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Reading FC 1-2 Huddersfield Town: Terrier-ble

The warning signs were there, victories against Newport County and Ipswich Town masked some poor performances. Huddersfield came to town and left with three deserved points, leaving Royals fans frustrated by a well drilled Terriers side.

Ben Hoskins

Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Hector, Cummings (Kuhl 46); Akpan, Obita; Blackman (Mackie 64), Cox, Taylor (Tanner 69); Pogrebnyak

Reading set up in their typical back four passing drill, with the middle of the park deserted, and it was their downfall in the tenth minute. Michael Hector played a pass into Hope Akpan half-way inside his own half, and he was immediately closed down and dispossessed by Jacob Butterfield. The midfielder curled the ball home beautifully from the top of the box with Adam Federici stranded. Us at TTE have differing opinions over whose fault it was for the opener, but for me Hector played a hospital pass which immediately put Akpan under pressure - Federici had stern words with the young centre-back as the celebrating Terriers walked back to their own half.

The Royals tried to create chances of their own, and their best hope of an equaliser came twice through Nick Blackman. The winger span Huddersfield left-back Paul Dixon before squaring back for Simon Cox, but a Terriers defender got there just before him. Cox turned provider two minutes later as Reading nicked possession in the middle of the park, but Blackman smacked the layoff high into the travelling fans.

It got worse for the home fans ten minutes before half-time. Already frustrated at the lack of impetus from the Royals, debutant Harry Bunn nicked the ball from Chris Gunter inside his own area. With the blue and white shirts static, Bunn had time to run towards goal and fire past Federici from a tight angle. Another defensive shambles, with questions over both Gunter's and Federici's roles, as the right-back was far too easily shoved off the ball whilst the keeper could have done better from such a position.

Just two minutes later, it could have been three as Blackman was dispossessed, leaving three attackers running at Hector and Pearce. The danger was averted, but not before Wells had a penalty shout waved away by Stuart Attwell after a clumsy Hector challenge. The youngster had a good chance to atone for his error in the dying embers of the first half, but his volley from a corner was diverted wide.


Changes were needed, and Aaron Kuhl came on for his Royals debut, replacing Shaun Cummings with Jordan Obita moving to his more familiar left-back role. And Kuhl created something with almost his first touch, playing a one-two with Pavel Pogrebnyak before crossing for Cox, whose glancing header was high and wide. The Terriers were still dangerous on the counter, though, and Bunn took the ball past three before firing wide from the top of the box.

Obita looked far more comportable at left-back than he did in central midfield, and he provided the first quality chance for Reading on the hour mark. His cross was controlled by Cox, who laid to Pogrebnyak on the penalty spot - his half volley was pushed around the post by Alex Smithies. Nakhi Wells' pace was troubling the Reading defence at the other end, and only a sliding Pearce stopped the striker having a tap-in for game over.

More changes for the Royals with around 25 minutes left, as Jamie Mackie made his debut off the bench replacing Blackman, and Craig Tanner came on for Jake Taylor. More impetus came as the Terriers sat back, and Pogrebnyak released Cox with a flick, but his volley was saved. With Wells on the pitch, the opposition always had a willing runner, and he turned Hector out wide before falling in the box under pressure from Pearce. Attwell again gave nothing.

Finally, a glimmer of light came with ten minutes left. Bunn was sitting on the Reading six yard line for the best part of a minute as the Royals pressed forward, and the extra man for that sixty seconds told, as Cox crashed home a volley from the top of the box. Ten minutes to get a barely deserved equaliser and two more moments came. Akpan turned in the box before going down under pressure, but Attwell was only giving decisions if the contact could be heard from space. At least he was consistent.

And the closest Reading came was from Alex Pearce, who spotted Smithies off his line and attempted a left-footed lob from 20 yards. Well, perhaps he didn't quite mean to attempt that, but it hit the bar before going behind. The Terriers wound down the clock, to the frustration of the Royals fans who had seen their team do the same to Ipswich on Saturday afternoon, and that was all she wrote.


In my opinion, sadly, this sort of result and performance was on the cards. Reading had beaten Newport County with some clinical finishing and counter-attacking, but for much of the game the League Two side looked the better team. And against Ipswich, it really was backs to the wall in an attempt to preserve a one goal lead - only Shaun Cummings' flick onto the bar prevented the Tractorboys. But tonight, the Terriers had a plan, and executed it to perfection.

It was two defensive mistakes that cost Reading. Hector should never have played the pass to Akpan, though the midfielder was also at fault for being outmuscled, something which happens far too often. The second was a highly uncharacteristic error from the normally reliable Gunter, but the reaction (or lack of) from the blue and white shirts was something to behold.

It got better, but only when Huddersfield went into lockdown and the creeping barrage started. Cox took his goal well, and Blackman had a couple of pot shots from distance, but the front four were generally anonymous, Taylor especially. Kuhl changed the game for the positive, a natural central midfielder with awareness of what's around him and an ability to pass out of trouble was something that Obita and Akpan lacked.

Too often in the first 70 minutes, the gap between the midfield and the attack was far too big. If I was asked what formation we played for most of the game, it would have been a 6-0-4, because Obita and Akpan were as deep as the back four, with the two strikers and two wingers pushed right up onto the Huddersfield back line. As a consequence, any second ball in the middle of the park was easily picked up by the Terriers, and they found pockets of space far more easily than the Reading team.

The worst thing was that, in retrospect, this was coming, and in many regards it's the same sort of performances that we were putting up on our bad run at the end of last term. Reinforcements will arrive, both from outside and within with our frustrating injury list, but the tactics were so frustrating. Things may change with new blood, but the new-look, transition Royals need to convince the fans again with false dawns coming all too frequently.

What did you make of the game? Let us know your thoughts below.