This must have come as a shock to a lot of people but it turns out that our big Russian can actually play pretty well! Pogrebnyak was the stand out player for Reading in a match in which he showed how playing to his strengths i.e. getting the ball in to his feet, can actually benefit the whole side. We’ve always known that he is a strong man so quite why it’s taken so long to work out that he can hold the ball up well, I couldn’t tell you. For the first time he was able to bring Le Fondre into the game and possession wasn't lost as soon as the ball went forward. Not only was Pogrebnyak holding the ball well though, he was showing real composure in possession. The presence of mind he showed for the first goal in not shooting from the tight angle and instead setting up the better positioned Danny Guthrie, was the act of a confident player who knew that he didn’t have to prove himself to his manager by scoring goals. He worked hard for the whole game (not something he could be accused of in previous games) and deserved his goal at the death.
2) The team is a bit slow to adapt
For all the positives of the result it might be easy to forget how the game swung midway through the first half. Paul Dickov’s decision to replace a clearly irate Dean Furman for Theo Robinson was an excellent move and completely changed the flow of the game in Donny’s favour. What was slightly alarming from a Reading point of view is how slow the team was in adapting to the change. With Danny Guthrie having much less space they struggled to get the ball out of their own half and Robinson wasn't being picked up when he dropped deep and was being made to look like Lionel Messi. It took the half time break to address the problems which in itself is a bit of a worry. There was plenty of experience on the pitch and somebody needed to take a bit of a lead in reorganising things. Perhaps it’s still a bit early in the Guthrie/Baird partnership and that area will be something that improves in time but for the moment I’m sure other teams will look to replicate Doncaster’s success in that area and Reading will have to be better prepared to deal with it.
3) Reading still need to be more clinical
This might seem a bit churlish after a 4-1 win but I still think Reading need to make more of the chances they create. The first 20 minutes of the game were as dominant as I can remember Reading ever being and yet they only had one goal to show for it. Doncaster were allowed back into the game (for reasons mentioned above) and in some ways we were fortunate to be leading at the break. The second half was more controlled from the home side but it took Rob Jones coming off injured and leaving his side a man short for Reading to really finish the game off. In another game and against better opposition that space and those chances at the end may not have come and the side need to make sure that they’re maximising the opportunities they get and not relying on late goals.
4) Running is the new passing
Much has rightly been made of the change in approach under Nigel Adkins as the team develops a more possession based game but it wasn’t incisive passing that did for Donny, it was direct running. Garath McCleary was a constant menace to the Doncaster defence primarily because he looked to attack every time he was in possession. It was his break away that led to the second goal and the game was only put to bed when Hal Robson-Kanu and Jobi McAnuff came on and attacked the spaces left by Rob Jones’ unfortunate departure. Reading seem to have an abundance of good wide players at the moment who are all capable of worrying full backs and it seems like a tactic that can be employed more in the future. There’s obvious benefits to the passing game but call me old fashioned, it was just nice to see players running straight at defenders and beating a man!
5) We are spoilt for choice in goal
Alex McCarthy is one of the best young goalkeepers in the country and is having a fantastic season in which he has cemented his place as Reading’s number one, it isn’t that far fetched to suggest that he’s an outside bet for a place on the plane to Brazil. Most other teams then would be in a bit of a panic at the absence of such a player but not Reading. He may have had his critics in the past but the fact that Reading are able to call upon a goalkeeper of the quality of Adam Federici is a massive plus. The Australian’s distribution is arguably better than McCarthy’s and it allowed him to slot seamlessly in. I recall one pass he made out of hand that must have gone 80 yards across field to McCleary to launch an attack. He was also on top form with his shot stopping. He was very unlucky with the Donny goal having made a superb stop after being wrong footed by the deflection off the wall and was needed late on to tip one around the post at full stretch. Reading have been spoilt with goalkeepers over the years and it’s easy to take for granted what a difference it makes having quality between the sticks.
And finally… a bonus 6th thing – Andy D’Urso is still an atrocious referee!