A decent enough day at the office for Reading, who earned a point against Playoff-chasing Cardiff City at the Mad Stad today. The Royals lined up in the now familiar 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 formation that Brian McDermott has often picked in recent weeks. Ali Al-Habsi had the usual back four in front of him, although Andrew Taylor replaced Jordan Obita at left back. Danny Williams, Michael Hector and Stephen Quinn were the midfield three, with Yann Kermorgant again supported by Hal Robson-Kanu and Ola John on the wings.
The first half
Reading had the first chance of the game through Ola John - the Dutchman unleashing a powerful, but not overly troubling, effort at goal. Not long later, Yann Kermorgant was set through on goal in the middle channel by Ola John's pass, but Kermorgant's poked shot was kept out by onrushing Moore.
At the other end of the pitch, Cardiff's Tom Lawrence had a penalty shout waved away, before the Bluebirds squandered their best chance of the half. Craig Noone met a cross from the left with a header six yards out, directing it into the ground. However, Al-Habsi managed to tip the bouncing ball over the bar.
Arguably the most important moment of the first half came in the 22nd minute, when Garath McCleary came on to replace the injured Hal Robson-Kanu. The substitute looked lively from then on in, showing a good deal of the form we've missed in recent times. On the other wing, Ola John was twice denied by Cardiff blocks in the way of his shots on goal.
It was that man who helped provide Reading with an opener - John's cross from the left wing was headed on by Kermorgant, who found McCleary. The Jamaican chest controlled six yards out, before lashing home. John had another chance later in the half, dragging a shot wide after being set through on goal.
The second half
Reading kept some forward momentum in the second half, seeing shots from John and Taylor going wide. Matej Vydra replaced Kermorgant shortly after the hour mark, and almost doubled the hosts' lead - finding space in the box to shot with his left foot, but the ball was tipped over by Moore.
Cardiff drew level after a change of their own - the newly-introduced Sammy Ameobi drove at Reading's box - seeming to use a hand in the build-up. His shot cannoned back off the post, with Lex Immers tucking home the rebound. the Royal were unlucky not to see the goal ruled out for the initial handball, but should have reacted quicker to the danger.
From then on in, Reading failed to build up enough forward momentum. Simon Cox was introduced for Stephen Quinn to do the legwork for Vydra up top, but he couldn't influence the game enough. However, he did squander a difficult chance in the dying moments - John's cross to the far post blasted over by Cox.
In short, Reading worked hard but were lacking in quality. The back four had a solid afternoon (bar the goal), with the midfield trio battling hard. Similarly, Yann Kermorgant cut a lonely figure up top, often having to drop deep to get involved in the match. Reading looked most dangerous through their wide players, John and McCleary - the former having the best chances of the game, with the latter putting an excellent goal onto his record.
Although the balance of the midfield seems to work a bit better with Danny Williams replacing Oliver Norwood, I'm not sure if this system works well enough at home. Kermorgant's role seemed to be more of a support for the wingers, rather than the other way around. There's not enough movement on the shoulder of the last man - a Kermorgant/Vydra partnership could be the best option for doing that. Also, the left wing seems a bit muddled. Ola John often drifted infield to support Kermorgant, but that left a big gap on the left that Stephen Quinn didn't fill. Perhaps a return to a straightforward 4-4-2, with two orthodox wingers, is what's required in this kind of game?