News and Views

Royals Found Wanting In Home Defeat

09 April 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

"It's just a bad day. Bad days happen in football. We'll have to take that on the chin and go again at Middlesbrough on Tuesday."
- Reading Manager Brian McDermott

"We know what we're good at. We've got to work very hard and, when we're very organised and finish off one or two of the chances that we create, then we're an excellent team. I can't remember them having one meaningful chance."
- Birmingham City Manager Gary Rowett

Prior to Saturday's game at the Madejski, Reading's home form in 2016 was impressive. The Royals remained unbeaten and suggestions were being thrown around that their home ground was becoming a fortress. Two goals from Clayton Donaldson and Ryan Shotton were to put an end to that, however, and hand Birmingham their first Championship away win since January.

Following Reading's mid-week home victory against Nottingham Forest, Brian McDermott chose to name an unchanged team. As a result, Simon Cox was chosen to lead the front line alongside Yann Kermorgant and the midfield diamond was deployed once more. While this formation was somewhat effective against a poorly performing Forest team, it did not help Reading at all against the Blues.

In reality, Reading were poor throughout but got off to a less than ideal start. After only 73 seconds, Donaldson was picked out with ease to give Birmingham the lead. With Jordan Obita left to contend with the entirety of the left wing for large periods of the game, David Cotterill was allowed too much time to get his cross away from the right flank. Playing an inch perfect pass, Donaldson then had the easy task of heading past Ali Al-Habsi in the Reading goal.

With torrential rain not helping waning spirits, Reading had a couple of chances to level the score. The first fell to Lucas Piazon who somehow managed to blaze a shot from close range over the crossbar. Simon Cox will not have done himself any favours as his contract comes to an end, with his effort also being skied high and wide of Adam Legzdins in the Birmingham goal.

Just before the hour mark, the Blues were to double their lead. Cotterill was involved once again, this time having an effort on goal from a free kick. While Al-Habsi got his hand to this one, he could only palm it into the path of an awaiting Shotton who slotted the ball into the net.

Reading were struggling to make an impact in the game; A consequence of both a failing formation and a well organised Birmingham team. Poor weather conditions were making life difficult for both sides, however, with Paul McShane's headed pass come shot nearly squirming its way into the Birmingham goal.

As the first half drew to a close, Reading fans felt that they had a shout for two penalties. The first would have been harsh on the away side but Cox was adamant that he was fouled in the area. McShane had a better claim for a penalty when he was forced off the ball by Donaldson following a Norwood free kick. The referee was having none of it, however, and did not deem either to be fouls.

Reading had one final opportunity to get a goal back in the first half when Stephen Quinn was picked out in the centre of the Birmingham box. Despite his best efforts, the midfielder could only head wide of the goal. Reading went in at half-time to a chorus of boos and 2-0 down.

With the home side struggling to generate any attacking threat, McDermott made a change after the break bringing on Matej Vydra in place of Piazon. Despite now having three strikers on the pitch, Reading still could not make an impact. Birmingham were seemingly happy to hold onto what they had and Reading could not break them down.

Chances were few and far between in the second half. One rare opening did appear in the Birmingham defence when Danny Williams was allowed to run towards goal but his effort was easily saved by Legzdins. After an hour of the game, Reading had their first shot on target but it was never troubling the Birmingham keeper.

Part way through the first half it was clear that the formation was not working and Reading were struggling. As a result bringing in a winger or two in the second half was necessary, in my opinion. Therefore, when Garath McCleary appeared on the touchline just after the hour mark, I thought that McDermott would change the formation. Much to my surprise, he actually took off Chris Gunter and played McCleary as a roaming right back. It was a change that worked in that Reading had a fresh player on the pitch who was willing to run down the wing at the opposition. When they are running to and from the defensive back line with little support on that side of the pitch, however, it makes you question the manager's decisions.

Despite bringing Ola John into the fray, Reading managed to keep the majority of possession as the game drew to a close but continued to create nothing meaningful. Two headers from Jake Cooper and Kermorgant were the closest the home side came to grabbing a goal but it was not to be.

While the possession statistics will suggest that the score should have been tighter, Reading were lacklustre throughout and Birmingham won all three points with ease. At no point did the home side look like scoring and the heated discussions occurring on the pitch amongst the Reading players suggested that they knew they were not performing anywhere near their best.

One key point of contention from this game was the choice of formation. As Tuesday's game showed, the 4-4-2 diamond can work. When given free roam on the wings against weaker opposition, Obita and Gunter have shown that they can create chances going forward. On too many occasions this time out, however, they were left isolated defensively and Reading were stretched with Williams and Quinn having to fill in as central midfielders one minute and wingers the next. While work rate should not be faulted, many players were ineffective in the roles they were being asked to play.

