September 24, 2011
Reading: Federici, Mills, Gorkks, Pearce, Cummings, McAnuff, Tabb, Leigertwood, Hunt (Robson-Kanu), Le Fondre (Manset), Church
Last week's win had restored optimism to Royals fans after what had been a difficult three or four weeks for the football club, and just before Noel Hunt stepped up to take a first half penalty yesterday, you'd be forgiven for thinking everything was back on track in Readingland. Sadly for fans, players and staff alike Hunt missed his chance to give the Royals the lead and from there things just didn't seem to click. Back to the drawing board or a stumble in the road to recovery? We'll try and pick the bones of yesterday's 1-1 draw after the jump.
Brian McDermott made only one change to the starting lineup that had beaten Donny, with Le Fondre coming in for the injured Kebe as he had done when Kebe was forced off last weekend. Noel Hunt was pushed out to the flank with Reading also keeping the same back five for the first time since the middle of August. Once again there was no spot in the squad for Jem Karacan once again overlooked for Tabb, Leigertwood and Brian Howard on the bench.
We've had mixed fortunes at the Ricoh in recent seasons and many were predicting a similar game to the 0-0 at the same venue back in April, such optimism seemingly vindicated by a small crowd of just over 12,000, the lowest at the ground this season. However it took just two minutes for the deadlock to be broken this time around as former Birmingham striker Gary McSheffrey cut in from the left hand side and from a tight angle drilled the ball into the top of Adam Federici's near top corner... 1-0 great.....
At this point in time you could almost hear people racing to their keyboard and phones to question just why Alex McCarthy isn't in the side but credit to Federici who was otherwise impressive throughout the game and didn't let the early set back ruin his confidence.
This season's team hasn't been renowned for it's 'bouncebackability' but this time around they showed shades of the 2010/11 spirit by grabbing an equaliser almost immediately. Some good link play between Le Fondre and Church set the Welsh international through on goal and Churchy made no mistake, slotting home from inside the box to make it 1-1 with 80 minutes still to play.
Buoyed by the goal the Royals continued to press and soon after we were awarded a penalty for a foul on skipper Jobi McAnuff, with Noel Hunt taking penalty duties. Noel had already missed one against Barnsley but with Hal Robson-Kanu on the bench Noel stepped up again, only to see his low shot parried away by Coventry 'keeper Joe Murphy. We've now missed three of four penalties given this season and penalty duties will surely pass on to Adam Le Fondre who took them with good success at Rotherham... unless Ian Harte were to make a return to the side.....
Such a possibility seemed remote once Mills came into the starting XI three weeks ago but Mills' inconsistent passing and set pieces have once again opened the door for the former Leeds man and I wouldn't be shocked to see him recalled if we're beaten at Bristol City on Tuesday. With Shaun Cummings providing pace on the right of the defence, and left footers Gorkks and Tabb now in the team there's more scope to put Harte back into the XI and after a few weeks off to spend time with his family and new baby, Harte may well be rejuvenated in the same way he came back strongly after being dropped against Millwall last season. Certainly Mills hasn't claimed the shirt in the same way Cummings has and while I don't expect a change to come, it's something that might happen at some stage give Brian's seeming preference for experienced players.
Back to the game and the poor form of Mills and McAnuff was giving Coventry plenty of chances to get back into the game though Le Fondre and Church were working hard to create some openings of their own. Into the second half and both sides continued to probe but with little joy and the most noteworthy thing that happened in the second half came a hundred miles away in Caversham when BBC Radio Berkshire lost their feed from the ground to leave former Royals defender Ady Williams scrambling to recap League One latest scores and treating us to tunes from Tom Jones....
That led to a frantic few minutes of hitting F5 on the keyboard but the feed was restored into injury time, just in time to hear that Coventry had been awarded a penalty after Gorkks tripped Lukas Jutkiewicz. One of those days ran through my mind as I sat cursing the radio, already numb having started work at 4am and pondering another Sunday of avoiding the goals on the TV and steering clear of Sunday papers. Thankfully Lukas Jutkiewicz saved the rest of my weekend by auditioning for Jonny Wilkinson's No10 shirt over in New Zealand and his missed spot-kick proved to be the last kick of the game as both sides had to settle for a point.
On the plus side it's never a bad result to get a point away from home and 4 points from 6 is far more welcome than the 0/12 that had proceeded it. The partnership between Le Fondre and Church seems to be showing promise and 3 goals from the pair in the last three halves of football provides some optimism for the future. Church especially seems to be a rejuvenated player and perhaps the likes of McAnuff and Leigertwood could use game against AFC Wimbledon reserves to turn their own disappointing seasons around.
McAnuff in particular continues to play well below his best and if Kebe returns to fitness in time for Tuesday and Robson-Kanu is also fully fit, Brian is going to face a real decision on whether to drop the man he named captain just two months ago. As mentioned Joe Mills seems to have a frustrating day at left back while the back five won't have been happy to concede so early or to give away a sloppy penalty in the dying moments.
Next up is a trip to Bristol City on Tuesday night, a side we've not beaten at Ashton Gate since the Coppell era but a team who have also failed to win on their own turf this season. It would be inaccurate to call any game 'must win' at this early stage in the season but if we do have any serious hopes of a sustained promotion push then we need to start putting some wins on the board and putting together some more consistent performances.