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Five Things: Burnley v Reading

48 hours after the event it's time to look at what we can takeaway from our 2-1 defeat at Burnley on Saturday.

Chris Brunskill

1. Injuries mean that the International break can't have come at a better time.

While injuries are an established pitfall for any squad, Reading have suffered a tad more than most so far this season. Wayne Bridge, Danny Williams, Jem Karacan, Garath McCleary, Mikele Leigertwood, Billy Sharp and Royson Drenthe have all missed games this season and when so many first team quality players are unavailable it's going to be a challenge for any squad, even one as blessed with depth as Reading.

It's damaging on two levels. Firstly because Reading are denied that individual's talents but more importantly because it's stopping the team from consistent selections which can help build momentum. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the pros and cons of an established starting eleven and while some variety and depth is good, I'm sure Nigel Adkins would want to have a more established core by this point in the campaign. Hopefully this two week break now allows us to get some of the above back and match fit, while giving others like Danny Guthrie a well deserved rest, speaking of Guthrie.....


2. Danny Guthrie is irreplaceable right now.

The former Liverpool midfielder has been by far our most consistent outfield performer this season, joining Alex Pearce and Sean Morrison as the only outfield players to have started every game this season. He's also been a player who's constantly been among the highest if not the man of the match in the majority of our post-match ratings this season.

Quite simply nobody else in the squad right now has the range of passing that Guthrie does and that coupled with his engine make him invaluable to Nigel Adkins right now. Danny Williams, Mikele Leigertwood, Hope Akpan, Jobi McAnuff, Jordan Obita and Chris Baird all have their own qualities when played in the middle but none are a like-for-like replacement for Guthrie. The former Bolton loanee is taking on the same importance that Mikele Leigertwood had in Brian McDermott's side and like Ledge in previous campaigns, we can only hope he stays fit.


3. The centre-back pairing is still a work in progress

It's harsh to be overly critical of a centre back pairing who have allowed just four goals in seven games but Saturday highlighted our continued weakness against more nippy and agile strikers. Pace is far from everything but especially with Morrison's lack of experience we are still vulnerable against quicker forwards. Both Pearce and Morrison are fine defenders with bags of potential but are they a long term partnership that compliment each other well? I've still got my doubts.


4. There's no reason to push the panic button

Saturday's defeat was undoubtedly disappointing but consider that it was only our second defeat in the first 11 games of the season and came against a team currently topping the table. Burnley may not have the strongest squad in the division but they have a first eleven easily a match quality wise when compared to Reading's eleven on Saturday.

All teams lose games, even promoted ones. Cardiff lost 9 last season while Hull fell to defeat 15 times and still managed to get second place come May. While it's nice to have a dominant 106 style season, very few manage it and with Reading on pace for just eight defeats this season, that's a tally that would ensure a top four finish in each of the last 10 seasons, with it being worth a top two spot in all but two of those (special mention to Preston who lost just FOUR times in the 2005/06 campaign and came fourth, after 20 draws).

Reading have been competitive in every game this season and that's with a general acceptance that we've got plenty of injuries and we're far from top form. While it's possible that this is about as good as it's going to get, personally I can see more arguments for a glass half full approach going forward.


5. The Pog deserves some credit

A month ago, how many people would have believed that we'd see the Pog putting in a hard 90 minute grind away at Burnley after playing three games in a week?

Not only has he returned to the goal trail but even more pleasing has been the way that Pogrebnyak has gone about his business. The Russian has been putting his body on the line and chasing every ball since his return from the wilderness and while he may still be lacking a touch of extra quality that we've seen from previous lone strikers like Long, Doyle and Forster, he's still putting in solid performances despite having little to work with.

I still feel there's more to come from 'The Pog' but if he gets a solid midfield behind him, or a more natural partner alongside him, he could still come up with another 10+ goals and help us get promoted.