Jamie Mackie does have end product after all
There are some things you can't accuse Jamie Mackie of. The Nottingham Forest loanee consistently runs himself into the ground, regardless of how well others perform. As such, he's a big asset to any squad at this level. That said, he's often been criticised for lacking end product - racking up just two goals and three assists so far this season. But, if the Ipswich match showed anything, it's that he certainly has a spark of quality in his locker. Mackie's 25 yard drive perhaps seemed to take Bialkowski by surprise, but it was enough to give Reading all three points.
The bigger debate here is whether or not we should try to keep Jamie Mackie when his loan deal runs out in the summer. For every game that he comes to life in, there are five more performances when he makes minimal attacking contribution. But, undeniably, Mackie will show a work-rate in those five games that makes Mo Farah's long distance running look lazy. Combine that with a presumably low asking price and pretty reasonable wages, and we could be onto a winner.
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Jake Taylor's been treated unfairly
As a winger, I'm not Jake Taylor's biggest fan. As I wrote earlier this season, his performances on the left wing show that there are better options for that position. Nonetheless, I don't think the young Welshman was that much worse than anyone else in the team, especially when form dropped drastically. With that in mind, him being frozen out before being suddenly thrown in against Huddersfield Town on Tuesday doesn't do the academy graduate justice. If he's to be judged properly, he needs regular appearances to get up to speed.
I also think that Clarke could be seriously missing a trick here. If you Taylor what his preferred position is, I wouldn't be surprised to hear him yearn for a central attacking role. Typical Steve Clarke sides need someone to play there - the oft-used 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 hinges on an intelligent link-man between the defensive midfield pairing and the lone striker. So far, Oliver Norwood and Simon Cox have been the main options, but neither have really made it their own. Clarke could do a lot worse than to give Jake Taylor a run-out there.
Huddersfield was a nothing game
I'm sure the 187 fans that made the journey up to Yorkshire will disagree with me, but I'm unconvinced that Tuesday night's match was that important. With three points secured at Ipswich a few days earlier, no result against the Terriers would have pushed Reading that far down the table. In fact, we now sit in 15th place, having missed an opportunity to move up to 11th. Obviously, no-one wants to lose games, but the 3-0 defeat to Huddersfield doesn't really change anything - Reading are still a bizarrely inconsistent team.
Rotating the side
If Steve Clarke agrees with me on that last point, it goes some way to explaining the six changes he made to his starting XI. With Reading having to deal with two games every week until the end of March, giving regular starters the night off is a sensible decision. As a result, the gaffer's team selection was probably motivated as much by beating fatigue as by beating Huddersfield Town.
Hope Akpan, Oliver Norwood, Jake Taylor, Danny Guthrie, Garath McCleary and Yakubu all got starts under their belt, and will be the better for it. That means that Reading have an extra-fresh Pavel Pogrebnyak, Hal Robson-Kanu, Danny Williams, Nathaniel Chalobah and Simon Cox raring to go against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
Imagine Reading trying to rest six players in a single match a few months ago!
Relegation isn't a realistic danger...
...not that I thought it ever was this season. As previously mentioned, this week's pair of results keeps Reading locked firmly in the depressing abyss that is mid-table Championship football. It's worth casting a glance at Reading's league form under Steve Clarke, which reads as follows: LDWDLDWWLLWL. From those 12 games (a potential maximum of 36 points), the Royals have 4 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses, making 15 points.
Putting that form into perspective, it's certainly better than what we saw at times earlier this campaign, but it's hardly that inspiring. Nonetheless, it's easily enough to avoid relegation.