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Match Review: Reading FC 2-1 Derby County

May 7, 2011

This week sees our newest contributor Mark Sugar give us a match report from the Derby game!

So how did we do? A 2-1 victory which confirmed our league position of 5th with a total of 77
points from 46 league games. More importantly, it confirmed that we will face Cardiff City in the
Championship Play-offs, with the 1st leg at the Madejski Stadium on Friday, 13th May (kick-off
7:45pm) with the return fixture four days later at the Cardiff City Stadium (kick-off 7:45pm).

The Team? Federici, Cummings, Harte, Mills (C), Pearce, Antonio (Taylor 58), Robson-Kanu,
Leigertwood (Gunnarsson 70), Tabb, Church, Manset (Hunt 78)

Attendance? 21,902 (1,943 away)

Game Review: Although the hard work of a Play-off position had been secured in the previous 45
games, this was still an important fixture for different reasons. Manager Brian McDermott made six
changes from the goalless draw at Coventry, with Cummings, Pearce, Robson-Kanu, Tabb, Church
and Manset all starting. A number hadn’t featured for a couple of weeks (or in the case of
Alex Pearce a couple of months) and getting them “match fit” was important ahead of the Playoffs.
It also enabled the likes of Shane Long a rest after a gruelling schedule. A win was also important
given that the team had gone three without a win. Prior to the match, Shane Long was confirmed
as Reading Football Club’s Player of the Season, with Jimmy Kebe as runner-up and Jem Karacan in
third.

The Royals started brightly with Church and Manset showing good link-up play, and Church himself
came close in the 19th minute when he cut in from the left-hand side onto his right foot and his shot
from just outside the opposition penalty-area hit the bar.

Church looked positive throughout the game and was rewarded five minutes later when on-loan
QPR midfielder Mikele Leigertwood took advantage of Robbie Savage sitting on the ball for too long
when he fed in the Welsh striker who’s run into the penalty area saw him upended by Daniel Ayala,
with the referee not hesitating in giving a penalty. Up stepped left-back Ian Harte who took his tally
to the season to 11 with a low shot to the keeper’s left to give the Royals a 1-0 advantage.

Derby, with little to play for other than pride were level eight minutes later when Alberto Bueno’s
chip from the left wing fell to the feet of Jamie Ward who’s 25 yard shot beat Adam Federici to his
left hand side. Ward generated serious movement on the shot, and some criticism was levelled at
the Australian who felt his starting position wasn’t as good as it could have been, but after seeing
the replay a couple of times it seems slightly harsh. Nonetheless, the equaliser came out of nowhere
and it was 1-1.

Two minutes into stoppage time in the first-half, and the Royals were awarded another penalty.
Rams midfielder Stephen Pearson’s header back to Ayala was picked up by Antonio just inside the
area and Ayala’s high foot bought the former Tooting & Mitcham player down in the box. Penalty
given, and like the first penalty it was the correct call. Up stepped Ian Harte who placed the shot
in exactly the same position as the first penalty, but this time it hit the post. The teams
went in at level at half-time with the scoreline 1-1.

The second half started brightly for Reading with half-chances for Church and Legiertwood. Shortly
before the hour mark, McDermott made his first change when academy graduate Jake Taylor came
on for Antonio. It had been a frustrating afternoon for the winger, who didn’t enjoy anywhere near
the level of performance that his team-mate Robson-Kanu showed in the first-half, and although he won the penalty it was a disappointing display. Taylor, who impressed in pre-season hadn’t featured since the 2nd Round Carling Cup exit to Northampton.

Derby soon had chances of their own when substitute Ben Davies forced Adam Federici into a good
save. McDermott was then forced into his second change in the 70th minute when Mikele Leigertwood went down injured with what appeared to be a knock. Brynjar Gunnarsson came on for what could be his final appearance in a Reading shirt, with the Icelandic midfielder out of contract at the end of the season. His impact was immediate, when three minutes later he won the ball close  towards the Derby corner flag which floated inside the Rams penalty area, only for Stephen Bywater to punch towards the right foot of Robson Kanu who shot into the Derby goal to make the game 2-1. The former Arsenal trainee has had his critics at times this season, but he has contributed with five goals to his name now for the season, and has shown good form in recent weeks.

Five minutes later, McDermott made his third and final change when he bought on Noel Hunt for
January signing Mathieu Manset, and the French striker again worked hard throughout the match
and showed some decent link-up play with Church and the rest of the team. His fitness still remains
a bit short, but that will come with time, and with a full pre-season under his belt at the club, he
should be up to speed.

Up at the other end, Federici was forced into action when he made an excellent parry in the 89th
minute from a Hendrick pile-driver which kept Reading in the lead.

Shortly after the full-time whistle, a handful of Derby supporters invaded the pitch, but the Reading
stewards were impressive in dealing with them, and the match marked the final match in the
career of Robbie Savage, who received an excellent ovation from both supporters. Savage was very
complimentary later on in the evening to the Reading fans, praising them on 606 and on his Twitter
site.

Soon the Reading team emerged from the dressing room to say thanks to the fans for their support
throughout the season as attention turns to the Playoffs.

MOTM? Hal Robson-Kanu arguably put in his best display in a Reading shirt with an impressive
performance on the left wing. He showed good link-up play with Ian Harte in the 1st half, appeared
to show a variety of different tactics when in possession of the ball and got his fair share of crosses
in. His goal in the second half was well deserved, and all the more impressive on his weaker foot.
He’s clearly a player who is growing in confidence, and on yesterday’s display no Reading fans should
be overly worried if Jimmy Kebe doesn’t make the first leg of the Play-offs.

Winners & Losers? Shaun Cummings had another fine game at right-back, and it’s a massive credit
to the player who at the start of the season didn’t look like he had a future at the club. Jay Tabb
put in another hard-working shift in the middle of the park and can consider himself highly unlucky
not to have featured more this season. Simon Church is another who had a decent game, winning
the penalty and showed good link-up play throughout. He’s had his fair share of critics this season
but can still play a big part in the upcoming games. Of those who didn’t impress or could have done
more, Michail Antonio was the only one who stood out as being disappointing and will feel he hasn’t
reached the form he showed with Southampton last season.

Anything else? Mikele Leigertwood confirmed via his Twitter website later in the evening he should
be ok for Friday despite his knock.