance.

Norwood Strike Secures Win From Behind

06 April 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

A stunning long range strike from Oliver Norwood earned the Royals a deserved victory over a Forest side lacking quality and the desire to win. Reading dominated possession from start to finish and were rewarded for their persistence with a second successive league win.

Having gone a goal behind against the run of play near the end of the first half a resilient Reading hit back late in the second half with goals from Vydra and Norwood to claim all three points. Reading played with a commendable passion and desire to win considering their position in the league with neither promotion or relegation a realistic possibility.
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