News and Views

Royals Start Season With 1-0 Home Win

06 August 2016
By Alex Bower


"It was very good to watch, that's what we're aiming for. I know you probably can't do that against every team and this is only the start. There is a lot of hard work ahead and we're not there yet- and they've done very well in pre-season."- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"You need confidence and a victory gives you confidence for the next few games. I think we started off well and that's a boost for us. We believe in ourselves and we have to keep on believing. This start will definitely help."- Reading FC Player Joey van den Berg

"We're disappointed but it's a lesson to learn. We knew Reading were going to play high-risk football and if it comes off, it's all well and good. But when we did our job, we got into some good areas."- Preston North End Manager Simon Grayson

Jaap Stam and his Reading side got the new 2016/17 Championship season off to an ideal start on Saturday afternoon. Midfielder John Swift scored on his debut for the club- having signed from Chelsea during the transfer window- and handed Reading a 1-0 at the Madejski Stadium.

Following the departure of Oliver Norwood only a matter of days before the start of the season, Stam's first team choice became all the more interesting. Predictably Ali Al-Habsi started in goal, with Chris Gunter and Jordan Obita as full-backs. Somewhat surprisingly, partnering Paul McShane at centre-back was Joey van den Berg- Who after his chaotic performance against AFC Bournemouth could have been moved forward to cover Norwood's position. Instead George Evans, Danny Williams and John Swift filled the three central midfield positions, with Roy Beerens making his debut out wide with Garath McCleary. Deniss Rakels was subsequently asked to play up top as the sole striker.

After an emotional and perfectly delivered tribute to Eamonn Dolan before kick-off, the game started with Reading on top from the off. Preston's tactic of sitting deep was also immediately clear. McCleary presented the Royals with their first opportunity of the game after just five minutes but his drilled cross could not be turned in by Obita. Throughout the first half, Preston were well off the pace and often could only watch as Reading tried to pass the ball around their two compact lines of four. The away side thought they had the upper hand when Jermaine Beckford applied the finish from close range but the play was pulled back for a Joe Garner handball.
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Discussion On This Story:

 PieEater

» 06 Aug 2016 20:03

In summary a really good result in a game we completely dominated and should have won by 2 or 3. Rakels missed what looked to be a sitter but as it turned out it didn't matter.

We played some really nice football with Williams in particular impressing, Evans and Swift also had good games - it's not often you can say that about our midfield. Swift took his chance well.

Joey still looks like a red card liability but wasnt really tested. I think he was a good choice over Cooper as Preston only had Beckford up front,

I'll try not to get carried away - as Preston really weren't very good - but we have the makings of a decent team.

 The Real Sandhurst Royal

» 06 Aug 2016 20:20

Great result today. the possession football we played in the 1st half was the best I have seen from a Reading team.

Swift looks a great signing as does Berrens.

William MOTM .

 royalp-we

» 06 Aug 2016 20:25

One game without Norwood and we score from a corner :wink:

 royalp-we

» 06 Aug 2016 20:26

BFTG and very excited for what's to come.

I can see Beerens, Mcleary & Harriott tearing up some full backs this season.

You can see clearly see the style of play and why Stam has brought in who he has. There were areas of the pitch covered which hadn't been covered with such good interplay for quite some time. FB's and Widemen did very well and swift got between the lines a few times, it was good to watch.

A great big oxf*rd you to the fans shouting 'forward' today and groaning - I guess we'll always have them in the crowd.

We almost got caught once or twice; but we created some good chances ourselves. We could; and should have won by more.

For those who felt they can't see how it would fit together I guess you did today - We looked a far more organised unit than Preston and broke far more effectively.

Early days but plenty of postivies to take from that. Most enjoyable day at the Mad Stad for some time.

 Westwood52

» 06 Aug 2016 20:31

Impressive 1st half then it fell away 2nd half-badly in the last 20 minutes or so.

