Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League


Reading: P Pogrebnyak (4 mins).
Tottenham: M Dawson (10mins), E Adebayor (51 mins), C Dempsey (79 mins).

Its all very well saying that defeats against Champions League contenders such as Spurs will not define our season, but when you’ve already lost at Villa, Wigan, Southampton and Sunderland then you cannot really afford to be so blase about point-scoring opportunities. For the 8th time in league games already this season, Reading led a fixture and failed to record a points maximum in falling to defeat at White Hart Lane, a loss which represents an 8th reverse from the last 10 league games. The good news? Despite the gap to safety, few of our relegation rivals are recording wins of late and recent heavy defeats for Wigan and Villa have ruined the respective goal differences of these sides. Relegation in 2008 should always remind us of the importance of this.

And that crucial ‘goal difference factor’ is perhaps the most ringing endorsement yet of the 4-5-1 formation we have adopted since shipping 3, 4 and 5 goals to Sunderland, Manchester United and Arsenal respectively in December. Reading – theoretically – have finally awoken from the recurring nightmare of drowning in an overwhelming midfield ocean by manning the lifeboats and putting 3 men in the centre of the park. This resulted in a quite extraordinary mini defensive revival by way of 1 goal conceded from fixtures at Manchester City and at home to Swansea and West Ham. There is however one specific negative to this system in that it seemingly further inhibits our already questionable ability to create clear cut goal scoring chances. Once again, Reading’s only goal from this game came about as a result of a set play. After a bright start in North London, Pogrebnyak earned a freekick on the edge of the box following good work by Guthrie. Ian Harte step up and slammed the set piece against the crossbar and the rebound landed nicely for Pogrebnyak to nod past Lloris with the Tottenham defence collectively sleeping off their new year hangovers.

That this was the highlight of the day for us so early on would surprise no-one who has regularly watched us this season as the lead was ultimately squandered, but unusually of late we had gilt-edged second half chances after Tottenham had turned the game 2-1 in the favour with almost relentless pressure. Firstly, the hard-working Pogrebnyak created an opportunity entirely of his – or, to be more accurate, the doddering Spurs defence’s – making by taking advantage of a slip and firing firmly at Lloris from an angle. The rebound was headed wide of the target by the Russian when perhaps substitute HRK would have been better placed for a strike at goal. Next up it was Jimmy Kebe’s turn to see a good chance go begging, racing onto substitute Le Fondre’s well-weighted pass but allowing the Spurs defence to recover sufficiently to snuff the opportunity out for a corner. The resultant corner was put behind by Spurs again and the second flag kick was headed firmly towards goal by the ever-threatening Pearce only for the ball to rebound the wrong side of the post off Michael Dawson’s chest.

The Spurs defender could surely not claim to have known about such a fortunate clearance but it was his 9th minute header which turned the tide early in this game and wiped out that Pogrebnyak opener. A Spurs corner was met firmly by the Tottenham captain peeling away from Leigertwood and Pogrebnyak and it was shoddy defending from Reading, particularly galling when you have set up to defend and then concede from a rudimentary set piece so this was shocking play. From that moment on, for the best part of an hour it was all Tottenham and their eventual tally of shots on goal numbered more than thirty, most of these efforts coming from distance but when you have players like Defoe and Sigurdsson with a shoot-to-kill attitude being allowed the space to line up efforts which narrowly miss the target then you have to question the performance of the central-midfield three of Leigertwood, Guthrie and particularly Karacan who was very poor on the day. with all fairness to Jem, it is worth pointing out this was his 4th outing in 10 days following a lengthy spell out through injury and his leggy performance was frankly reflective of our efforts on the day.

Reading recovered from the equaliser and kept their shape well throughout the remainder of a first half in which Spurs retained the ball with consumate ease and demonstrated the gulf in resource between the haves and have-nots in this cruel and rather depressing league. Despite our best endeavours – and one particularly fine Federici save from a deflected effort – there was an absolute inevitability about the Adebayor goal early in the second half which gave Spurs the lead at last, plunging a header past our goalkeeper who was hampered by Gunter’s ham-fisted attempts at dealing with the opportunity. The chance came courtesy of the busy Lennon on the Spurs right flank who was able to recycle the opportunity given Reading’s failure to clear or to retain possession and demonstrated that Harte was becoming increasingly isolated, the wingers McAnuff, Kebe and - latterly - HRK providing gradually less convincing defensive cover and almost zero between them throughout in terms of genuine attacking quality. Desperately disappointing. To be fair to Reading, despite this slip up and some woeful dalliance in possession throughout, their honest endeavour was at least such that they earned the opportunity to go 4-4-2 for the final twenty minutes in attempting to peg Spurs back and those presentable Reading chances eventually came and went, thanks to minimal composure and an absence of good fortune.

The clinching Spurs goal with a dozen or so minutes to go also owed plenty to the luck which deserted us in the end, substitute Dempsey’s speculative effort spinning high into the North London dusk and over Federic’s despairing backpedalling efforts. The game was over almost as soon as the mini-revival had started and it required another good Federici save to deny Parker a fourth. Ultimately, the scoreline was probably the correct one. Disappointing given another promising start thrown away, but with 4 of the next 6 home league games coming against sides looking over their shoulders at us we have a chance of keeping ourselves in contention. However, as the shops clear their Christmas stock and prepare for Easter we ourselves have to be careful about putting all our eggs in one basket and some long-awaited points on the road would be a relief.
Neil Maskell

This Premier League game took place 2531 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.