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Reading 1-2 Hull City - Same Old Story

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An improved performance from Brian McDermott's Royals, but ultimately quality shone through as Hull City came from behind to grab all three points on Tuesday night.

Reading: Al Habsi; McCleary, Ferdinand, Cooper, Taylor; Norwood, Hector, Quinn; Cox; Rakels, Vydra

First Half

Two changes from the side which started the 3-2 loss at Leeds on Saturday, as Anton Ferdinand replaced George Evans with Michael Hector moving into midfield, and Deniss Rakels came in for Lucas Piazon, meaning Simon Cox started at the head of the diamond. And it was Cox who could have opened the scoring with barely a minute gone, but took too much time over his shot in the box and eventually the Tigers got numbers back to clear.

But two minutes later, the Royals were in front - Oliver Norwood swung in the free-kick from the left wing and Jake Cooper rose completely unmarked for the simplest of headers past Allan McGregor. Probably not the best idea to leave the tallest player on the pitch completely free at a set-piece, but Royals fans certainly weren't complaining! Hull nearly responded instantly when Abel Hernandez found some space on the edge of the box but his left-footed effort was high and wide.

The first fifteen minutes were incredibly open, with both sides happy to commit men forward in an effort to find the net. But just as the game settled down to a calmer pace, the most route one of goals gave Hull an equaliser. Tom Huddlestone had all the time in the world to pump a long ball forward, Hernandez outpaced Ferdinand and fired straight through Ali Al Habsi for the leveller. Defensive frailties once again ruthlessly exposed by a player with a touch of quality.

By now Hull were starting to assert themselves and Huddlestone drove in a trademark piledriver which Al Habsi did well to tip over. Adama Diomande found himself in acres of space and tried to curl one in at the near post but his effort came back off the upright. At the other end, Oliver Norwood tried to add to his list of impressive goals with a half-volley after a set-piece was cleared but McGregor got down well to save. The best chance before the break fell to Harry Maguire... who nearly unwittingly put through his own net after Curtis Davies' attempted clearance smashed into the centre-back and out for a corner. Half-time came and an entertaining first half saw the sides go in level.

Second Half

In truth it would have been tough for the second half to live up to the first - that much excitement in a Reading game these days is almost criminal! And despite there being an official attendance of just 12,949, those hardy fans certainly made their feelings known when the Royals were awarded a penalty... then the decision was overturned.

The lively Rakels tussled with Maguire whilst trying to reach a through-ball and went down under the challenge. The linesman pointed for a corner, but referee Fred Graham waited a few seconds before pointing to the spot. Confusion reigned as the Hull players pleaded their case, Graham went over to consult with his assistant, and they came to the consensus that the linesman was correct. Rakels had a chance just two minutes later to grab the lead but a powerful left-footed volley from outside the box only found the side-netting.

As the game started to wear towards the last fifteen minutes both managers made substitutions in a bid to change the game, but in reality it just descended into a midfield war of attrition - the gung ho attitude from the first quarter of an hour was long in the memory. But Hull always had that extra bit of quality, of drive, of inspiration.

The danger signs were there when Robert Snodgrass timed a run beyond the back four perfectly and found Hernandez, whose shot was saved well by Al Habsi. But with ten minutes to go, another direct attack from the Tigers led to the winner. Left-back Andrew Robertson charged forward into an acre of space in front of the box and smashed home a 20-yard piledriver beyond Al Habsi's outstretched left arm. Once again, that little extra quality proved to be the undoing of Reading, whose only real chance to level things after that was another long-range Norwood effort which sailed harmlessly wide.

Analysis

2-1 to the Tigers it finished, and a fourth defeat in a row for Brian McDermott's beleaguered Royals. This was an improved display from the catastrophic 2-0 loss at home to Birmingham ten days ago but it's patently clear that the team is lacking confidence and quality right now. It's now just two wins in 11 in all competitions for Reading, and that pair of victories came late on against relegated Bolton and managerless, rudderless Nottingham Forest.

The post mortem for this defeat shouldn't take long though. Hull are a far better team, a side who looked like contending for automatic promotion for a large chunk of the season and secured a play-off place with these three points. Reading matched them for most of the game but were just missing that little something; that Hernandez pace, that Huddlestone measured pass, that Robertson drive and finish.

Only three more matches to go... we'll see if Brian can galvanize the squad to get another three points before next season.