For the first time in a long, long time, I actually fancied us for a win. I couldn't even see us conceding. Fulham had not scored in four league games and we had found some solidity due to Steve Clarke's defensive moulding. Whilst conceding first is hardly a rare event for us this season, for once I felt we'd find our way back. In the second half, the Pog put us back in the game and ol' Bobbins could smell victory. Alas, no - we contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Despite the dismay, it wasn't a performance that needs examining for where it went wrong. For once, there were plenty of positives to take from the Cottage. Quite even stuff at first glance, indicative of the reports that we had our share of the spoils and were well worthy of our
three, one, oh. Well, we competed very well!
But do ponder the toppermost stat there. Twenty-one shots. No matter which team you choose, I'd hazard a wild stab in the dark that 21 shots is a pretty damn high return. The six on target is not so impressive, but I'm sure we can all remember many games under Adkins where we'd be praying for a shot on goal - if it actually went anywhere close to the onion bag would be a blessed bonus.
Simon Cox, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Danny Williams and McCleary all had more than 3 shots each to their name. Whether they were on target or not, whilst important, at least we're now getting into positions to shoot!
Whoscored.com added this to their summary...
If you read that summary and didn't know the score of the game, you'd think we'd romped it or at very least squeaked our way to a narrow win. So to have to bite down on your knuckle and think we actually gained the square root of feck all makes it even harder to take.
The return of a talismanic winger, Garath McCleary, was much needed in adding pace and attacking flair to a side that has been devoid of guile and creativity of late.
At this point, I will temper the love-in and say that, not for the first time, whilst we crossed with impunity, the accuracy was less than stellar. If only we could convert some of these wee beauties, eh?
As we can see below, McCleary was getting into some cracking positions, getting behind the full back and putting in plenty of balls. Clearly, the issue is no longer if Garath is back from his um...back issue. He patently is back.
Whether having a different striker to receive his crosses remains and a fair few of the crosses did not actually travel that far, but I believe it's the depth of penetration we should be looking at.
Look where he's crossing the ball from - deep, deep into the Fulham territory. We haven't seen this from a Reading side this season, simple as that. The heatmap of where Garath operated from is more than impressive.
You can't ask for more, really, can you? How we didn't manage to convert anything from his input is quite the mystery, but still we have to take the positive that we're now able to stretch the play.
Conversely, let's look at the heatmap for Hal Robson-Kanu. Now, this isn't a crucifixion of Hal, merely for comparison to indicate how well McCleary played.
Quite a different beast, that's clear. OK, we're not comparing the same kind of winger, it would be a tad disingenuous to expect Hal to mirror Garath in every way. That simply wouldn't be fair. All season we have found the left wing to be a massive issue, whether HRK is the answer is obviously debatable, but consider if we did have a left winger to match the right? Tasty! Ah well, we can but dream.
Further seeds of joy come from corners via the right boot of Oliver Norwood. As we know, this resulted in our goal from our big fluffin' Russian. Strange you may think as big Pav often doesn't win his share of headers in open play, yet it bore fruit and it's clearly come from the training ground. Encouraging.
So, whilst the ultimate return from West London was zero, we perhaps gained some confidence from our overall performance from the chances created, the dangerous positions we ventured into and set pieces. We may continue to look nervously below at the league table, but if we continue to evolve under Steve Clarke, I do predict that sometime soon we will click and some team is going to get an utter pasting. Preferably when I'm reporting, for a change!
Statistics courtesy of Squawka and Whoscored.com