Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League


EVERTON 3 READING 1

Reading: H Robson-Kanu (84 mins).
Everton: M Fellaini (42 mins), S Pienaar (59 mins), K Mirallas (66 mins).

The City of Liverpool is renowned for its friendliness and its sense of humour. The place has certainly been friendly to Brian McDermott; his first win as Reading manager came in an FA Cup tie at Anfield and the following year our faltering league form was boosted by a victory across Stanley Park at Goodison which provided the spark for an exceptional run of results, taking us to the play off final. This time though, the joke was on Brian as his team – depleted by injury and suspension – demonstrated its weakness in depth by coming up well short against a strong Everton side.

Reading lined up with a 4-4-2 formation. Pogrebnyak’s self-inflicted absence from the team left us with the options of ALF and Hunt upfront and McDermott decided to pair them together. There was a lot of sense behind that decision as neither of these sub-six footers would be effective on their own up front as Pogrebnyak can be, but the resultant situation of four in midfield is always a concern given our lack of pace and quality on the ball in the middle of the park. McDermott selected Akpan and Leigertwood, the latter inconceivably the subject of much ire from many Reading fans who seem to think that despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, the marginalised Danny Guthrie is somehow the answer to all of our problems. 4-4-2 this season has caused Reading to be overrun on many occasions in midfield and although Everton are not as free-flowing as an Arsenal or a Swansea, they became the latest in a long line of teams to dominate possession against us. This is not a particularly difficult objective to achieve, given Reading’s unerring ability to give the ball away as if it were dangerous to their health.

Everton served notice of their intentions in the opening minute when Jelavic nodded a presentable chance wide of the goal. Reading settled more into the game with the returning Pearce in decent form, making an absolute mockery of the decision to drop him from the team against Wigan. The best chance at nil nil came Reading’s way when a Harte corner found its way scruffily to ALF who hit the ball hard and true only to see his effort rebound from the woodwork. This was a gilt-edged chance and when you are struggling to create good openings these openings need to be exploited. Apart from that chance, Harte’s set piece delivery was very disappointing, the game plan always seemed to be to put the dead ball to the far post for Pearce to win the aerial battle and nod the ball back across goal. When you are executing this very same drill every time then it becomes very easy to defend, you need some variation and Reading demonstrated a very primitive approach to an area in which we will need to be strong given our lack of quality in creating good opportunities from open play.

Harte is in the side primarily for his set pieces, certainly not for his defensive abilities. Inevitably it was from a right wing Everton cross which led to the opening goal, a lack of any Reading pressure on the delivery and the looping header from Marouanne Fellaini which beat third-choice ‘keeper Stuart Taylor, on his Reading debut replacing the injured Adam Federici. The goal came barely three minutes from the interval with Reading close to having reached a psychologically important milestone of reaching the break with parity. Taylor had earlier saved impressively from Jelavic who raced clear when Mariappa failed to deal with a ball over the top and it was another Mariappa misjudgement attempting a clearance just before the hour which put the game more or less to bed, Pienaar was able to exploit the resulting gap in the Reading defence and he hit a swerving effort from distance past Taylor. Pienaar it was midway through the second half who really put the tin lid on it with a measured ball bypassed Kelly and left Kevin Mirallas to finish with composure and Reading were comfortably beaten.

The one ray of hope is in the commitment and the spirit of this side, which saw Kelly save a certain goal with a last ditch tackle and Ian Harte clearing off the line at the death. With the points differential so narrow at the bottom, the final reckoning may be determined by goal difference so it is important that the team continue to plug away even when the game is apparently up. HRK narrowed that goal difference with a neat header from a Harte cross with 5 minutes to go but the score felt a little as if it owed much to Everton playing in a comfort zone rather than Reading demonstrating any real quality. HRK himself seems to have a happy knack of notching goals, and with Pog’s suspension encompassing the next two fixtures it might be worth considering starting him ahead of Hunt who huffs and puffs but rarely succeeds in blowing anyone’s house down. The all round performance on the day at Goodison really was not necessarily a poor one, but too often possession was surrendered meekly and even one of our more measured performers on the ball, Captain McAnuff, was hurrying long clearances away from the edge of the Reading area when there was time and space to keep the ball and put together a counter attack. That in itself just isn’t good enough at this level.

Our Premier League status won’t depend on results at home strongholds like Goodison Park, but when the team surrenders home points abjectly as we did against Wigan then there is pressure to improve on the woeful tally of 5 points accumulated outside of Berkshire this season and on the evidence of the first 28 games of the season that won’t be achieved by playing a 4-4-2. If – as seems inevitable – Reading are relegated this season there will no doubt be plenty of words written and endless analysis of the reasons why. But the failures can basically be summarised in 4 words – squad not strong enough.
Neil Maskell

This Premier League game took place 1941 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.