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5 Things - Wolves

Reading's game with Wolves at the weekend saw the two sides play out an entertaining 3-3 draw. Bucks Royal brings us his 5 key talking points from the match.

Ben Hoskins

This side has come a long way...

One thing that really sticks out for me is just how much this side has changed in only a few months. Of the eleven that started against Wolves on Sunday, only four of those were in the starting line-up to face Burnley at the beginning of May. That day, Reading lined up in a standard 4-4-2 formation with Morrison in the defence, Le Fondre pairing Pogrebnyak up front, and the Jamaican duo of McAnuff and McCleary providing the width. In the time between those matches, we've seen regulars like McCarthy, Morrison, McAnuff and Le Fondre all leave the club, and second top-scorer Pavel Pogrebnyak relegated to the bench for much of this season. Against Wolves, the set-up was completely different, with recent additions Norwood, Cox and Murray some of the key cogs in a noticeably renovated machine. What's more, the alterations that Nigel Adkins has been able to make with formerly more minor squad members has been telling - Adam Federici, Michael Hector, Hope Akpan, Jake Taylor and Nick Blackman have all been first team regulars this season despite making comparatively few appearances last term. Add to that the major tactical switch from a McDermott-esque 4-4-2 to an Adkinsian 4-2-3-1 and the whole dynamic changes even further.

A Tale of Two Technical Glitches...

Sunday was a bad day for the Madejski Stadium technical department, with the 17,454 attendees first blasted by an ear-splitting PA system, and then treated to a very distinct lack of goal music. The latter has been received unsurprisingly positively in the recent days, with the overwhelming Twitter crowd majority assuring the club that no one wants goal music at all... despite the latest poll (with the biggest available survey audience) of the Reading fanbase showing a clear majority in favour. The former was arguably a blessing in disguise, jolting awake a Mad Stad crowd being put to sleep by a relatively dull game and the weekly Sunday-morning hangover. Speaking of hangovers...

Sloppy defending...

If the crowd seemed sluggish during the game, Reading's defence was even more so. So far this season, Nigel Adkins' backline have conceded a whopping fourteen goals in the league, a statistic that far from suggests promotion next May. All three of Wolves' goals can be put down to slack Reading defending - Guthrie losing the ball and Pearce failing to block a cross for their first, a hashed clearance from Obita for their second, and an avoidable set-piece goal for their third. Messrs Hector, Taylor and Murray may have been able to bail out the defence on this occasion (and recent weeks have shown us to have an admirable goal threat, especially at home), but conceding sloppy goals on a regular basis will be costly.

A lack of width...

One of the things that Reading have always been able to do well in recent years is attacking with width. We've won the Championship twice in recent years with the likes of Convey, McAnuff, Little and Kebe as key players in those teams. However, looking at our play on Sunday afternoon, there seemed to a distinct lack of it. Last season, Messrs McCleary and McAnuff were a constant threat on each wing, with Gunter and Obita having license to support and overlap them constantly. But against Wolves, despite having decent games in my opinion, Taylor and Blackman cut inside and supported Cox and Murray, with Obita and Gunter staying in relatively withdrawn positions. For me, whatever system we play under Nigel Adkins, the pace and skill we have out wide will always be a key weapon in our arsenal, but I didn't see us exploit it on Sunday.

Murray and Cox shine as a duo

On the flipside, the partnership developing between Glenn Murray and Simon Cox looks to be working a treat. With Murray leading the line as a strong frontman skilled at keeping the ball on the deck and linking up the play with Cox in the hole, there's a real threat through the middle in this team. Particularly on Sunday, we looked to be at our best with the latter making the most of his free role in the team, dropping deep to receive the ball before driving forward with the ball at his feet. The second goal was a great example of that - Cox running at the Wolves' defence before cleverly playing in Taylor to beat the goalie. We haven't had someone like Cox to play in that role in recent years, and it seems to be working a treat. The £600k we reportedly paid for him in the summer already looks like a bargain.