Another point of contention, that links nicely to the last, is McDermott's tactical decisions. His choice to substitute Gunter in favour of playing McCleary as a combined full back/ winger was strange to say the least and waiting until there were less than twenty minutes of the game left to bring John into the game was too little too late. It is clear that McDermott has a set idea as to how he wants the Reading team to play, but it would seem that it is not going to plan.

While this game will not be one to remember fondly due to the horrible weather, inconsistent refereeing and poor performance, credit must be given to Birmingham for limiting the Royals so effectively. Reading have a tough run of games over the next few weeks, taking on the likes of Middlesbrough and Hull. If they are to take anything from those games, however, they will have to improve substantially on Saturday's performance.

 

Discussion On This Story:

 windermere_royal

» 09 Apr 2016 17:39

Shocking doesn`t do it justice. clueless trash. 71% possession but created absolutely nothing

 royalp-we

» 09 Apr 2016 18:00

Absolutely gutted for those paying for a day ticket today.

I've come to accept I wasn't getting any more value for my money this year.

The players should hang their heads in shame. But they won't. Expecting much of the same till May.

Fwiw my player ratings:

Al Habsi 5: little to do but that free kick palm to their player was shocking, should have got much more on it
Gunter 5: some good runs down the RW in the first half but should have marked their player for the palmed free kick
Obita 7: IMO the only player to take any credit today
McShane 6: didn't do much wrong but stood off too much
Cooper 6: See McShane
Norwood 5: love him but for all the possession didn't make any passes worthwhile
Williams 4: I'm a fan but he was just clueless today
Quinn 5: See Norwood
Piazon 5: missed a great opportunity in that first half
Cox 5: work horse. That is all
Yann 4: no notable contribution moving forward

Subs: can't be arsed to write anymore, I'm off for an round of sympathy shots

Final thoughts: what the f*ck is going to happen in the summer. WHY WONT THE BOARD SAY ANYTHING

 blueroyals

» 09 Apr 2016 18:01

4s for the players

1 for the manager

 John Madejski's Wallet

» 09 Apr 2016 18:01

Well that was f'cking painful

Birmingham nicked 2 goals and didn't even try to score beyond that. We were just clueless against them.
Fair play to them, they'd done their homework..... harry us into always passing sideways/backwards, and sit back knowing we can't cross for sh*t (Gunter and Obita just woeful) and we have no plan B

Hard to single someone out, but Norwood just sat too deep, underhit passes and slowed everything down. But just how bad was Williams?! Constantly running in to trouble and pushed off the ball like child. Inept in every way

 72 bus

» 09 Apr 2016 18:07

I have had a season ticket for the last 15 seasons, today was my last game.
Simply can't bring myself to sit through the remaining home games, next season after a summer off I may think differently but this squad is simply not worth paying to watch.

 genome

» 09 Apr 2016 18:11

Anyone else spot the helmet in Y25 sporting a Reading shirt with "Yaya Toure" on the back?

I despair, sometimes I really do.

 Royalwaster

» 09 Apr 2016 18:14

Don't think you can blame the players today. All the managers fault. No width, no strategy. Clueless.

 Sutekh

» 09 Apr 2016 18:17

Utter ******* shambles

That is all.

 John Madejski's Wallet

» 09 Apr 2016 18:20


tbf it worked well on Tuesday.

I though bringing on McCleary at RB was a great move, our formation was giving Obita and Gunter loads of space so McCreary should have exploited it. Instead he did 2 good runs then turned into Gunter, just passing it sideways or back and no wanting to take on his man

 P!ssed Off

» 09 Apr 2016 18:25


tbf it worked well on Tuesday.


It didn't work well.
The last two games we've relied on speculative long range shots to beat shit teams in shit form.

 Sutekh

» 09 Apr 2016 18:28


tbf it worked well on Tuesday.


It didn't work well.
The last two games we've relied on speculative long range shots to beat shit teams in shit form.

Exactly and today we played a decent team in crap form and look where it got us. Absolutely detest the diamond formation unless you have world class players.

 John Madejski's Wallet

» 09 Apr 2016 18:29


tbf it worked well on Tuesday.


It didn't work well.
The last two games we've relied on speculative long range shots to beat shit teams in shit form.
But those games we'd been missing a f'ck load of sitters. So we were performing, just not finishing.

Today was just woeful


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