You could at least discern what system Stam was trying to operate & in the 1st half it worked really well & we should have been 3 up. Lets hope the falling away in the 2nd half was down to fatigue and the heat-it was bloody hot.

Al Habsi: 6 One great save and most of the time comfortable with being on the ball so much-couple of rickets however 2nd half.
Gunter : 6 Usual mixed bag-bit of finesse at times would help Chris?
Obita : 6 Pretty good-lets hope he is not out for long.
McShane : 5 Bit scruffy at times defensively.
Joey : 7 First time I have seen him-looked a lot safer than Cooper .

Evans: 6 Tidy on the ball, @ the moment does not have Norwood's class-but of all Reading's front six-kept going right to the end.
Swift 6: Great training ground goal-but missed a good chance & faded badly 2nd half.Great 1st half however & much more progressive than Norwood.
Williams 7: Just about the best all round game I have seen him play. Zilch protection from a very poor Ref.

Macca 7: Makes a difference when he is fully fit.
Denis 4: Missed two good chances. We have to find a striker from somewhere-but it won't be easy-saw Beckford's name on the PNE team sheet & thought this should be interesting-but he was just awful.
Roy 6: Was looking forward to see him play-but couldn't get into the game-the odd nice dynamic piece of play however.

Watson 5: Looked very inexperienced & overawed-but these are early days in his career.
Kermit: Looks slower than ever.
Harriot 6: I think I will reserve judgement on him-but at least he's not short on confidence.

PNE: Typical Chumpionship Side-battled hard, but no flair & no strikers-they could however easily have nicked a draw.
Ref: Lousy. If a player is going on goal & he is dragged back-then it has to be a yellow card to stop him doing it again. Otherwise the game becomes a farce.

The Stadium announcer got a few things wrong & what FFS was that Stam cartoon about at the end of the game.

 Nameless

» 06 Aug 2016 20:39

Have to say I'm glad I didn't go to the game you watched !
But then we all have opinions ....

Just to pick up one comment, I thought Watson looked very relaxed and comfortable, used the ball well, got forward and if he was selected to start the next game I don't think it would be an issue..

And just to pick up on another, I thought Evans looked excellent. Hit some passes that were at least on a par with what Norwood offered but also did lots of work as well. Not sure what Norwood would have added if he'd been there instead of Evans.

 Victor Meldrew

» 06 Aug 2016 20:42

How good does it feel to win a game?
Both sides missed sitters but it was a decent game on a sunny Summer afternoon in Berkshire and the traffic wasn't too bad coming up from the coast.
Having seen a bit of Swift last season playing further forward for Brentford I was surprised to see him playing more or less as an orthodox midfielder but it worked even if Rekels had little support.
Both wingers IMHO were good and great to see GMac showing that he can still do it and on his day is one of the best wingers in the Championship.

Good imagination from those involved in the goal and the new players all showed promise.
Some ratings:-
Al-7
Gunter 7
McShane 7
Van 8 (mainly for an outstanding first half)
Obita 7
GMac 8
Evans 7.5
Williams 7.5
Swift 8
Beerens 7.5
Rekels 5

Although ball retention was probably a bit over the top it was understandable as Rekels offers no option in the air and surely should only play alongside another bigger striker.
The squad seems to be taking shape but we clearly need another target man with hold-up skills.

A good start-I suspect with this line-up we might struggle physically in midfield against better sides but with Watson and Harriot looking o.k. it was a good day all round with the Dolan tribute pitched just about right.

 If you still hate Futcher

» 06 Aug 2016 21:00

First half, Preston just sat back and allowed AAH to play the ball out without pressing the receiver. In the Adkins era this would have resulted in several places across the back 4 and then an aimless punt upfield and possession being lost.

Instead today we moved them around and worked space to pass forward with purpose. We worked a number of opportunities down either flank but no one could get meaningful contact to finish. Obviously the goal was an exception to this with a corner being played in along the ground for Swift to steer into the top corner, a well worked move off the training ground but a very poor goal to concede.

