Reading: McCarthy; Cummings, Gorkss, Pearce, Gunter; Williams, Obita (Akpan), McAnuff, Drenthe (McCleary), Sharp (Blackman), Pogrebnyak
Reading travelled up to Yorkshire knowing that they needed to improve massively after the poor defeat at home to Bournemouth and faced a Huddersfield side who had been performing steadily in the league. It was my first trip to the Galpharm Stadium (sorry, John Smith's Stadium) and for anyone that hasn't been, its one of the nicer new builds around. It makes a pleasant change to find a stadium with four distinct stands and because it's neatly tucked away, it has a bit of a homely feel to it. It's just a shame that little things weren't quite right with it. The PA announcer really was amateurish, getting his own players' names wrong (who the hell was Tom Lynch?!) and then asking the home fans to "give it up for Garath McCleary" was all a bit poor. Sadly I missed the rapping kid at half time to get a Bovril but the most disappointing thing was simply the lack of atmosphere. The attendance was 13,500 which meant the stadium was barely half full and the decision to give the Reading fans a whole stand meant that it was difficult to generate much ourselves.
The fact that my clearest memories from the game are to do with the stadium is pretty telling in itself but it followed a recent pattern of away games I've been to. Reading weren't really all that good and some how came away with all three points.
The starting XI was pretty much as expected with all the various injuries and suspensions but the way the team actually lined up was frankly slightly bizarre. Danny Williams seemed to be playing a lone central midfield role with Jordan Obita and Jobi McAnuff unsure whether they were playing wide or forward or what. That left Royston Drenthe to roam around which essentially meant he didn't really do anything. Perhaps unsurprisingly Huddersfield exploited the space and uncertainty and swiftly dominated the midfield.
Dixon's run down the left completely sold Gunter and Reading were fortunate to see his effort fizz past the post just as they were with Oliver Norwood's effort that was straight at McCarthy. A change was much needed and came midway through the half with the side reverting to a more orthodox 4-4-2 and it made an immediate difference. A swift counter attack involving Obita and Drenthe got the ball to Pogrebnyak on the left wing. The Russian provided a wonderful cross to pick out the unmarked Billy Sharp and the loanee nodded in his second Reading goal. He could have added another shortly after but he pulled his shot wide.
It was now Huddersfield's turn to dominate but they spurned numerous chances to equalise. Martin Paterson came closest with an effort hitting the post whilst Ward had McCarthy at full stretch to tip the ball around the post. With the Terriers committing more men forward though, Reading had chances of their own late on to seal the win. First Drenthe fired wide before substitute Garath McCleary went on a jinking run but could only get a weak effort at Smithies when a pull back would probably have been better. The best chance fell to the impressive Pogrebnyak. His turn to create some space was excellent as was so unlucky to see his shot go wide. Joel Lynch's red card at the end for yet another foul on The Pog pretty much summed up Huddersfield's day.
On balance a point would have been a fair result but Reading can be pleased with a solid away win. There was even time for some real comedy at the end with Hope Akpan's ridiculous air shot. As Royals fans headed back to Berkshire they would be reflecting on having seen little to inspire confidence in a turnaround in performances but grateful for another win to keep them in the playoffs. Most perplexing off all though remains how a team sponsored by Rekorderlig Cider only serves Bulmer's in the ground!
Ratings: McCarthy 8, Gunter 6, Gorkss 6, Pearce 7, Cummings 7, Williams 7, McAnuff 7, Drenthe 7, Obita 6 (McCleary), Sharp 7 (Blackman), Pogrebnyak 9