News and Views

Match Preview: Rotherham United v Reading

21 October 2016
By Alex Bower

"We are not used to the feeling of losing and the players don't like that feeling. The players are determined to go out and do better on Saturday, I don't think they played badly on Tuesday because they worked very hard, but they will be doing that again to try and get a win in Rotherham."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"It's an important game for us now to bounce back from a last-minute goal, and we can show our character and resilience to come back from a disappointing evening. That last minute defeat will seem a long way away, and we'll be looking forward again."
- Reading FC Defender Chris Gunter

Reading will be hoping to follow-up Tuesday's late defeat to Aston Villa at the Madejski Stadium with a win away to Rotherham United. The Royals were level with the Villans as the game approached the final whistle with goals coming from Jonathan Kodjia and Yann Kermorgant. It was a last-minute penalty that would hand Villa the win, with Jordan Ayew converting with ease.

Bottom placed Rotherham will also have a point to prove, having just appointed Kenny Jackett as their new manager. The Millers have lost nine games so far this season and have won only once, at home against Brentford. As Tuesday's fixture demonstrated, however, if you are a new manager looking to improve a spell of poor form, then Reading are the team to play.

Previous games between the two teams are not a massive indicator as to how Saturday's game will go. Reading have won the most games with nineteen victories. Fourteen times the game has ended in a draw and Rotherham have won on ten occasions. Reading earned points from both fixtures last season, with a 1-1 draw away from home and a 1-0 win at the Madejski.

This season, Rotherham have lost their last six matches. They have not lost seven league games in a row since April 1962. The Millers have also not lost against Reading in five home league games. While the team are currently bottom and performing below par, everyone knows that it can all change at the drop of a hat in the Championship.

In terms of absences, Paul McShane remains a doubt for Reading with a hamstring injury that has seen him miss the last two games. Joseph Mendes, Jake Cooper and Yakou Meite are all also out for the Royals as they recover from their injuries. Rotherham, meanwhile, could be without Dael Fry, Kelvin Wilson and Tom Adeyemi.

Going into the game as favourites, Reading will be keen to win on Saturday following their late defeat to Villa. There is no such thing as an easy game in the Championship, however, and the Rotherham squad will be keen on impressing their new manager.

Recent Meetings With ROTHERHAM

23 February 2016 Championship Rotherham (HOME) W: 1-0 Read report...
20 October 2015 Championship Rotherham (Away) D: 1-1 Read report...
28 April 2015 Championship Rotherham (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
04 November 2014 Championship Rotherham (HOME) W: 3-0 Read report...
15 March 2005 Championship Rotherham (Away) L: 0-1 Read report...
21 August 2004 Championship Rotherham (HOME) W: 1-0 Read report...
07 February 2004 Division 1 Rotherham (Away) L: 1-5 Read report...
25 August 2003 Division 1 Rotherham (HOME) D: 0-0 Read report...
22 February 2003 Division 1 Rotherham (HOME) W: 3-0 Read report...
07 September 2002 Division 1 Rotherham (Away) D: 0-0 Read report...
03 March 2001 Division Two Rotherham (HOME) W: 2-0 Read report...
30 September 2000 Division Two Rotherham (Away) W: 3-1 Read report...
Reading and Rotherham - Head to head record (since August 1994)
Games Between Reading and Rotherham 12
Reading Wins 6
Rotherham Wins 3
Draws 3
Reading Goals 16
Rotherham Goals 10
Average Goals Per Game 2.17

Reading 1-2 Aston Villa: Talking Points

19 October 2016
By Alex Bower

Reading's unbeaten run at home this season came to an end as they were beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa. The result also meant that Villa fans did not have to wait any longer for an away win.

Here are some of the things that came out of Tuesday's game.

Lack Of Substitutions

The major talking point from this game was the lack of substitutes introduced by Jaap Stam. Much was said about the strength of Villa's squad and the options that were available to Steve Bruce before the game and that was shown by the substitutes he brought on. Bruce started the game with the likes of Jonathan Kodjia, Rudy Gestede, Leandro Bacuna and Albert Adomah. The manager then had Ross McCormack and Jordan Ayew available to him from the bench. These substitutes were made with less than fifteen minutes of the game to go, when the scores were level and with Villa increasingly pressing higher up the pitch.

It was obvious that Villa were looking to grab a winner and while Reading looked like they were struggling as the game came to a close, Stam made no changes. In the post-game interviews the manager has said that he did not feel that his side looked tired- A statement that many fans would disagree with. Even if they were not tired, the team on the pitch did not look like they were able to create sufficient chances to win the game. As a result, it would seem that despite all Stam says about looking to win games he was happy to draw this one.

The worst part of the whole situation was when Reading went behind. With only a couple of minutes of the game remaining he thought that their best chance of grabbing a goal was by bringing on the defensive Danzell Gravenberch and throwing him on up front. It was a pointless substitution and one that came far too late. It is a concerning situation for the likes of Dominic Samuel who is clearly missing something in the manager's eyes.

Opponents Have Cottoned On

Pretty much every football fan will now know about the appointment of Jaap Stam and the introduction of Dutch style football at Reading. The Royals play a specific way every game and in the early stages of the season it seems to have worked.

