Reading's first home defeat of the 2015/16 campaign can be analysed in many ways, but ultimately the key incident was Orlando Sa's red card. However, from my point of view, without video footage of the incident to discuss whether the referee was right or wrong in his decision, I'll focus on how the Royals could have better prevented the winning goal from occurring, and how the game panned out with regard to the red card.
Live To The SkyPad
The best place to start is by donning my best Gary Neville impression and taking you through the goal that won the game, moment by moment, as several key factors allowed the Rams to net the opener.
Exhibit A is Michael Hector's positioning in marking Chris Martin, who comes to receive the initial pass in the following screenshot. I admit that there's a lot going on here, but let's begin with Hector.
In the red circle, it is clear that Hector is doing neither of his two options. Primarily, he is caught unawares of the movement by Martin and is chasing to make up the ground lost. Quite simply, he could be tighter to put off the striker about to play the ball, also preventing him from turning and facing goal. Alternatively, he could drop off to cover the runner, which we'll get onto later.
A quick note on Aaron Tshibola here, who seems to be out of position - in the blue circle. This is as a direct result of the sending off, as the Derby man to the top left of the screen, Bradley Johnson, is preventing Tshibola from covering the extra space between himself and Oli Norwood. Here, the man advantage told as the Rams were able to bypass Reading's two-man central midfield right through the middle of the pitch.
Now to Exhibit B, Jordan Obita, who is perhaps at most to blame for this goal. He's some distance away from Ince, the orange circle showing the space he's left for his opponent to run into; ball-watching much like during Ipswich's goal on Friday night. Below, we see how he is simply unaware of the winger's run and hasn't even begun to catch him as Ince bears down on an exposed Paul McShane.
Ince had, up until that point, had a pretty average game, and his turn on McShane showed his superior agility at a key moment. However, his finish left a lot to be desired and, from a Reading point of view, became a big talking point.
For Exhibit C I'm going to split this into two screenshots of the highlights, firstly looking at goalkeeper Jonathan Bond's positioning, where he leaves his near post exposed:
The red areas are where Ince has to shoot to score - given a large(ish) amount of guess work! - and the black line is the route the ball actually took to goal. First and foremost is that Bond's near post is rather open, as he's simply quite far across to his far-post. Maybe football people differ in their views, but I'm keen on protecting the near-post as a priority, hockey-style if needs must.
Second point to make about this is that Bond is clearly leaning his body towards the far post, in anticipation. As before, if that's where the ball goes he's a great chance of saving it. But, it doesn't go there, and as we now see, he makes a hash of keeping it out.
Not being Sky Sports means we have to make do with a bit of action-blur on this moment, but it is clear that Bond nearly gets there, but any contact is weak and the ball rolls daintily into the back of the net. Much improvement needed for the man who hasn't really been tested much this season. We know this because he's made just 0.9 saves per game: the fewest in the league (minimum two apps.).
Game Of Two Halves
It seems an obvious point to make, but the game changed completely when Sa was dismissed just before the break. In the first period, Reading struggled to break down and get in behind a side that sat deep, an issue that remains unsolved after seemingly years of occurring. After the red card, Derby's tails were up and Reading were toothless up front.
Matěj Vydra's impact on the game was endemic on how effective Reading were in attack across the evening, managing just 11 touches as the lone-striker in his 20-minute second period having had 27 in the first period. It's a similar story for Nick Blackman, who touched the ball 14 times when up front after Vyrda's departure, managing 29 on the right-wing beforehand.
In conclusion, the game before the red card followed a pattern we've witnessed many times at the Madejski in recent months, but Friday night had raised hopes of Reading's ability to crowbar their way towards a goal. Ultimately, after the red card all bets were off and one moment against a good, but very unspectacular Derby side cost the Royals their unbeaten home start, and a hard-earned point.
What do you make of the stats from the game? Have we missed something? Comment below.
Stats from WhoScored and highlights from Reading FC Official Youtube.