Reading’s performance was a bit like our drive home on M1 and M40. Very good at times but often frustrating. (Roadworks and road closures!) Even more than usual we dominated possession, with 77% of it, but were unable to really test Rob Green in the Leeds goal.
Reading had to change formation again as Jordan Obita was injured. Stam went with a 4-3-3 similar to Fulham. Bringing in Kelly to the midfield, who I thought was our best player.
During the early exchanges Leeds exposed the Royals’s left side with the speed of right back Ayling and Hadi Sacko on the right wing. Blackett was getting little support form Van Den Berg and was beaten three times early on. Having weathered this storm Reading had a great chance as McCleary cut in from the right but was unable to find Samuel who was free on the penalty spot.
This missed chance proved costly as a minute later Sacko again found space and Leeds got lucky with the deflected cross falling beautifully for Wood. Wood later went off injured and Leeds seemed to give up on attacking for the rest of the first half.
That was it for the rest of the game as Leeds sat back and Reading had the lion’s share of possession but I don’t really remember a clear cut chance. At times we played some lovely passing football with Kelly and Evans instrumental, and McCleary being our main threat up front. At other times our passing at the back caused us huge problems with Al-Habsi’s distribution being unreliable. Indeed the Leeds fans started Ole-ing our passing and chanting that we were not quite Barcelona!
The penalty at the end of the game looked like a dive from our position, which was at the other end of the ground. But it didn’t really matter as I couldn’t ever see us scoring.
Elland Road under lights is a great ground to watch football, though in need of renovation in parts. The Leeds fans are very noisy and despite all of their woes really back their team. Reading’s away following was small and overall pretty quiet. Possession football doesn’t really get the fans going.
What was really missing from Reading’s play was a driving Danny Williams or the guile of Swift to unlock a really good Leeds defence. We never really got any good through balls in or turned the Leeds back four. Really impressed with their centre back pairing of Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson. The Royals also seemed to give away too many silly free kicks when we were attacking that then broke up the pressure.
As for bringing on Jake Cooper as centre forward at the end of the game. Not a tactical master stroke. Tonight probably showed up the weakness of our squad in the sense of depth of good players.
Reading FC: Al Habsi; Gunter, McShane, L. Moore, Blackett; Evans (Meite), Van Den Berg, Kelly (Cooper); McCleary, Beerens; Samuel (Kermorgant)
Points change on this stage in 2015/16 (52): +10
Points change on this stage in 2005/06 (106): -13
Points change on this stage in 1997/98 (42): +13
Projected Points Total 2016/17: 81