The issue is that the managers and coaching staff of opposition clubs have cottoned on and are playing the same way when they come to the Madejski. The Reading plan is to pass the ball around the back in order to coax the opposition out of their own half and create some space. As Villa showed, however, they are happy to sit back and defend deep until they are able to counter.

Even when Reading concede, the plan never really changes and as a result they are becoming somewhat predictable. The Royals are not helped by the lack of quality when it comes to deliveries into the box and the generally slow tempo of their buildup play.

While it is frustrating to watch oppositions sit back for large spells of the game, it is effective and Reading need to work out a way to break them down.

The Stress Of Passing Around The Back

One major part of the current Reading tactic is passing the ball back and forth around the back five. You know it is going to happen countless numbers of times throughout the game and it is not the most entertaining thing to watch.

Now, during the first half it was somewhat bearable when Villa were not overly keen on pushing up anywhere near the Reading defence. The second half, however, was when it got stressful. Early in the half Ali Al-Habsi almost handed Leandro Bacuna a golden opportunity to score when his short pass to George Evans very nearly did not make it. Watching Villa players chasing down the ball as it was played amongst the Reading defence with the fear that Al-Habsi would try another of his Cruyff turns and mess it up was not an enjoyable experience.

The concerning thing about the whole concept of passing around the back is that the Reading defence did not seem to be overly comfortable doing it either. When the pressure on them was increasing in the second half, players such as Al-Habsi and Liam Moore were shouting at each other when it went wrong. It is not an exciting tactic to watch on a good day but it is downright stressful on a bad one.

Competition At Full-Back

When you have options in a squad for a single position there is always going to be discussion amongst fans as to who they feel the best person to play there is. The best examples of this in the Reading squad at the moment just happen to be in both full-back positions.

Tyler Blackett and Chris Gunter were favoured at left-back and right-back against Villa and one glance at Twitter would suggest that fans were not happy about it. Gunter in particular came in for plenty of stick due to poor quality crossing, defensive positioning and his inability to block crosses.

Personally I feel that while Blackett did show signs of improvement in the second half, Jordan Obita is by far the better option at left-back. As for Gunter, while he is the scapegoat for what was largely a disappointing performance by the team, I would also like to see Tennai Watson play more often. Gunter has the experience, but Watson already looks like he can handle life in the Championship from what we have seen during his brief appearances in the first team.

Classy Memorial For Jamie Golding

While the result was not one to remember for the home fans, the touching round of applause for Jamie Golding during the game was a highlight. The Reading season ticket holder passed away earlier this month from bowel cancer at just 28 and fans wanted to commemorate him at the game. As a result, in the 28th minute of the game fans from all sides of the ground stood to applaud him as his picture came up on the big screen.

It was a classy moment, particularly from the Villa fans, and a reminder of how football can bring people together.

Late Penalty Hands Villa Rare Away Win

19 October 2016
By Alex Bower

After waiting 437 days, Aston Villa finally secured an away win on Tuesday evening as they beat Reading FC 2-1 at the Madejski Stadium. The Villans took the lead in the first half when a Jonathan Kodjia shot deflected past Ali Al-Habsi in the Reading goal. The Royals found an equaliser in the second half with a bullet header from Yann Kermorgant after Danny Williams' penalty was saved by Pierluigi Gollini. A last minute penalty for Villa was the final turning point of the game, which Jordan Ayew calmly dispatched to secure the win.

Jaap Stam named an unchanged side for the game following their 1-1 away draw against QPR. Steve Bruce, meanwhile, made five changes after his first game in charge against Wolves. Alan Hutton, Nathan Baker, Gary Gardner, Leandro Bacuna and Rudy Gestede all came into the starting eleven in place of Micah Richards, Tommy Elphick, Aaron Tshibola, Jack Grealish and Ross McCormack.

From the off it was clear that Bruce came to the Madejski with a game plan. With Reading now known for their Dutch style possession football, Villa sat deep with numbers and looked to counter. While Reading were maintaining a possession percentage of around 60-70%, the home side were struggling to create any real chances in front of goal for the majority of the game.

The first opportunity to break Villa down came after only a matter of minutes when Garath McCleary was picked out down the right. His low ball into the box was hacked clear from danger by the Villa defence. The story of the game, however, was the lack of quality when it came to crossing in the final third. Whether it was from open play or from corners, Reading were often incapable of clearing the first man. Yann Kermorgant often gets criticism for his goalscoring record, but it is difficult to convert crosses that do not reach you.

Despite the home side dominating possession, Villa were the team that took the lead. With players like Bacuna, Adomah and Kodjia in the team, it was clear that the away side would be dangerous if allowed to counter. Adomah broke down the left before playing a low ball across to Kodjia in the box. His shot cannoned off Tyler Blackett in the box and deflected past Al-Habsi into the bottom right corner.

The Royals had one final opportunity to level the score before half time but Gollini in the Villa goal met a rebound before John Swift could latch onto it. At half-time it was clear that possession was not the statistic that mattered and Reading went in 1-0 behind.

