Five Things: Reading v Brighton & Leeds

Ben Hoskins

Continuing our "Five Things" series, here are our main talking points from the last two matches at the Mad Stad.

1. No goals conceded since we were hit for six at Peterborough

I know I said I'd banish any mention of this match from the website, but it only shows the improvement in performances since that horrible night three weeks ago. We didn't keep a clean sheet in the first five matches of the season (including that Peterborough rout), and indeed during the meaningful friendly matches in preseason. But since then, it's three clean sheets on the bounce - away at Yeovil, then in home matches against Brighton and Leeds. And whilst we had Alex McCarthy to thank against Brighton, it wasn't the same last night - the defence dealt easily with Leeds attacks. Hopefully, the defence is gelling now, and we can start to build from the back. But...

2. Just two goals scored in five matches

One of those was a debatable penalty (at Yeovil), and the other a last-gasp flick from a free-kick (last night). It doesn't matter how they go in, as long as they do...but it seems we're not creating enough chances. Last night against Leeds was an improvement though, as we forced Paddy Kenny into a number of decent saves - hopefully that's a sign that we're slowly getting to know the system that Nigel Adkins wants us to use. And also bear in mind that table-topping QPR have only netted 7 in 7 games, so it's not all about scoring one more than you...

3. Jem Karacan must really hate playing Leeds United

I'll be honest, when Adkins brought in Danny Williams, I thought it would be as a direct replacement for Jem. But Karacan has showed the best form of his career in the first few games, even grabbing a brace against Watford. Last time Reading were in the Championship, Karacan's ankle was broken by perennial red-card offender and general thug Michael Brown. This time, it was Ross McCormack, and Jem actually making the challenge, fouling McCormack in the process. Just one of those coincidences though, and everyone at The Tilehurst End wishes Jem the speediest of recoveries.

4. The squad is unbalanced - but we're dealing with it

Hal Robson-Kanu dealt admirably in the lone striker role last night, holding the ball up well and winning his fair share of headers. Robson-Kanu was basically forced into this position after the sending off of Pavel Pogrebnyak against Brighton, and the inability of Adam Le Fondre to contest those long balls (as shown last night). But when your starting frontman is a winger by trade, you can see that there's something wrong. Nick Blackman started out wide and might be happier out there for the time being, which adds to the plethora of wingers/wide forwards we have in the squad.

The central midfield will be weakened by the loss of Jem Karacan, but with Guthrie, Williams, Akpan, McAnuff and Leigertwood able to play there, we're lucky. If Wayne Bridge or Sean Morrison were to go down with such an injury, then we would be in trouble - Kelly performed well for the first half against Brighton but you can see the natural comfort and ability of Bridge on his preferred left side. Square pegs for round holes in some cases, but the depth is good enough to cope.

5. Two matches, two completely different referees

I was impressed with Neil Swarbrick last night, though after the performance of Graham Scott on Sunday it's no surprise. Swarbrick let the game flow, didn't brandish yellow cards when the tackles started to fly in, and barely made a wrong decision. Perhaps most impressively for me, he noticed that Hope Akpan was waving his arms in some aerial challenges (not maliciously). Swarbrick pulled him over, and with gestures, told him that those wayward arms could get him sent off if they hit an opponent. Simple, effective.

As I said in my Brighton match report, Graham Scott could have adopted a similar approach when the yellows started to flow. Bring both captains in, tell them to calm down their players, and start anew. You could see which of these two stepped down from the Premier League to take charge of this match.

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