News and Views

Reading 3-2 Brentford: Things We Learned

16 February 2017
By Alex Bower

Reading fought their way back to victory on Tuesday evening with the eventful fixture against Brentford ending 3-2. Despite going ahead through John Swift, the Royals let their lead slip in the second half. Goals from Jota and Lasse Vibe after the hour mark gave Brentford a 2-1 lead. Danny Williams led the Reading comeback with his goal before substitute Roy Beerens fired into an open net for what would be the winner. After an eventful game, here are some of the things we learned.

Passion And Belief Grows By The Game

While the game didn't exactly go to plan for Reading, it was a hard fought win for the home side. In previous seasons the squad would have collapsed when they went behind but this season it is clear their mental toughness is on a different level. Yes, some of the players had a few choice words to say to each other when Brentford took the lead, but it is obvious that this team believes they should be winning and will push themselves in order to do so.

All you need to do is have a look at the picture of Liam Moore that circulated on social media straight after the game to see what it meant to the squad. The defender wasn't alone, however, with the team urging the crowd to make some noise (including Garath McCleary who made the effort to appeal to those in attendance despite being run off his feet).

As a Reading fan it was at times a stressful one to watch but the atmosphere after the third goal and at full-time is why we keep coming back.

Defensive Frailties

It's something that is talked about a fair amount in recent games but against Brentford in particular it was a worry. As Reading fans will be all too aware, Captain Paul McShane, Joey van den Berg and Tiago Ilori are all currently missing through injury. Tyler Blackett has done a fairly good job at filling in at centre-back in the past but their absence is being felt.

The other concern will be for Reece Oxford. Apparently rather than play a natural centre-back in that position, Stam would rather play Chris Gunter there and drag Danny Williams back to right full-back. While it is impressive that Reading are still winning without their steadying influences at the back, the sooner they return the better.

More In Midfield

One of the main concerns during the game was the ease at which Reading gave the ball away in midfield. John Swift, in particular, has not been the same player he was prior to his injury but is still managing to pick up goals. On several occasions, however, it was his passes that failed to find their target.

In fact the final ball was a problem for the Royals for a large portion of the game with a lot of attacking plays collapsing due to a poorly placed pass. One player who has stood out to me in recent times is George Evans. His steady influence in front of the defence is much needed and he showed his class when brought on against Brentford.

Whether it was due to tiredness or just lack of concentration, there were far too many errors being made in midfield that will hopefully be ironed out before the next game.

Player Positioning

As has been mentioned, Stam has several injuries to contend with and that has been shown with his recent squad selections. Those teams would also suggest that the manager definitely has his favourite players in the squad who he wants to play regardless of position.

Take, for example, Garath McCleary. The winger has done an amazing job this season for the Royals and has subsequently been a vital player for the team. Against Brentford he lined up as a striker alongside Lewis Grabban. In the past he has also played as a winger and a full-back. Despite being a similar kind of player to Grabban, Stam opted to play the pair up front.

McCleary is most effective when he is running at defenses down the wing. At times it seems that Stam needs him in the team but plays him in different positions as to where he can fit him in that day. It's a similar scenario for players like Grabban who has already played as a central midfielder and striker, Williams as a central midfielder and full-back and a variety of left/right-backs filling in at centre-back. Oh and don't forget striker Yann Kermorgant the part-time defender.

At times it has worked, at times it hasn't. You can't help but think, however, that the straightforward option of playing squad members in their best positions would be the most effective plan.

A Win Is A Win

One thing that Reading fans are particularly good at (myself included) is analysing games in depth regardless of results. Each game there will be things teams do well and things that they don't do as well. At the end of the day, however, you just have to take every game as it comes and do what you can to win.

Reading took the lead, lost control of the game for a large spell and then lost the lead to boot. They didn't give up, however, and thanks to some great substitutions from Stam (which arguably could have been a little earlier) they managed to grab the win. There will be things for Stam and his squad to work on before the next game but the most important thing is that Reading have kept up with their promotion rivals ahead of some very tough games.

Royals Snatch Win In Five Goal Thriller

15 February 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

In a quite remarkable match Reading somehow snatched a victory from an excellent Brentford side. It was a game which had everything. A heady cocktail of great goals, superb defending, free flowing play from both teams, and numerous errors (not least from referee Stroud) which produced one of the most entertaining games of the season. Brentford fans will be wondering how they lost a game in which they played some outstanding attacking football and outplayed Reading for long periods of the game. Royals fans will not care having seen their team come back in spectacular fashion and move within touching distance of the play-offs.

