5 Things: Birmingham City v Reading

The weekend trip up to Brum saw the Royals snatch all three points thanks to two goals from skipper Jobi McAnuff. Bucks Royal gives us his '5 Things' from the match.

1. Nigel experimenting with the wingers...

Something that I don't think has been picked up on yet is that Nigel seems to have been trying out new ideas with the wingers in recent weeks. Asides from the attempts to play Robson-Kanu as a centre forward, there seems to have been other changes too. Looking at the way that Drenthe is being played, it's clear that Nigel is keen to make him fit into a four-man midfield so that we keep both (captain) McAnuff and (key goal-scorer) Le Fondre in the side - logical conclusion - play Royston on the right wing. However, he doesn't protect Gunter in the same way that McCleary does, so I'm unconvinced over this deployment. Also, having been at the last two games, one thing that's stuck out for me is that, when he's come off the bench, Blackman has been played centrally. Rather than being put out wide - where he was impressing over the New Year, I wonder if Nigel is trying to get him used to playing as a centre forward again. Moreover, on Saturday, in an effort to break down the Birmingham defence, there was clearly the idea to have the wingers swap sides every now and again, something that I don't think we've seen enough of this season.

2. Problems in the middle...

Danny Guthrie unfortunately picked up a yellow card at the weekend, which rules him out of the next two league games (home matches against Barnsley and Huddersfield) - you can read about the option to replace him here. Personally, I think this season's centre midfield hasn't fulfilled its potential due to the stop-start nature that constant suspensions and injuries bring. Promotion winners Karacan and Leigertwood are long-term absentees (both being players I feel would do our promotion campaign a world of good), Chris Baird had a mid-season cameo before being snapped up by promotion hopefuls Burnley, whilst Guthrie and Williams have suffered from shorter term injuries that have kept them out of the side. In all, there's a lot of quality in that department which we haven't got a lot out of this season, although more out of bad luck than anything else.

3. The force is strong with Jobi Wan...

Apologies for the awful Star Wars pun, but Jobi deserves a mention for his two goals on Saturday. A couple of weeks ago, I referred to his attacking play as 'limited', so I for one am happy to see him open his account for the season. His last league goal for the Royals was two years ago at Barnsley (who we face tomorrow), and his last league brace was at home to Brighton on Boxing Day 2011 - he seems to have a thing about scoring against teams beginning with a B! Luckily, we still have Barnsley, Bournemouth and Burnley to come later in the season...

4. Alfie's still not scoring...

He admitted as much last week, but it does look like Reading's no. 9 has been struck by the Player of the Month curse. He hasn't scored at all in the league since those back-to-back hat-tricks in January, and has suffered from a slightly worrying drop in form since. That's coincided with a spike in form for Royston ‘Ricky' Drenthe, who is the natural alternative to play alongside the Pog (albeit slightly deeper). Personally, I think Alfie needs to be dropped for the sake of his own form - I might be treading on old ground here but, after all, he was always at his best as a super sub...

5. More noise in a library...

It's always nice to go to a ground with an even worse home atmosphere than the Madejski, and the noise coming out of the away end was what makes an away day like that so enjoyable. However, asides from the 10 odd Birmingham fans singing away to the Reading fans' right, there was an eerie silence around the home ends of the stadium that the West stand would be proud of. For me, at any ground, what strikes up any kind of atmosphere is the exchanges between the home fans and the away fans - and that can't happen in places which have a gap between the two groups like there was at Birmingham. Luckily, at the Madejski, we're not in that scenario.

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