News and Views

Reading 1-1 Cardiff: Honours Even In Score Draw

19 March 2016
By Alex Bower

"We should have won. If the referee sees Ameobi handle the ball before they score, deflect it into his path, we should have won that game 1-0. And it's a definite handball, it's in the middle of the pitch, the referee is close to it and we all saw it on the line."
- Reading Manager Brian McDermott

"We started the game well but, without being able to put a finger on it, we let it go. We gave away possession too easily, looked fragile at the back at times and they had opportunities which we granted."
- Cardiff City Manager Russell Slade

Garath McCleary seemed to have capped his substitute appearance with a beautifully taken winning goal for the Royals, but a poorly defended effort from Lex Immers meant that both Reading and Cardiff took away a point from Saturday's game at the Madejski Stadium. The Royals will have been disappointed once again with the result, having a multitude of chances to increase the scoreline and with a number of decisions not going their way from a refereeing perspective.

Reading manager Brian McDermott made three changes prior to kick-off, with Jake Cooper, Andrew Taylor and Stephen Quinn coming into the starting lineup in place of Anton Ferdinand, Jordan Obita and Matej Vydra. Notably, Cardiff were without goalkeeper David Marshall who was replaced by Simon Moore.

As is usually the case in recent times, Reading started off the better of the two sides but failed to convert early chances. The first fell to the ever creative Ola John who, after taking on three of the Cardiff players, fired his thirty yard effort straight at Moore. Yann Kermorgant arguably had the best opportunity to open the scoring when John's inch perfect through ball saw the Reading striker in one on one with the keeper. Some fast reactions from Moore in the Cardiff goal, however, prevented the Frenchman from giving Reading the lead.

Although Reading should have had the lead, they were not having it all their own way. After wasting a Scott Malone cross, Cardiff soon threatened the Reading goal. Joe Ralls picked out Craig Noone at the far post but his header bounced up onto the bar and away.

With only twenty-two minutes of the game gone, Reading were forced into a substitution when Hal Robson-Kanu went down injured. On in his place was Garath McCleary who, fifteen minutes later, handed Reading the lead. Once again John was the instigator, picking out Kermorgant. The striker headed the ball to McCleary who chested it before volleying it into Moore's net- A goal somewhat reminiscent of his stunning volley against Burnley in 2014.

The home side should have been even further out of sight before the half time break, with John once again making a nuisance of himself. After being played through by Quinn, John scampered past the Cardiff defence. Choosing to cut inside, his subsequent effort on goal was dragged wide. After once again finding himself in a scoring position and wasting the opportunity, it is clearly an element of his game that he needs to work on.

As the second half got underway, Reading reasserted themselves as the better of the two sides. Further efforts on goal fell to Taylor and John, but again both could only fire wide from range. With Reading failing to put the game beyond doubt, Cardiff still had ample opportunity to get back in the game. A Ralls free kick initially went unpunished, but the Bluebirds were to make their breakthrough just after the hour mark.

Despite a shout for hand ball in the build up, substitute Sammy Ameobi initially saw his deflected attempt stopped by the post. With Reading defenders slow to react, the ball bounced kindly into the path of Immers who nodded in from close range.

The scores now level, Reading pushed on to try and find a winner. Substitute Vydra had one of the better chances to restore Reading's lead but Moore pulled off an impressive save to prevent his volley going into the Cardiff net. Simon Cox also entered the fray late on but, stretching to reach the ball, he could not grab the late goal that would have given Reading the lead.

While it was a somewhat scrappy display from both sides, and another poor display from the referee, Reading will have been frustrated once again having only earned themselves a point. The home side had ample opportunity to get themselves at least another two goals but their shooting was simply not good enough. Prior to the game many Reading fans will have probably taken a point against a high flying Cardiff side, but once again the performance was somewhat lacking.

Of all the Reading performances, if one were to be singled out it would probably be John. Once again, the midfielder proved himself as the creative spark going forward for the home side and he often looked dangerous. This being said, his finishing is at times not up to scratch and he had several great chances to give Reading the lead.

Another player to make an impact was McCleary. Despite not starting the game, the Jamaican international took his chance very nicely and looked like an increasing threat on the right wing. He too had his moments, however, with his crossing being somewhat lacklustre.

Poor crosses seemed to be a theme of the day and were once again problematic. It seems to be a common occurrence these days that Reading crosses often fail to clear the first man. Once again, no matter who crossed the ball into the area, Reading failed to create any real chances- Not surprising when the Cardiff defence was able to intercept on the majority of occasions.

Once again McDermott's choice of formation is sadly a topic of discussion. The Reading manager is somewhat convinced that he is playing a 4-3-3 but if that is the case it is the least offensive I have ever seen. Yann Kermorgant was once again isolated for large portions of the game and, while he is a great target man, he is often flicking on the ball for the invisible strike partner.

When the Reading manager decided to bring on Matej Vydra, I for one was pleased. That was until he was brought on in place of Kermorgant and not alongside of him. Only with ten minutes of the game remaining did McDermott opt to bring on a second striker in the form of Cox. With nothing to lose for the rest of the season, why not play with two up front and actually try and end the season on a high.

Up next for Reading in the Championship is a Bolton side who find themselves at the bottom of the league table and on the wrong side of a 6-0 drubbing against Bristol City. The Royals won the reverse fixture 2-1 so the side should be optimistic of coming away with a victory. I, for one, hate to think how long McDermott would lock them in the dressing room for after that one if they don't...

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