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2012/13 Report Cards: Forwards

So we've gone from back to front throughout the positions and with the 'keepers getting an overall B-, the defenders a C and the midfield a C-, will the strikers continue the downward trend?

Christopher Lee

Standard rules apply as mentioned in the previous article - In terms of grades, the grading system will be be done from A+ to an F, where A+ is a magical one of a kind season and F is the type that makes you want to put the players in stocks and hurl rotten vegetables at them.

Also it's not just about performances but expectations, previous history etc.

For example it would be unfair to give Stuart Taylor a low grade on the basis that he only played 4 games when he was signed as a back-up, nor totally slam Simon Church after he didn't even feature.

Stats used are Premier League ones only.

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Nick Blackman

Games: 11 Goals: 0 Assists: 1

Blackman arrived for a reported seven figure fee from League One Sheffield United in January just days after impressing during the Blades heavy FA Cup defeat at the Madejski Stadium. After a youth career at Blackburn he'd impressed in Scotland and with United so came to Reading with a fair amount of promise to help bolster a failing forward line.

Sadly Blackman never looked comfortable jumping up two divisions and an end return of 1 assist and 0 goals in 11 appearances doesn't make for the best reading. It's far too early to write him off but sadly his impact this year was under-par.

GRADE: D

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Simon Church

Games: 0 Goals: 0

Poor Churchy, in the space of 6 months he went from starting most games to not even being on the bench for Reading. While his lack of games and subsequent release was expected following promotion it still marks a disappointing end to the career of a player who looked so full of promise a few years ago.

GRADE: NA

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Noel Hunt

Games: 24 Goals: 2 Assists: 0

Noel is another who's now left the Madejski but unlike Church I think it's safe to say he maximised his potential after an £800k move from Dundee United five years ago.

Coming into the season Hunt was very much expected to be a bit part player but he gave the Premier League a good go when called on and goals in back-to-back games against Newcastle and Swansea showed that he still had enough in his locker to make an impact. While that impact wasn't quite good enough to keep us up, he was a fantastic influence on and off the field and I'm sad to see him go.

GRADE: C

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Adam Le Fondre

Games: 34 Goals: 12 Assists: 2

If there's one striker to have his reputation enhanced by this season then it's Le Fondre, who broke the Premier League record for number of goals off the bench and also fired five key goals in January that saw him take Player of the Month honours. On top of that he was named Reading's Player of the Season so why after all that do I still have slight reservations on the forward?

Well perhaps it's because in 11 starts, Alfie scored just three goals and only two from open play and generally looked ineffective at times. Of course a striker will be judged first and foremost on goals and if you'd said to me Le Fondre would score 12 at the start of the year I'd have snapped your hand off but there's still a nagging doubt about his long-term top flight potential as a starter.

Still, that shouldn't detract from what was a very good season from a player who 2 years ago started the season in League 2. We all know what Alfie can do and if he stays at Reading I'm sure it'll be at least a ten goal season ahead.

GRADE: A-

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Pavel Pogrebnyak

Games: 29 Goals: 5 Assists: 0

When the signing of Pogrebnyak was announced I'm sure I'm not the only Reading fan that was full of excitement at a capture that had to rank amongst one of the best that the club had ever pulled off. A top international striker who had been banging goals home for Fulham, this was the big move we needed to help secure our survival....

Then we saw him play.

It's not that Pog was bad... it's more that he just couldn't do enough for a team that creatively was pretty appalling for most of the season. Being up front on your own for such a team doesn't excuse a return of five goals in 29 games but you had to feel the Pog's frustration at feeding off scraps all year long.

Sadly the Pog didn't have the guile that's seen the likes of Forster, Doyle and Long excel in the lone frontman role but when he did get chances he was pretty good in front of goal, as seen at Chelsea and at home to West Ham.

With the right service he could be lethal in the Championship but for reportedly our highest paid player ever, he wasn't quite up to scratch in the Premier League

GRADE: C-

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Jason Roberts

Games: 11 Goals: 0 Assists: 1

The Big Bad Wolf did more than anyone else to get us up into the Premier League but his absence through injury was also a significant factor in our plummet straight back down. The big forward managed a brief run around in the Autumn but a chronic hip injury ruled him out of all of 2013, with his playing career still in question.

During that run in the team he was OK but never quite the force that had seen him haul Reading into the Premier League in the first place. Have we seen the last of him? Maybe, but if he does return to fitness then he could be a key weapon in trying to get us back.

GRADE: D

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Dominic Samuel

Games: 1 Goals: 0 Assists: 0

Very much one for the future, Samuel was drafted into the squad a couple of times during an injury hit winter and made his Premier League debut as a late sub during a 3-0 drubbing at Sunderland.

You can't take anything away from that game but some good performances for England's U19 side and for Reading's U21s suggests that Samuel isn't too far away from being a regular presence in the Reading 18

GRADE: NA

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OVERALL

Quite simply a return of just 19 goals in 38 Premier League games isn't good enough for any group of strikers and our failure to find the net more regularly is a key reason we went down. Pogrebnyak and Roberts were supposed to lead the way with their mix of quality and experience but for varying reasons neither fully delivered and five goals in 40 games is a very poor return from two of our highest paid players.

Adam Le Fondre did what he was asked and getting into double digits in goals when you've only started 11 times is a great return. Noel Hunt battled hard but he was never going to be the answer while Blackman was always going to struggle when trying to make such a rapid rise in a struggling team.

With Hunt and Church gone, Roberts injured and Pog and Le Fondre subject to transfer rumours we could be left with no recognised strikers at the club come the start of August. While that's obviously a huge problem I can't say I'd be gutted to lose any from this current crop as bar youngsters like Blackman and Samuel, none have really demonstrated they'd be a lethal force in any subsequent Premier League campaign.

GRADE: D+