Match Preview: Reading v Brentford

14 February 2017
By Alex Bower

"Brentford have got a great team. They like to play football as well. They have quality players upfront, in midfield, well basically everywhere in their team. We've seen that if you give them time and let them play then they are going to make it very difficult for us."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"We know this league is hard and that every team will make it difficult to get a win. There will be more surprises to come, so we need to concentrate and keep going. Tuesday is another game we'll be trying to win."
- Reading FC Striker Yann Kermorgant

While the Valentine's Day fixture is not ideal for some Reading FC fans, the Royals will take on Brentford FC on Tuesday evening. Reading will be hoping to improve on their 0-0 draw at the weekend against Barnsley while Brentford will want to bounce back from a 4-2 away defeat to Preston North End.

Jaap Stam's men will have been disappointed with what was their second draw on the bounce. The Royals are, however, still very much in the promotion race and currently sit fourth in the Championship table.

The continuing concern for Reading will be their defensive injuries. Paul McShane, Joey van den Berg and Tiago Ilori remain sidelined while Jordan Mutch may miss out again after picking up a knock. Brentford manager Dean Smith, meanwhile, has no new injury worries but will be without Rico Henry, Alan Judge and Lewis Macleod.

Reading will once more go into the game as favourites but, as the Barnsley result demonstrated, anything can happen in this league. Brentford also happen to be somewhat of a bogey team for the Royals, with the Bees winning five of their last seven league meetings with the Berkshire club.

Regardless of result, the game should have plenty of plenty of goals if history is anything to go on. Brentford won the reverse fixture 4-1 back in September and their six league games in 2017 have seen 25 goals scored (13 for and 12 against). If Reading can show signs of improvement on the attacking front and cope with the ever worsening surface, then this game could be theirs for the taking.

Is the Tish coming home? A Villa fan's view

14 February 2017
By Villa Till I Die

Jack of Villa Till I Die investigates Aaron Tshibola's rather underwhelming first half-season at Villa Park. With the midfielder already sent on loan to Forest for the remainder of the 16/17 campaign, Jack wonders whether a return to the Madejski at the end of the season is on the cards.

It's fair to say our clubs haven't had much cross-over in terms of comings and goings in the transfer market. Nicky Shorey, who as you know, spearheaded Reading's 2005/2006 promotion to the top flight came to Villa Park in 2008 but was unable hold down a regular starting spot under then-manager Martin O'Neil. We also acquired the services of Steve Sidwell after his bench-warming 2007/2008 season at Stamford Bridge, but similarly, the English starlet failed to pull up trees over in the West Midlands.

With Aston Villa being a club barely-recognisable since the heady days of those top 6 finishes in the late noughties, it wouldn't be until last summer that our two clubs would cross paths again following the July 10th capture of Aaron Tshibola.

The 22-year-old arrived at Villa Park with very little known about him. After browsing Reading forums and blogs at the time, I remember getting the feeling that Tish certainly made his presence felt when he put on a Reading shirt. He played just 12 times for the Royals in 15/16 but his promising debut season got cut short after a rather unfortunate hamstring injury.

Operating mainly as a holding player, it seemed as though his so-called energy and enthusiasm to get around the pitch would stand us in good stead in a league which tended to reward guts and physical desire over technical showmanship.

But despite given a good run out in the side by ex-manager Roberto Di Matteo, the midfielder's equalising goal against Newcastle United back in September ended up being his only positive contribution in a Villa shirt. Not for a lack of trying, Tish just couldn't assert himself in Villa's midfield.

Under the weight of expectation from Villa's disillusioned fan base, RDM was in a race against time to find a starting line-up and formation which would help propel us back to the Premier League at the first attempt. But with Villa's starting 11 and tactics changing more frequently than the British weather, Tish along with many other players, never got settled in a team which itself, was never settled either.

Will he stay or will he go?

For entirely obvious reasons, his return to Reading hinges on their promotion prospects this season. Should the Royals not go up, given Steve Bruce's spending spree in the January transfer window which saw him bring in three new central midfielders, it would make sense for Tshibola to return to his former club and pick up where he left off before his injury in 2016.

After joining Nottingham Forest on loan along with disruptive teammate Ross McCormack, a good stint in a Reds shirt could tempt the club to sign him on a permanent basis at the end of the season. With Reading themselves enjoying a good season in the English second flight this year, many would argue that Tish's chances of getting back into Reading's team are slim anyway with the likes of George Evans and Liam Kelly performing well in the centre of the park.

Would you like to see Aaron Tshibola make a return to the Madejski stadium at the end of the year?