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Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Reading FC: Stats Insight

In recent weeks Reading's lack of ability to break teams down has caught them out. Jamie Mackie saved them against Bolton but @WilliamOwain thinks this could be a long term problem.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Take away Jamie Mackie's late, late equaliser and Tuesday's night's long trip up North had a familiar feeling for Reading fans. A bright first half saw the Royals get the better of the game without really creating any clear cut chances. At half time they lost the impetus and before the hour mark they went behind.

This was not a major surprise. Reading's record in the first 15 minutes after the break is quite simply shocking: four goals for and 14 against. Only three teams in the Championship (Blackpool, Leeds and Wigan) have managed less goals and no team has conceded more.

The Royals going behind usually signals defeat

This is something Steve Clarke is going to have deal with. Might it be time to have quick warm up before the second half like Derby do? Whatever Clarke does it can't come soon enough as the Royals going behind usually signals defeat. Reading have only managed to pick up five points from the 19 games where they have conceded the first goal. They have also only scored 11 times.

By contrast the Royals have only failed to win on two of the 10 occasions when they have got the first goal and they were both draws. This record makes Reading the fourth best team in the league at protecting a lead.

None of these stats are probably that surprising for Reading fans. This team's lack of ability to come from behind has been a well known problem for a long time. Perhaps surprisingly the team's ability to hold onto leads has also been a long term habit. This may not be a coincidence.

Bad passing, good results

Take a look at the table below. It shows Reading's passing accuracy per game and is sorted from high to low. It is striking how Reading's results get better as their passing accuracy gets worse.

The same pattern emerges with the possession statistics. Once again the Royals' results improve as their possession figures get smaller.

Some fans will point to this as evidence that Reading are a team, maybe even a football club, where the passing ethos just does not work. Some may even argue that is where Nigel Adkins went wrong. After all, weren't we told by Anton Zingarevich that Adkins was appointed on the basis of the passing football he got Southampton playing.

There was a noticeable improvement in Reading's passing in their final few games in the Premier League under Adkins. It seemed that a new passing Reading team might be emerging. Yet in the Championship this never materialised. The stats prove that under Nigel Adkins Reading were not a possession based team.

The graph above clearly shows that, at least in terms of passes per game, there was never a clear style of play under Adkins. Reading weren't trying to play tiki-taka but neither were they trying to sit deep and counter attack. Like so many England teams in my life, Reading since 2013 have not had a clear identity or strategy. Again like England this is starting to catch up with Reading.

Sitting deep

Clarke has alluded to this problem in the last month. We all knew he was a defensive minded coach and with Reading's lack of clear style this has brought both good and poor results. Ask the Royals to sit deep protecting a lead then we're actually a pretty decent team. The problem is getting into that position.

If Reading fall behind then they become flummoxed. The opposition know they can simply sit deep and watch Reading panic. Sitting deep stops Reading being able to play the long ball and forces them to try and pass the ball. As the Stats Desk have often mentioned, this usually results in the ball played out wide and an endless unsuccessful stream of crosses.

If though the Royals go in front then it is another story. It will be Reading who can sit deep and not bother about possession. Instead long counter attacking balls and clearances will, so far this season, help Reading see out the game.

Homer Simpson as a boxer

These stats seem to point to one thing: it's time to recognise our shortcomings and admit we're a limited team that should go defence first. A bit like McDermott's team. Except as we all know that is only a short, though potentially glorious, term fix. Reading under McDermott were like Homer Simpson as a boxer: our hard head meant we could cope with the punches of hobos and with one punch get a knock out win. Against Premier League titans like Drederick Tatum, such tactics only serve to get you brain damage. Unlike Homer, we didn't have Fanman to come to our rescue!

At some point Reading need a manager to decide on a clear strategy and identity. Sitting deep and being defensive is fine, but you have to be deadly on the counter attack and able to change your tactics if you go behind. It's going to be a hard job for Clarke. We'll need to be patient.

Statistics taken from SoccerSTATS and WhoScored.