News and Views
Reading 1-0 Fulham: Things We Learned
25 January 2017
By Alex Bower
Reading avenged their 5-0 defeat at the hands of Fulham on Tuesday evening as they secured a 1-0 win at the Madejski. The only goal of the game came about through a Roy Beerens rebound after John Swift saw his penalty saved. An Ali Al-Habsi penalty save in the dying minutes made sure the Royals earned all three points.
Here are some of the things that came out of the game.
Kelly Continues To Shine
In case you haven't quite cottoned on yet, Liam Kelly is quite the talented footballer. The Academy product has made a well-timed breakthrough into the first team this season thanks to the belief placed in him by the coaching team.
Against Fulham, Kelly put in yet another performance to be proud of. Whether it was driving forward runs or hassling opponents, the midfielder was involved in all facets of the game for the duration of time he was on the pitch.
While it is still early in his career, Kelly's performances have already earned him a lot of respect from those involved with the club. Subsequently he is a player that many will be hoping will stay at Reading for years to come after recently signing a new contract with the club.
Don't Doubt Stam
At around 7pm last night you could almost hear the collective questioning of Reading fans as the teams were announced. Jaap Stam opted to change things up a bit, having probably been influenced by what he saw from Fulham in the postponed fixture.
The Reading manager opted to go with what was probably a 5-1-2-2 formation with wingers Roy Beerens and Garath McCleary handed the striker roles. Recognised strikers Yann Kermorgant, Dominic Samuel, Joseph Mendes and Yakou Meite, meanwhile, had to contend with places on the bench.
On paper it looked like a very strange choice but ultimately it was a good move from Stam. Much has been said in the past about the Reading manager's lack of a plan B, but on this occasion he used one and it worked.
The back five looked largely solid, the midfield were highly proactive both offensively and defensively and the partnership of Beerens and McCleary worked well with both getting in behind the Fulham defence on several occasions.
If there was a particular lesson learned from this game it would be never doubt Stam. Turns out he knows what he is doing.
There's No I In Team
If there is one particular thing that is standing out in Reading's performances this season it is the team spirit. It is clear the belief is back and as a fan it is great to see.
Against Fulham the work rate amongst the entire squad was exemplary and you could see how determined they were to get back to winning ways.
As we creep ever closer to the end of the season it is that belief that could make the difference between a top six finish and mid-table.
Penalties have often been the subject of discussion at Reading this season but no more so than against Fulham.
For whatever reason, the Royals cannot seem to score penalties at the first time of asking these days. At the start of the season, Garath McCleary used to be able to convert them for fun. Now, penalty duty seems to be being passed around the squad until they find someone who can score.
While Reading cannot score from the penalties, the rebound scoring technique seems to be catching on. The Royals have now scored five goals on the rebound from eleven penalty attempts. Yes it suggests that their alertness is top notch but one day they will not be let off the hook so lightly.
Down the other end, it was the late heroics from Ali Al-Habsi that would earn Reading all three points. If you thought Reading's penalty form was bad, just take a look at Fulham's. Chris Martin's second penalty miss in only a matter of days was the seventh miss for his side this season. Ultimately it was Al-Habsi's save at the death that made the difference. Perhaps he should start taking them down the other end too...
Promotion A Real Possibility?
Based on recent years I'm not sure that any Reading supporter will have expected to be in the position they are now. Stam, however, has made a real positive difference to the team. From the players the Stam name has brought to club to the style and mental attitude the team now possess, the Reading manager has already made a noticeable impact.
In the Championship Brighton and Newcastle occupy the top two places and look set to stay there for the duration. While it is mathematically possible for them to be caught, their form suggests that they will be automatically promoted to the Premier League come the end of the season.
Based on the table, therefore, any of nine teams could probably make it into the play-offs. From there on in it is anyone's game. On their day, Reading are capable of playing some impressive football. The question now is whether they can hold their nerve long enough to keep themselves in a position to challenge for promotion.
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