James Wilson's first half strike was enough to condemn the Royals to a third successive defeat in all competitions as many of the players in the African Violet away strip looked uninterested and almost bored in some cases, imagine how the fans felt!
A strong team was fielded by Brian McDermott, with Yann Kermorgant coming back in to partner Matej Vydra in a two-man strike partnership, perhaps signalling his intent to finish the season strongly and dent Brighton’s promotion push. But it was to no avail as disappointingly, the performance of few really let down a Reading side that desperately lacked any desire.
First-Half: Weathering The Storm
From the opening few minutes you could really see how well Chris Hughton had set his Brighton team up, passing the ball with crisp accuracy, incredible high pressing on the Royals' back-line forcing errors and fair play to them. They deserve the second place position that they currently occupy. Ali Al-Habsi was called upon several times within the first 20 minutes and he duly delivered, stopping Beram Kayal’s drilled free kick before denying Dale Stephens superbly as the Brighton man went through one-on-one.
Arguably, well in my biased opinion, Reading had one of the better chances of the game in early proceedings as Vydra received a ball in the box and decided against hitting it early, instead turning on to his other foot before being tackled, subsequently Hal Robson-Kanu rolled the ball the wrong side of the post.
However, a swift counter-attack left the Royals in the lurch as Sam Baldock took both Anton Ferdinand and Paul McShane out of the game with a run from one side of the half to the other before playing inWilson. The striker, on loan from Manchester United, placed the ball in the opposite corner past a stretching Al-Habsi, a very decent finish.
Given the amount that the 299 travelling Reading fans had to pay for tickets, these committed fans were not given their moneys-worth. A lack of passion and a sense that even the players believed that their season was all-but over, looked astonishingly apparent even before a ball was kicked.
The final possession stats at the end of the game read 48% Brighton – 52% Reading, although it didn’t feel like this. The Seagulls looked more assured and confident on the ball, passing themselves out of danger on several occasions. While, at the other end, there was simply not enough movement on the ball. No overlapping, no inside runs from midfielders to collect the ball when pressure was applied from Brighton, nothing.
The Royals picked up a lot of momentum in the second half, starting to threaten David Stockdale in between the sticks, but unfortunately all the pressure was without reward.
HRK got up well to meet a McCleary cross but with no real power behind it proved an easy save for Stockdale, before Ola John sliced a volley wide of the near post when we have come to expect him to do far better with those sorts of chances. The best chance of the second half, in Reading's eyes, was when a ball dropped to Michael Hector on the edge of the box, and he rattled a low shot against the post, and by that time, I started to believe it just wouldn’t be Reading's day.
By all means this was not a disastrous result, Brighton secured their fifth win in six, and moved up to an automatic promotion spot, so losing 1-0 away at one of the leagues high flyers isn’t too much of a problem. What really gets me is the jaded, lethargic display the Reading players put on, as in my opinion, I feel that if the Reading I know had turned up yesterday evening, we may have got a better result.
Next up is a trip to the Madejski on Saturday to take on play-off chasing Cardiff, another tough game, but I’m just hoping the players can shake this poor, dispassionate mentality they wore so well at the AMEX.
Reading: Al-Habsi, Gunter, Ferdinand, McShane, Obita, John (Rakels 80’), Williams, Hector, Robson-Kanu, Vydra (McCleary 63’), Kermorgant.
Brighton: Stockdale, Bruno, Goldson, Dunk, Rosenior, Knockaert (Lua Lua 77’), Stephens, Kayal, Murphy (Bong 77’), Baldock (Sidwell 88’), Wilson.