Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League
SOUTHAMPTON 1 READING 0
Southampton: J Puncheon (61 mins)
It is becoming increasingly difficult to write these match reports and remain even-handed and positive. For the last couple of away games the theme has at least changed from the rather hopeful 'if only we can hold onto a lead' to 'abandon all hope' because the side - free scoring at home - have become a timid animal away from the nest. This shot-shy defeat was the latest defeat in a must-win mustn't-lose fixture and the themes are familiar every time.
Hanging on at Wigan before capitulating then barely troubling Villa a few days later, a note of positivity after giving ManchesterUnited plenty to think about before two more trips to struggling rivals at either end of the country inside four days. Damningly on Saturday in St Mary's, home of the leakiest defence in the division, Reading barely tested Davis in the home goal. Trailing by a goal in the closing stages in a game they really need points from to keep in realistic touch, Reading were still being pinned back by their industrious, big-spending hosts in the closing stages. Saints could and should have added to their tally but in the end on goal was enough against a Reading side who offered progressively less the more the game wore on.
It is no suprise that Le Fondre is floundering when the lack of creativity from open play is not apparently addressed. Two of our three goals against United came from Shorey set pieces. Our opener at Wigan from the same route. Whilst our left back's dead ball skills are to be admired, in this league you need more than 'bits and pieces' football. The kind of percentage football we play doesn't cut the mustard in this league and what is more when it is ineffective as it was at St Mary's it is absolutely diabolical to watch and you begin to begrudge paying upwards of £35 for the privilege. At least that almost certainly isn't a problem we'll have to contend with next season.
I can think of one chance our wingers created all afternoon. From a HRK 2nd half cross of rare quality, Le Fondre's chance came and went as he nodded wide with the goal absolutely gaping. Our best chance of the day without doubt. It was always likely that a pourous Southampton defence would allow us gilt-edged chances but we were profligate with this one. HRK and McAnuff were poor on the day; HRK you can forgive somewhat given his relative youth and inexperience and the fact that he has contributed goals already this campaign, but McAnuff seems only to be selected on the strength of his captaincy as his end product - and more recently, more worryingly - work rate has not been adequate. In another curious tactical move, the captain was switched to centre-mid to replace the otherwise excellent Tabb in order to presumably add some much needed creativity to an always deep sittting central midfield. Hunt was introduced wide on the left and the kindest thing to say is that the Irishman delivered as much in twenty minutes as McAnuff had in 90. Ie. nought.
More curious tactics from the manager were in persisiting with Morrison who clearly was suffering from a knock. Before he was eventually replaced, the inevitable goal came when Clyne made strides down Southampton's right flank before delivering to Puncheon who was able to turn inside and avoid Morrison's desperate attempt at a challenge before slotting home. When Morrison was replaced five minutes after the goal, it was to a double-whammy of ironic cheers from the desperate and largely silent away support. Partly due to the fact that Morrison was clearly struggling before, during and after we conceded and partly due to the fact that Pearce was that replacement and many still feel that the exclusion of last season's player of the season over a contractual issue is just one of very many reason why Brian McDermott should begin to fear for his job.
One positive is that Reading kept very good shape for most of this game, as they did second half against Manchester United. For all Southampton's possession and territory they only really opened us up and punished us once in the game. For centre-halves as inexperienced as Morrison, Mariappa and Pearce are at this level to perform this way is quite admirable. But they are not helped by a midfield made up of two deep-lying, rather sluggish ball winners in Leigertwood and Tabb, HRK who blows hot and cold, and McAnuff who has waited his entire career for a chance to play at this level......and is currently wasting his opportunity with a succession of careless performances. When your team fail to create good chances from open play then any defensive slip at the other end is likely to be punished and - for the fourth game in arow - you will lose the game.
Saints enjoyed the best of it throughout, warning us in the opening minute with an effort from multi-million pound man Rodgriguex rather wastefully finding its way into the side-netting. Schneiderlin and Lallana both had good chances which went begging and as we began to find our feet in the first half you wondered whether we could nick something on the break and eek out a smash and grab as we had done on our previous, memorable visit to this venue. A Tabb effort after a driving run forced Davis into a fairly routine save and a HRK effort which came back off the upright as a result of that familiar friend, the Shorey set piece, gave us hope before half time that we could again punish Southampton. But a second half performance almost entirely devoid of quality saw us inevitably capitulate and fail to get back into the game. Roll on January.
This Premier League game took place 1900 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.