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Reading FC 1-2 Aston Villa: It Had To Be Us

A full match report on a disappointing evening at the Madejski Stadium where Aston Villa ended their long wait for an away win.

Warren Little/Getty Images

It just had to be Reading that provided Aston Villa with their first away win since the start of last season.

"Frustrating" and "we need to take our chances" are regular quotes that I seem to see the majority of the time after each of Reading's games. This game proved no different.

1st Half

The first half was a quiet one, which is seemingly becoming a regular occurrence this season but there were a couple of chances for both teams during a half of which Reading started to gain a foothold.

It was the home side that put the pressure early on as the in form John Swift's ball over the top found the ever threatening Garath McCleary and he managed to pull a cross back across into the penalty area but the ball was cleared by Nathan Baker just in time as Yann Kermorgant was waiting to pounce on the loose ball.

Villa then threatened as Gary Gardner stung the palms of Ali Al-Habsi who was alert and held onto the fierce strike well as it was heading for the bottom left hand corner.

Reading started to get into their stride with the possession game they are playing this season with the lack of pressure from Aston Villa, seeing the travelling fans grow increasingly frustrated. But as we all know, possession doesn't mean goals, and this proved to be the case again as Jonathan Kodjia opened the scoring for the visitors.

A swift counter attack saw Gunter caught out of position as the ball was played over the top to Albert Adomah whose cross was met by Kodjia who's shot was on target, but was deflected into the net by Tyler Blackett.

2nd Half

Now I am a big fan of this possession based football, but at times, a fan's patience can be tested to the absolute limit.

A classic example of this was less than five minutes into the second half with Moore and Van Den Berg using Al-Habsi far too much for my liking. Reading's keeper has not looked comfortable with the ball at his feet, yet they insist on putting him under pressure most of the time. This almost gifted Villa their second goal as Al-Habsi was too busy shouting instructions and misplaced his pass to Bacuna who fired just wide.

This proved to be a wake up call for the Royals however as Roy Beerens' well-weighted ball over the top found Garath McCleary whose pace saw him beat defender Aly Cissokho to the ball and was fouled by the Villa left back in the penalty area.

I fully expected McCleary to dust himself off and take the penalty himself but it was Danny Williams who placed the ball on the spot for the penalty kick. Williams went to a very similar position as the penalty he scored against Ipswich, but this time there was a different outcome.

The American's penalty was well saved to the goalkeeper's right by Pierluigi Gollini. But the highly criticised Yann Kermorgant was alert to head the rebound straight in from the corner of the six-yard area over the goalkeeper who didn't have enough time to react to the striker's header.

The game fizzled out after this goal with chances a rarity with Bacuna coming close again for the visitors with a free kick that brushed the side of Al-Habsi's side netting. Reading were still dominating the possession and having a lot of the ball but the introduction of one of the Villa substitutes proved to be the turning point.

Jordan Ayew was introduced for Villa and it was his run that resulted in a penalty being awarded. Chris Gunter was drawn into chasing down Ross McCormack in the centre of midfield. His pass found Rudy Gestede who played Ayew into the gap where Gunter should have been and his skillful run resulted in him being tripped by Liam Moore in the penalty area to see Aston Villa have the chance to win an away game for the first time since the opening day last season against Bournemouth.

Ayew stepped up himself and waited for Al-Habsi to commit to a side, which the Omani did, and Ayew cooly swept the ball the other side of the goalkeeper to send the travelling support into delirious scenes.

This prompted a small but embarrassing pitch invasion from a minority of the Villa fans. Once this was cleared, Jaap Stam finally felt the urge to make a substitution with a couple of minutes left of stoppage time. For anyone not at the game last night, I presume you would think that young striker Dominic Samuel would have been thrown on to try and snatch a late but unlikely equaliser.

You'd be wrong. Instead, and with all the greatest of respect to him, Danzell Gravenberch was introduced up front in search of a goal. He could have levelled right at the death as McCleary's strong run resulted in a shot across goal which could have been turned in by the substitute.

That proved to be the final chance as Aston Villa held on for the win as Reading slipped to 10th in the table, however still only a point off the Play Off places.

Final Thoughts

We never really got fully into our stride against Villa and again the chances we didn't take ultimately cost us.

My player ratings will come later, but I'll talk briefly here about a couple of individuals.

Firstly, Joey Van Den Berg. The Dutchman is 100% not a centre back, with the greatest of respect. He can get caught out sometimes on the ball in dangerous areas and in my opinion just doesn't think like a centre back when playing there. I would have liked to see Tyler Blackett there instead with Obita coming in at left back but we can only hope that Paul McShane's injury isn't a serious one as the skipper has been sorely missed the past few games.

Where do I start with this man? Chris Gunter. A man who divides opinion amongst supporters every week. To put it bluntly, if we saw the Chris Gunter that played for Wales each week in a Reading shirt, then frankly he wouldn't be playing for us because he would have been snapped up by a mid-table Premier League side with his impressive performances for his country.

But his performances of late have really made me question what Tennai Watson has to do to get into the starting XI. Gunter was caught pushing too far forward for the first goal which led to Adomah's cross finding Kodjia for the opener. For the second goal I do feel that McCleary might have to take some responsiblity as Gunter chased down (who knows why!) Ross McCormack in the central midfield position, which left a gap that McCleary wasn't covering which resulted in Ayew winning a penalty.

I feel he needs a few games out of the team to give him a break from it as Watson has proved briefly that he can cut it at this level-providing he is given the chance.

But we're still only a point off the Play Offs, which is a much higher position than I thought we would be in at the start of the season. Reading travel to Rotherham who have just sacked Alan Stubbs on Saturday in search of a first league win in four games, before the cup game against Arsenal in six days time.