Preston were more positive in the 2nd half and passed us further up the pitch which resulted in one or two dodgy moments but Reading fans are going to have to understand what the team are doing rather than shouting for the team to get it forward.

In the end we rode our luck and a better team would've punished us but really should've been 2 or even 3 up by then.

I was impressed with Evans and all 3 of the wingers but Swift was my motm, linking up well and breaking into the box. Also Watson looked good when he came on. Raakels isn't a lone front manand, he kept trying but didn't help himself by missing a sitter with their keeper laying down at his feet.

All in all though I was very encouraged by the performance and if we carry on in the same way our games will at least have excitement which is something that's been lacking for a few seasons

 SCIAG

» 06 Aug 2016 21:16

A calm and assured performance. We need to do better in the final third, but we'll keep picking up points if we play like that every week.

Special mentions to Williams, who probably had his best game in a Reading shirt, and Watson, who looked perfectly comfortable.

 Huckleberry Hound

» 06 Aug 2016 21:28

Very encouraging performance, especially first half. Some good link-up play down both wings.

Nicely worked goal. Obviously from the training ground, including the blocking of defenders to give Swift the space to score.

We still need a proper striker to bury the sort of chance that Denis missed.

The new respect laws seemed to work quite well. The only time the ref got a bit of pressure (when he was booking Evans?) he very quietly also booked their no.3. Long may that continue.

 Royal Ginger

» 06 Aug 2016 21:30

Swift excellent, Williams MOTM, Gunter looking a cut above too (whoever it was above who wasn't impressed by him has it very wrong).

Gunter and Obita were pushed very high and McShane and VDB were pushed extremely wide. That will catch us out at some point, but that's ok if the offensive benefits outweigh it.

There was a Norwood hangover. The hole he normally stood in to recieve the ball off the CBs was just empty today. McShane is never going to be an 'on the ball sort of guy', and looked very uncomfortable today. Not convinced by the centre backs.

Beerens grew into the game, first half he was exciting without being effective, but he turned that round.

Harriott's introduction was overshadowed by the goings on between the PNE fans and out lot. Don't know what started it, looked like a bunch of Preston fans getting behind the screen. It was pathetic for adults to be involved in this sort of thing either way. Lol at the topless North End bloke who went to vault the barrier only to have underestimated the drop and to plummet the 15-20 feet onto concrete. I hope he broke something.

 marlowuk

» 06 Aug 2016 21:39

Let's not get carried away but this is a different Reading team and it shows bags of promise. The pre-season games showed that Stam wanted us to play a passing game and that was evident from the match today. Optimism must be tempered by the memory of Steve Clarke's Reading making a similarly impressive start to last season but, somehow, this feels different. Maybe it's the lack of so many loanees; or maybe the presence of a manager who seems to have a plan?

The first half in particular was a joy to watch - quick and incisive inter-passing up front and a desire to play the ball out from defence on the grass. The players, too, seemed to have the desire to get in positions to be able to receive the ball. In particular Gunter, McCleary and Williams played so much better (and more effectively) than they had done last season. The newcomers also played their parts with Swift showing some deft touches and, of course, a great goal. Beerens and Berg did well too and Harriott looks like a great signing from his brief cameo.

On the negative side we missed chances. Rakels was guilty of missing a free header in the first half and a comparatively simple 'dink' over a fallen Lindegaard in the second although, overall, he played pretty well. Obita had played well, I thought, until he had to limp off and we can only hope it is nothing serious. His frustration was there for all to see. We also seem to overplay the ball in defence with the inevitable dangers from which PNE almost profited on two occasions. A better side would have punished us.

I had been expecting a tough start to the season as Stam struggled to instil his style of play into the team. But what I saw was encouraging. Three points and a clean sheet and a confident looking side. Fingers crossed!!


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