News and Views

Royals Stung By Bees In 2-1 Defeat

29 December 2015
By Alex Bower

"They were quality goals from Brentford but, no, that doesn't soften the blow."
Reading Manager Brian McDermott

"I thought all three goals in the game were of real quality. It was a great strike from Ryan and I think Sergi tried to top him with that one."
Brentford Manager Dean Smith

Since Brian McDermott returned for his second spell as Reading manager, his Royals side have thus far had mixed fortunes. The 1-0 victory at the Madejski against Blackburn put a temporary halt to Reading's seemingly never-ending unlucky results and gave a rosy hue to the new managerial appointment. Last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Wolves, however, brought everyone back down to earth as normal service resumed.

With just two days respite, Reading returned to action at the Madejski on Monday night against a relatively in-form Brentford side. Despite McDermott's recent comments about making the Madejski a fortress, the home side lost the game 2-1 - their sixth defeat in seven games and the latest in a worrying period of form for the Royals.

Ultimately it was two eye-catching goals from Ryan Woods and Sergi Canos that handed the away side the victory. A nicely worked goal converted by substitute Garath McCleary drew Reading back to 1-1, but the home side were made to pay for their first-half complacency in front of goal.

McDermott made only two changes going into the game with Ola John and Lucas Piazon brought into the starting line-up in place of Garath McCleary and Matej Vydra. Vydra is a player that has seemingly divided fan opinion in recent weeks with his underwhelming performances, but McDermott's decision to leave both him and Orlando Sa on the bench in favour of starting Hal Robson-Kanu in the lone striker role was a choice that will have raised a few eyebrows.

This being said the Welsh International made a nuisance of himself up front in the first half, chasing down the Brentford defence at every possible opportunity. While playing as the sole striker may still not be Robson-Kanu's forte, his work rate has certainly improved since returning from injury.

Reading, once again, dominated the early stages of the game and had the supporters in full voice with the likes of Robson-Kanu and Nick Blackman having chances. Ola John was arguably the most impressive and definitely the most creative going forward. The midfielder does still have to work on the defensive side of his game, however, and was partially at fault for Brentford's opening goal. With John pushed high up the pitch, Woods was allowed to run at Stephen Quinn and Oliver Norwood before unleashing a powerful drive from 25 yards out into the back of Jonathan Bond's goal. It was a beautifully hit strike but the fact that he was allowed to run at the Reading defence without a care in the world will have been a concern.

Going into half-time the Royals remained a goal behind but also lost John through injury. The midfielder was Reading's best offensive player in the opening period so he was a great loss to a side that needed to penetrate the Brentford defence in the second half. With this in mind, McDermott made two changes at half time - taking off John and Robson-Kanu and bringing on McCleary and Vydra in their place. As Reading's two best players in the first half, it was a decision that was a concern.

This being said, the two Reading substitutes were to make their mark on the game with Vydra initially coming closest to scoring. A well worked Reading move ultimately saw a Quinn cross find Vydra in the box but his header bounced up off the pitch onto the bar. Coming up to the hour mark, some well worked passing around the Reading box saw McCleary in on goal who slotted the ball calmly past David Button in the Brentford goal.

With the backing of the crowd and momentum in their favour, Reading were chasing the winner. The Royals were, however, enjoying a lot less possession in the second half and inviting pressure on themselves. In the hope of finding another goal, McDermott brought on Rowan Liburd in place of Lucas Piazon and subsequently doubled his strike force. This meant that Orlando Sa was to remain on the bench - a decision that many questioned post-match.

It was Brentford that were to score again, however, with Liverpool loanee Sergi Canos grabbing the winner in style. After being given the ball on the right, Canos flicked it over Quinn first time then knocked it past Michael Hector before hitting a half-volley past Bond. Brentford scored two beautiful goals largely against the run of play, while Reading managed to play keep ball for periods but struggled to make it count.

Any chance of another Reading comeback was thwarted when Hector was sent off after a second yellow was awarded for diving. The Royals also have Paul McShane to thank once more as he prevented the scoreline from getting any worse for the home side with some last ditch defending. As the final whistle went it was clear the Reading squad were thoroughly frustrated with the result and rightfully so. Poor refereeing decisions throughout did not help matters but once again Reading were not able to make their superiority count.

One player who is deserving of a mention is Stephen Quinn. Since returning from injury, Quinn has been asked to fill in in the left-back position and has largely done so impressively. His work rate cannot be faulted and he continuously won the ball back all over the pitch. The problem is, he is not a left-back. At times he was unsure of who to close down and got caught out for both goals. This being said, the Reading squad is a whole lot better with Quinn in it and it has already been demonstrated that they would be lost without him.

A greater concern for the Royals will be the disappearance of Nick Blackman. The main goalscorer in the early weeks of the season, Blackman has since lost confidence and at times disappears from the games completely. Whether it is frustration about having to play out wide or simply because he is no longer scoring goals, Blackman is not making an impact. Another who isn't having an impact is Lucas Piazon. While his performance against Brentford was an improvement, he is still arguably too lightweight for the Championship.

One of the most worrying aspects, however, is Reading's clear inability to make use of any set piece. Corners, throw-ins, you name it, Reading cannot use them to their advantage. Corners in particular continue to be a problem, with twelve of them going to waste in the latest game alone. In a league where games are often tight affairs, the Royals really need to find a way of converting these kind of chances. It is clear that the Royals have been working hard in training on their passing play but at times they can overthink things rather than get back to basics by having an effort on goal.

With the January transfer window fast approaching and a number of youngsters- including Dominic Samuel and Tariqe Fosu - returning from loan, there is an interesting few weeks ahead for McDermott and Reading. Bristol City are next for the Royals in the Championship and they take on Huddersfield in the FA Cup in the new year - both providing opportunities to regain some kind of form and return to winning ways. Taking recent results into consideration, however, confidence must be at a concerning low and something that must be remedied sooner rather than later.

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