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5 Things - Fulham & Millwall

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So two home games, six points and six goals but beyond the obvious joy of picking up maximum points what have we learned from our two games this week?

Ben Hoskins

1. Oliver Norwood just makes everything better....

While it's perhaps a bit too early to be annointing the midfielder the next Osborn or Dillon, the former Huddersfield man has certainly caught the eye with two fabulous passing displays. While the likes of Matejovsky and Guthrie may have been able to ping the ball around, Norwood seems to have more mobility and a bit more steel than we've seen in recent years from our creative midfielders and 172 passes in just two games is some return.

However, not only has Norwood been impressive in his own right but the former Manchester United trainee now seems to be getting the best we've seen out of Hope Akpan in a Reading shirt. Heading into the transfer deadline, we'd speculated both on the site and on the podcast that perhaps Akpan's days were numbered at the Madejski Stadium. Yet since Norwood's introduction he's been in fine form and seems much more calm and settled knowing he's got Oliver next to him to bail him out in a tight spot. It's meant Hope can get on with the job of breaking up the play and as Mikele Leigertwood showed, that role can be vital for a team with promotion aspirations.

2. Glenn Murray is going to be a key cog if we hope to mount a promotion push...

It's amazing what a difference a good striker can make and on the basis of his two outings so far, I'd say Reading have done some shrewd business by adding Murray. Two goals on his debut was a fantastic return and while he didn't quite reach those heights against Millwall, he was still getting into the right kind of positions and causing enough problems that he could have quite easily had another goal or two.

Love him or loathe him it's hard to argue against the belief that Jason Roberts almost single handily turned us from play-off hopefuls into Champions and Murray could just be that kind of signing once again.

What Murray brings is something we've been missing for the past couple of years, a forward that can not only hold up the ball and worry defences but also provide a genuine goal threat. Since Roberts suffered his career ending injury we've had the likes of Simon Church, Noel Hunt, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Hal Robson-Kanu and Adam Le Fondre all try and become that duel-threat as a lone striker but none have really managed it to date. Murray on the other hand seems to frighten defenders, not only posing a threat himself but distracting a backline to the extent that it creates time and space for other players like Simon Cox and Nick Blackman.

Fingers crossed he can continue his early promise and more importantly remain fit!

3.The defence is still a concern....

While keeping back-to-back clean sheets against Boro and Fulham was a good effort, the defence have still conceded 10 goals in just 7 games this season. That figure is the highest in the fledgling top half of the Championship and if that pace continued would lead to shipping 66 over the course of the campaign, a tally that hasn't got you in the top six in over a decade.

The 4-0 defeat at Forest accounts for a large amount of that damage but shipping four goals at home to Huddersfield and Millwall is a concern, especially with much tougher opponents to come.

It's unfair to point the finger at any one player in the back five, none of them particularly stand out as being a problem but as a unit they're going to have to tighten up if we're to be serious promotion contenders.

4. Either the Madejski Stadium is getting bigger, or crowds are getting smaller....

It's very early days but after four home league games the average attendance at the Madejski Stadium is just 16,528. Right now that puts us on course for our lowest average since the 2003/04 season.

For Tuesday's game with Millwall we had just over 15,000 fans in the ground, compared to over 18,000 for the same game last season. Admittedly last season's game was on a Saturday but that's still a significant drop, especially against a team that still brought a decent number of travelling fans. Likewise the Huddersfield game was also down over 2,000 and the Ipswich match on the opening day saw nearly 3,000 fewer fans than witnessed the previous year's win.

I'm sure attendance levels will pick up if the team continues to play well but right now there seems an awful lot of empty seats and even less noise than usual coming out of Y25 and Y26. You used to face a real battle to get seats in those areas and so far this season I've seen plenty of gaps.

Fingers crossed that fans to start to drift back because a stadium that's a third empty does nobody any favours.

5. Simon Cox is enjoying his return to Reading

In the days when footballers are hired guns and loyalty is a word you tend to associate with trying to get away tickets, it's been refreshing to see so many home town footballers succeeding at the Madejski Stadium. Simon Cox in particular looks to have been rejuvenated by his move back to Berkshire.

The former Sw****n forward has now scored four in just seven league games since returning to the club and looks set to easily pass the tallies of 8 and 5 he recorded up at the City Ground for Nottingham Forest. Cox's previous high for the division was the nine he scored at West Brom back in the 2009/10 season so this year could well see him reach double figures for the first time in the second tier.

The confidence is only growing from game to game and the fact he's felt confident enough to score a chip at Boro and a long ranger at home to Millwall only shows how much his confidence is growing.