With the second half underway it looked like it would be more of the same. As time went on, however, Villa began to open up and push up the pitch more than in the first half. The away side were nearly gifted a second when Al-Habsi's pass to George Evans was short but it had just enough on it to keep out of Bacuna's reach.

After just eight minutes, the Royals grabbed the equaliser. McCleary raced onto a ball over the top of the Villa defence but was tripped by Aly Cissokho in the box. The referee awarded a penalty which Williams stepped up to take. The American international's effort was stopped by Gollini but he could only push it towards Kermorgant. The striker directed a bullet header into the top right corner of the goal to level the score.

The game was relatively even as the second half went on, with both sides trying to get a second. A McCleary strike from the edge of the box and an Evans header were both stopped by Gollini while Bacuna and Kodjia both fired wide of the Reading goal.

It was the Villa substitutes who would ultimately change the game, with Bruce bringing on Jordan Amavi, Jordan Ayew and Ross McCormack. Allowed far too much time on the ball, Ayew dribbled his way into the Reading box and was tripped by an outstretched Liam Moore. The referee once again pointed to the spot and Ayew calmly placed it into the bottom right corner.

Reading had only a matter of minutes to try and find the equaliser once more and Stam opted to bring on Danzell Gravenberch in place of Evans to try and do so. It was McCleary that came closest, however, as his optimistic shot from right of the box narrowly went wide as he fired across goal. The final whistle blew and Villa secured an away win to end both their poor away run and Reading's unbeaten run at home this season.

The appointment of Steve Bruce is a massive coup for Villa and the boost of his arrival is already showing. Tactically he got it spot on and his substitutes showed that they wanted to win the game more than Reading. A draw would have probably been a fair result but Reading just seemed to run out of steam as the game drew to a close.

"We posed a threat throughout, but you need to take into consideration that you're playing against a good side- and you can't afford to give a team like Villa any space with the quality and pace they have."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"I have to pay special mention to the supporters in the last 10 minutes. They breathed life into the lads. For a club that's been in trouble, over the past couple of years in particular, to have 5000 fans at Reading on a Tuesday night is remarkable."
- Aston Villa Manager Steve Bruce

Match Preview: Reading FC v Aston Villa

18 October 2016
By Alex Bower

"Every game that we play we try to win, if we play a side like Villa on the Tuesday it's not going to be easy. They've spent a lot of money and invested a lot of money in players and trying to build a team that has a chance of promotion to the Premier League. It won't be easy for them either. They've got a new manager and they'll want a result. They want to make it difficult for us, but we want to win our home games and play our style of football even against a good team like Villa."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"We have to be confident in what we do and keep going to make sure we are successful in games. When we play well we have to make sure we reward ourselves with three points. We want to keep going and we're ready for it."
- Reading Player Joey van den Berg

Reading will be looking to extend their unbeaten run at the Madejski Stadium to nine games in all competitions when they take on Aston Villa on Tuesday evening.

The Royals returned from the international break with a 1-1 draw against QPR at the weekend, securing eighth place in the Championship table in the process. Pawel Wszolek gave the Hoops the lead early in the first half but Danny Williams was on hand to level the score only a few minutes later.

Despite being relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season, Aston Villa have had a poor start to life in the Championship. One manager down and currently sitting twentieth in the table, things are not looking good. A positive for new manager Steve Bruce is that he managed to pick up a point in his first game against Wolves. Jonathan Kodjia gave them the lead after a quarter of an hour from the penalty spot. The equaliser also came as a result of a penalty, however, with Helder Costa converting.

If it was not bad enough for Villa already this season, they will also be without two important players in their defence. Captain Tommy Elphick and Micah Richards both picked up calf injuries against Wolves and subsequently they have no chance of featuring on Tuesday evening according to Bruce. Jack Grealish may also be absent from the game if the FA hand him a three game suspension for a stamp on a Wolves player. With results not going their way and confidence low, injuries and potential suspensions were the last thing they needed.

Reading, meanwhile, will be on a real high following their recent run in the Championship. The team is beginning to show a mental strength that has been absent in recent years and have an identity and style that many have picked up on in the media. They will, however, be without captain Paul McShane once more as he remains out with a hamstring injury. He is joined on the sidelines by Jake Cooper and Yakou Meite.

Villa have not won away from home for over a year but it is bound to happen sooner or later. The past fixtures between the teams suggest that perhaps it could be against Reading. Nineteen games have been played between Reading and Villa, with the Royals winning only two, drawing two and Villa winning the other fifteen. The last time the two sides met was in the 2012/13 season in the Premier League with Villa winning 1-0 at home and 2-1 away.

Even when bearing that in mind, the odds have to be in Reading's favour. The team's form at the Madejski has been impressive so far and the confidence in the Villa squad at the moment will surely make the home team the favourites. Once again the away side will probably sit deep and look to counter with the pace they have in their side. The issue will be whether the Royals can break through and whether Reading's strikers can start contributing goals.

Playing against Villa this early in Bruce's tenure, however, will be a positive for the Royals as the new manager himself has admitted that there is much work to be done. With over four thousand Villa fans coming down for the game, however, they could cause an upset.