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5 Things - Fulham

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It could so easily have been three points, but it just wasn't to be - Reading losing out in the dying moments to Fulham on Saturday. Continuing his breakdown of the match, Bucks Royal brings us his five things.

Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Clarke has found his strongest XI

For now at least, Steve Clarke seems to have decided what his strongest starting XI is. The team that started against Fulham was almost unchanged from the one that drew 0-0 with Middlesbrough - Garath McCleary the only new face.

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As it happens, I don't think many of us would argue too much with it. With Anton Ferdinand still unavailable and Shaun Cummings sold to Millwall, the back five pretty much picks itself. In the midfield, the likes of McCleary, Williams and Norwood are all no-brainers, and don't look like being dropped any time soon. On the left, Robson-Kanu has started every game for Steve Clarke except the 0-1 defeat to Watford, keeping out the likes of Blackman and Taylor. Up front, Pavel Pogrebnyak maintained his partnership with Simon Cox.

Regardless of how good you think that team is, consistency could do Reading an awful lot of good. It was roughly this time last season that Nigel Adkins picked the same lineup for about half a dozen games in a row - one of the key factors in our January upturn in form. Steve Clarke is clearly trying to replicate that, and we should see results improve accordingly.

There are still problems with the subs bench

For me, it's worrying how weak our bench looks at the moment. That's not to say there isn't quality on it, because there is. Karacan and Guthrie are accomplished midfielders, whilst Mackie and Blackman are good options going forwards. But when was the last time we had a match winner on the bench? At 1-1, Steve Clarke didn't have anyone to call on to mix up Reading's attacks by providing something different. That might explain why he waited until the 84th minute to introduce both Jamie Mackie and Nick Blackman, who each went on to squander golden opportunities to win the game.

That bench would have looked a lot stronger had we been protecting a lead going into the closing stages. Karacan and Guthrie are more defensive options than not, whereas Jamie Mackie's work-rate can help grind out a win. In hindsight, playing Danny Guthrie behind Pogrebnyak could have given Reading something extra, rather than relying on Garath McCleary.

A frustrating display from Robson-Kanu

If I was writing a school report for the squad, Robson-Kanu's entry would read: "clearly able, but must apply himself more." On Saturday, his footwork and workrate looked pretty solid, but he repeatedly refused to get at his full back. I'm a firm believer that he could be our left-footed Garath McCleary - he has the technical skill and pace to do so for sure. But if he isn't willing to take a risk and run at a defence, rather than passing it safely to Jordan Obita, he won't fulfill his potential.

Déjà vu for Reading's strikers

21 shots, 6 on target, 1 goal. That'll be the frequently quoted statistic from Saturday's game against Fulham, but I think it's been misinterpreted. When you create a lot of chances but don't score from many of them, the common solution is: our finishing isn't up to scratch. But really, how many of those shots were the kind of chances that should have been put away? As I see it, Reading didn't unlock Fulham in the way that you need to in order to score. But why was that?

Cast your minds back to last March. Reading managed a monumental 56 shots in 2 games - against Yeovil at the Madejski, and then against Brighton at the Amex a week later. From all those efforts, Reading scored twice - one being an own goal. The regular problem at that time was that, although we did well on the counter, we couldn't break down a packed defence. That same issue reared its head on Saturday - Fulham sat back, and we couldn't get through them - Pogrebnyak's goal being an unmarked header from a corner.

Exactly how away tickets should be sold

With seemingly so many teams in the Championship nowadays being based in the north, big away days don't come round too often for Reading fans. Because of various factors, such as the cost of travel, fixtures at other teams in the south tend to be much better attended. Back in October, I was one of many wound up by the 'Royalty Points' scheme used for selling Brentford tickets, an issue brilliantly dissected by Jon Keen at the time. In short, such a system rewards fans' financial contributions to the club, rather than actual loyalty.

As such, it was refreshing to see the system scrapped for the Fulham game. With the restrictions removed, anyone could could get tickets if they wanted them, regardless of their 'points' tally. In the end, 2,731 Loyal Royals packed into the away end of Craven Cottage (and made a bit of a racket in the process). Long may that continue for Reading away games.