Reading: Bond; Gunter, McShane, Ferdinand, Obita; Williams, Norwood, Tshibola (Cox 69), Quinn (Alex 86); Sa, Robson-Kanu (Blackman 69)
The match started relatively well for the Royals, with Chris Gunter getting a lot of freedom down the right wing. Oliver Norwood tried to find him with a trademark raking pass but was intercepted, then Orlando Sa did manage to locate the Welsh right-back. His cross was cleared but only as far as Quinn, whose delivery was met by Hal Robson-Kanu but his glancing header didn't have enough direction. Sa provided another cross five minutes later to Robson-Kanu who couldn't quite connect cleanly.
Robert Hall down the right flank looked the Dons' biggest danger early on, as the young winger got the better of Jordan Obita a couple of times before he fired the first warning shot, a 20-yard strike which fizzed just wide of Jonathan Bond's right-hand post. At the other end, Sa was released by Norwood with the length of the Dons' half to run at goal, but Antony Kay managed to catch up and deflect his shot for a corner. The Portuguese striker was looking dangerous and a Robson-Kanu cross found him in the box, but his effort was again blocked by a resilient Dons back line.
Twenty minutes in, and Reading's number nine had the best chance of the first half when Sa's shot from Gunter's cross was deflected his way inside the six yard box. David Martin made himself big to block the reaction shot, but in all honesty, Robson-Kanu should have done better. Five minutes later, Danny Williams broke free from inside his own half but with no support, was forced to go alone, and his near post shot rustled the net - unfortunately, the wrong side of it. The Royals did have the ball in the net as Sa neatly flicked in from a Robson-Kanu cross, but the offside flag was quickly raised.
Both goalkeepers were struggling with their distribution but it was Bond who nearly made the costlier error, after Anton Ferdinand's heavy pass back to him was cleared only along the floor. Ferdinand recovered to make a challenge to stop the Dons running in on goal, then apologised to his 'keeper, but this isn't the first time the new stopper has been wayward with his kicking. There was nothing he could do about Simon Church's snapshot from just inside the box after Dean Bowditch had laid off, but luckily it struck the base of the post and Reading could clear.
Two long shots provided the final entertainment of the first half, as Stephen Quinn curled high and wide from Sa's layoff, then Norwood struck from range which forced Martin to parry before gathering at the second attempt. Nil-nil at the break. It felt strangely familiar, although it was arguably the best half of football from the Royals this season. Just a lack of cutting edge denying the Royals fans a first goal in five and a half league matches at the Mad Stad.
Unfortunately for Reading, they couldn't carry that momentum into the second half, which petered out into nothing very quickly. The lack of finishing was epitomised as the Royals carved out a brilliant chance down the left wing involving Quinn, Norwood and Sa, but nobody pulled the trigger and the danger was cleared. Aaron Tshibola was having a quietly effective game in the middle of the park and he could have found the net on the hour mark, but his left-footed effort from 12 yard was tame. And Norwood found the clearest sight of goal five minutes later as Sa but him through, but Martin read his body language and dived to save his curling effort.
Nick Blackman injected pace and urgency into a match which was lacking excitement in the last half hour - his shot from 25 yards the closest Reading came to a winner, but it was comfortable for Martin at his near post. McShane felt he was pushed at a corner but the referee, who had made some questionable decisions, waved away any protests. And that was that. After the promise of the first 60 minutes, a tame finish to the match but somehow just what we've come to expect.
This wasn't quite a game of two halves, but more of a 60/30 split. Reading certainly didn't exert pressure for ten minutes at a time, or rain down efforts on the Dons net to no avail. But they definitely had the better of the play and will feel aggrieved that they didn't score at least once. Unfortunately it's the same old problem as a lack of composure and a real dearth of good finishers limits our abilities to score. The last half hour was soporific, after 60 minutes where at least we looked like we could finally find the net.
Sa had a good game up front, a great focal point for the side as he won the ball frequently and created chances for others. But aside from that one flicked header, he didn't have any chances of his own. Robson-Kanu was jeered as he left the field, which I felt was a tad harsh as it wasn't his worst game ever, but he spurned a number of good chances early on which could have settled the nerves.
One positive is the defensive performance, although in truth MK Dons carried very little attacking threat after Hall's forays down the right flank were nullified. Gunter impressed down the right wing, whilst McShane and Ferdinand were solid, a couple of minor errors aside. The big question mark is over Jonathan Bond, whose kicking has been less than stellar so far.
There was only ever going to be one winner, but yet again Reading couldn't finish the script and find the back of the net. This was more frustrating than the Leeds game because the Royals played well - very well at times. But the goals have to start flowing soon.
Six home League matches without a Reading goal. 11 points from 45 for Steve Clarke. Today was a step forward, just about, but at the moment the boss requires a big leap to once again win over the Royals faithful.
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