Reading FC: Federici, Kelly, Gunter (c), Pearce, Hector, Norwood, Williams (Taylor 77), Robson-Kanu (Blackman 85), Obita, Murray, Cox (McCleary 45)
Cardiff City: Marshall, Brayford, Connolly (Fabio 79), Morrisonl, Turner, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Noone (Daehli 77), Pilkington, Macheda (Jones 88), Le Fondre.
A sensible line-up was picked by Nigel Adkins, choosing to restrict returning winger Garath McCleary on the bench for his first selection of the season, and opting for a 4-2-3-1 with Simon Cox hovering behind Glenn Murray. Cardiff set up in a basic 4-4-2 with ex-Royals Sean Morrison and Adam le Fondre starting and getting a mixed reception from the travelling fans- the majority of which remained indifferent to the summer departures.
The first 10 minutes saw Reading settle in comfortably, dictating the play but always seeming vulnerable to the counter-attack. The first of which saw Le Fondre head wide before Anthony Pilkington ran into the area too easily and forced a good block from Michael Hector.
The tepid-ness of the home crowd seemed to hold Cardiff back on forcing Reading into the final third, and good defending from Hector and Kelly made the away side look unphased by any advances into their territory.
However, Reading's attacks were full of passing but little shooting, the opposite of the hosts who forced a corner from a dangerous Pilkington cross. Peter Whittingham whipped it into a crowded 6-yard box, with Alex Pearce grappling with Ben Turner and knocking it into his own net. The Irish defender went mad at the referee, but in reality he was caught off-guard when he should have comfortably cleared. 1-0 Cardiff.
A scrappy period ensued, broken by Cox and Hal Robson-Kanu playing a tidy one-two, releasing Obita for a shot straight at keeper Marshall. The dangerous Craig Noone then forced a Federici save from distance- the only open-play shot on target in the first-half for Cardiff.
Indeed, the Bluebirds' attacks were often wasteful- Federico Macheda ran at a backing-off Hector to fire high and wide and remind us all why he's a 23-year-old journeyman.
The away fans were settling in to be a tad disappointed- but still in it- at half-time and a goal down. But that become a disheartening 2-0 as Hector and Pearce hesitated with Le Fondre chasing a loose ball in injury time, it seemed like Pearce had the time to clear but Alfie raced in on goal and was felled for a penalty. Federici may have been about to gather, or Le Fondre may have been about to round him and score, but either way it was unnecessary and a red card. Peter Whittingham safely converted. 2-0. Half time.
Playing the numbers game, Nigel Adkins kept Murray on up-front and threw Garath McCleary onto the right-wing for Cox. In theory, a target man with two wingers to counter-attack with seemed a good 4-4-1 tactic. However, all night Reading lacked the pace in attack to make this happen, and Murray's first touch was often poor.
The hosts decided to settle in, as if they were resting for a crucial midweek Champions League tie, and failed to kill the game off. The Royals became scrappy for long periods, the best chance of which saw Oliver Norwood curl a free-kick over the bar.
Yet, Cardiff didn't seem bothered enough- and unable to- kill the game off. The home fans began to get tetchy- unusually making some noise in the process- while the away fans amused themselves. You can always tell a bored Reading crowd by an extended right side-left side chant.
The game got interesting as Reading's first second-half corner was smashed in by Hector on the turn, slipping through Marshall's legs and giving some hope to the brilliantly noisy travelling Royals supporters.
Federici was still forced into a decent double save before The Royals pushed hard in the dying moments. Nick Blackman was booked for diving and crosses were cleared before the game fizzled out and the three points stayed in Wales.
Nigel Adkins hardly rushed out to applaud the fans- who, I make the point again, were excellent- and it's hard to pin this defeat on the Scouse gaffer. The same goes for the players left on the pitch, who played well for large parts but failed in decisive moments, often down to the dismissed Pearce.
However, while there are positives in areas, this is another defeat. 6 losses in 7 on the road is not good enough; the Royals seem incapable of stealing a point here or there, grabbing a win in the dying moments, or even dominating and being down to only have drawn. Perhaps that will be the defining feature of the 2014/15 season.
What did you make of the game? Leave a comment below.