A game that saw a much better performance from a Reading team that are getting their act together under the returning Brian McDermott. In all truth it was a game that Reading should have won. Derby were disappointing and I wouldn’t fancy their chances if they got promoted.
Reading made just one change from the game against Huddersfield on Saturday. Lucas Piazon, a second half sub on Saturday, came in for Stephen Quinn. Derby included former Royal Nick Blackman, upfront with Chris Martin and Tom Ince. Reading played Piazon just behind Matěj Vydra, with Garath McCleary and Hal Robson-Kanu on the wings.
Reading stared much more brightly than Derby with most of the possession. Oliver Norwood found space on the edge of the box after good wing play by McCleary only to blaze his shot well over.
On 14 minutes Derby won a corner after Ali Al-Habsi saved well from Blackman, after good work from Ince. Jason Shackell managed to free himself of Jake Cooper and had a simple tap in from the corner. Either Cooper slipped or Shackell wrestled him to the ground.
Reading responded well to going behind with some very neat passing between the midfield two, Piazon and Vydra. One thing that we noticed being high up in the iPro Stadium was how much work Vydra does in closing down the opposition and making runs, often to no avail.
The game then went in to a bit of a stalemate until on 40 minutes Reading equalised through a very well worked goal from Williams. Robson-Kanu was fed beautifully by Piazon down the left edge of the penalty area. He looped a great cross in for Williams to coming surging forward with a well-directed header in to the bottom left corner of the goal. Reading deservedly back on terms at half time.
Reading really should have gone on to win the game in the second half as they were much more creative than Derby. The Derby fans went very quiet and after a slow first half the Royals fans found their voice reminding the home side that we're their bogey team!
Blackman had one good shot well saved by Al-Habsi but it was mostly Reading threatening with some very good passing moves around the edge of the Derby box. Blackman played the first half on the right wing and then played more centrally during the second half. However him, and Ince, were fairly anonymous. The Royals looked solid at the back, polished in midfield and threatening up front.
The best chance of several fell to Robson-Kanu, whose shot from the edge of the box was tipped on to the post by Lee Grant in what was the save of the match. Reading also had two free kicks on the edge of the box and a series of corners that they couldn’t make the most of.
McCleary also had a shot well saved by the Derby keeper, whilst Cooper also went close with a header. It was very encouraging to see different players taking corners and free kicks in an attempt to try and break our set piece stalemate!
This was a very good Reading display. We now look to have a good shape with players working hard for each other and the team. The McDermott ethos is clearly starting to tell.
I was personally glad to see the back of Blackman. I still think that we need another striker who could finish off the good passing moves that we are now delivering.
I wasn’t expecting us to be disappointed about not winning at Derby. For me the man of the match was Robson-Kanu who was a continual threat down Derby’s right. He showed some great touches and worked his socks off. (And I have been one of his harshest critics.)
The Wales international was closely followed by Williams, Norwood and Piazon. Piazon just needs to learn not to over complicate things some times. Have a shot!
Now we move on to MK Dons on Saturday, a new ground for the Reading faithful. After their big loss last night this now becomes a very winnable game.