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Reading 1-1 Yeovil - Too Little Too Late Against Eight

Earlier this week I wrote an article detailing how Reading have only won once when conceding the opening goal. The Royals' inability to break down defences cost them a win against a Yeovil side that was reduced to eight men by the final whistle.

Reading: McCarthy; Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss (Blackman 82), Obita; McCleary, Akpan (Guthrie 45), Williams, Robson-Kanu (Drenthe 63); Pogrebnyak, Le Fondre

Sixth-placed Reading against bottom-of-the-league Yeovil should have been a comfortable win for the home side, but after recent results for both sides that outcome was very much in doubt. The Royals had lost their last two home games against Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers, whilst the Glovers had gone on a three-match unbeaten run of their own.

Still, Reading came out to set the record straight and allay any fears that the recent resurgence had been a flash in the pan. Pavel Pogrebnyak and Garath McCleary linked up well early on as the winger's cross was deflected for a corner, then the recalled Hal Robson-Kanu surged past Luke Ayling and crossed early for Adam Le Fondre - luckily, a Yeovil centre-back managed to deflect the ball for a corner before ALF could connect.

But after those early promising moves, Reading reverted to type and couldn't break down a tough and well-drilled Yeovil side. And it looked like becoming one of those days as Hope Akpan committed a rather light foul in the middle of the park. Alex McCarthy had a rush of blood and came to claim the lofted free-kick from around the penalty spot, but on-loan Everton centre-back Shane Duffy got there first and nodded into an empty net. Reading concede the first goal - and from then, it doesn't look good. Yeovil could have doubled their lead as Tom Lawrence powerful effort from 25 yards was parried wide by McCarthy.

Yeovil sat back for the final fifteen minutes of the first half and simply said to the Royals: "come and have a go". Some good link-up play between Le Fondre and Robson-Kanu released Obita, and his cross was nodded in by a diving Pogrebnyak - but he was quickly ruled offside. Le Fondre then flicked a clearance over Jamie McAllister and tried to square for his strike partner, but Duffy was there to get rid before the Russian could fire a shot away. And the Royals' first official shot on target came in injury time, as McCleary's effort from the top of the box was comfortably saved by Marek Stech. Another limp and lifeless 45 - but the excitement was to come.


Danny Guthrie was introduced at half-time in place of the ineffectual Akpan, and his passing range was instantly in use as his cross-field drill was picked up by Chris Gunter, who floated a cross on top of Stech's net. Danny Williams, amongst the goals of late, managed a shot from 18 yards which was heading to trouble the Yeovil keeper until a defending leg flicked it out for a corner. Five corners in a row followed, and from the final one, Obita picked up the second ball and crossed for an unmarked Pogrebnyak, but his weak header was straight at Stech. Another Obita corner just after the hour mark created another chance, as Kaspars Gorkss' header across goal was flicked towards the net - but not with enough direction - by Le Fondre.

Five minutes summed up this game at around the hour mark. A long ball fell to Gorkss, but the tall, impressive Kieffer Moore was quickly in his face and simply brushed him aside before taking the ball towards the corner with his pace. Eventually the Royals got the goal kick, and McCarthy passed out to Jordan Obita at left-back. But he simply waved his hands to say "what options do I have?", before launching an aimless pass forward which Yeovil easily dealt with. And then, to epitomise Reading's luck in front of goal, Gunter got behind and pulled back to Le Fondre but the normally clinical striker blazed over from eight yards.

Eight yards from an equaliser, and eight was to be another significant number by the end of the match, as Yeovil ended up with that many players on the pitch. Guthrie launched a high ball which the Glovers defence struggled to deal with. Royston Drenthe, on for Robson-Kanu, ran onto it and looked to take a minimal amount of contact from Byron Webster. Making the most of it, Drenthe fell to the ground in the box, leaving the ref little choice but to award the penalty and send off the Yeovil centre-back. Le Fondre stepped up, and Stech guessed right, diving to that side to easily stop the striker's poorly-placed penalty.

Reading won a corner from the resulting melee, and Guthrie took quickly to Drenthe, who released Le Fondre on the left side of the box, The striker squared into the six-yard box, and John Lundstram, another Everton loanee, conspired with Stech to bundle the ball into his own net. Despair to joy in the space of two minutes for Reading fans, and now the bottom side in the Championship were surely there for the taking.

The task for the home side was made even easier with 20 minutes to go after another loanee, Joe Ralls from Cardiff, slid in recklessly on McCleary on the right-hand side. A straight red for the Yeovil midfielder, reducing the visitors to just nine men. But still they defended stoutly. Obita had an effort from 20 yards which curled wide, Guthrie drilled from 12 yards but Stech saved, and two follow-ups from Pogrebnyak were deflected wide. The Russian linked up with the half-time sub again as Guthrie crossed, and Stech made another great reflex save to dive and turn his header around the post.

Gorkss was sacrificed for Nick Blackman in another of Adkins' "throw every attacker we have onto the pitch" moves, but seeing as the Royals were pumping the ball into the box against a defence which had dealt with everything thrown, crossed and launched at them to that point, perhaps the better move in that situation would have been to put the centre-back up top to at least give them a chance of winning one. Reading left three men up for a rare Yeovil corner, and the Glovers should really have sealed the points as Duffy fired wide from Lawrence's low centre.

There was even enough time for a third red card, reducing Yeovil to eight. Moore, who had dominated Pearce and Gorkss all match, picked up a yellow card in an effort to waste some time from a throw in. He quickly picked up a second as Gunter flew past him - a striker's challenge for his second caution and an opportunity to get into the bath about ten minutes early.

But with Yeovil now missing more than a quarter of their team, the tactics remained the same. Get it wide, cross it, see it cleared, repeat. They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results - well, some insane tactics were being employed. Even with eight men, they dealt with the creeping barrage easily, when the man advantage normally means you overrun a team through the middle, passing it into the space created by the lack of three whole players.

Seven minutes of injury time (eight would have been a nicer, more ironic number), but the hoofs kept coming, and the Yeovil defence held firm, for what has to go down as a well-deserved point. But the Royals complete ineptitude to score a goal of their own against eleven bottom-placed players (let alone ten, nine or eight) showed exactly what we knew. Teams can come and defend a lead against Reading, who simply have no answer when these sides defend rigidly. As mentioned before, our record when conceding first is woeful - and that was proven to be completely true against a side that did everything they could to give Reading a leg-up in their play-off push.