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Reading FC 1-0 Huddersfield Town AFC: Dissent Display

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A clinic in how to defend a lead, an example of where Reading's problems are, an off day for Huddersfield, or a gritty win? Wimb sifts through a 1-0 win for Jaap Stam's side.

Martin Willetts/Getty Images

The sun was shining, Reading earned three points and the crowd could go home happy in the knowledge that we're up to fourth in the Championship. It was very much a case of job done for Jaap Stam's side but while the defence stood out, the forward line again generated a few points of concern.

Coming into the game Stam replaced the suspended Garath McCleary with Callum Harriott, while Jordan Obita replaced the similarly banned Tyler Blackett. There was also a welcome return for the maverick Joey van den Berg, who returned from injury to replace George Evans, who dropped to a bench that also included the welcome sight of Dominic Samuel.

Huddersfield meanwhile arrived with a fierce reputation and a travelling band of around 1,500 happy to crow about being top of the league, and that they're from Yorkshire.

First-Half

A couple of games ago, I introduced the 'Bond-o-meter' where I compared a Reading performance to a Bond film. If you're not a fan of the super spy than this whole paragraph will be lost on you but for 25 minutes, this was about as Quantum of Solace as you're going to get. Reading were doing things absolutely by the numbers, with precious little excitement but also few spectacular errors that had you worried about the way the game was heading.

As always, Stam's side dominated the possession but frustratingly the vast majority of that possession was taking place just in front of the Reading goal as the back three of Paul McShane, Van den Berg and Liam Moore exchanged passes with each other and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi.

Reading were the definition of discipline during this first period, never straying from the game plan but likewise, lacking any sort of spark that had you believing they were on the verge of taking the lead. On the one hand, it's to be admired that they're so comfortable on the ball and able to be so patient but on the other, it makes for some pretty dull football and I can empathise with those who boo, even if I don't see the merit in it.

At this level, games are more often turned by a moment of stupidty rather than a moment of sublime skill and sure enough we got another one those today. Fortunately, this one came from Huddersfield's Rajiv van la Parra who minutes after being booked for a late tackle, decided to argue with referee James Linington despite winning a free-kick of his own in front of the East Stand. Mr Linington duly produced a second yellow, much to the clear anger and frustrations of la Parra's team mates, with one of them visibly pointing to his head as if to say 'what the f**k were you thinking?!'

That made it advantage Reading but other than a couple of smart long-rangers from John Swift and McShane, Huddersfield keeper Danny Ward was pretty comfortable. Yet Reading plugged away and sure enough after Harriott's ball from the right failed to be cleared beyond the opposite edge of the penalty area, Roy Beerens' half volley went in via a deflection. It was far from a beautiful effort but they all count the same and ultimately it's all we needed.

Second-Half

If there's one thing to love about Jaap Stam (among many things..) it's that he's got a terrific amount of common sense. With Jordan Obita already on a booking and looking a likely candidate for a second yellow, Stam took him off for Tennai Watson who had a lovely game as the right wing-back with Chris Gunter switching to the left.

It was Gunter that gave Reading their biggest scare, when he got dispossessed by Nakhi Wells on the half-way line, with the Welshman deciding to haul him down. Arguably Gunter was the last man but fortunately only a yellow was produced and our plucky full-back lived on to take part in a gritty defensive display.

Reading could and should have killed the game off but they showed once again why goals have been so hard to come by, with Ward's only real work being to direct Beerens far enough away from the goal in a one-on-one that the Dutchman could only hit the side netting. Otherwise, Reading's front-line was painfully lacking in quality or imagination around the Huddersfield area and for every bit as good as the team performance was, the overall effectiveness of Harriott, Yann Kermorgant and Beerens as a front three, just wasn't top six quality.

But if you do get yourselves a goal, no matter how it comes, then you give yourself a chance to win and the efforts of McShane and Moore in particular helped Reading to keep Huddersfield at arms-length even if the closing few minutes were far more nervy than you'd have wanted.

Closing Thoughts

It's hard to really grade a performance like this because the game was changed massively by a Huddersfield red card that could and should have easily been avoided. Up until that point, Reading looked like a team struggling to find an answer in the final third and taking on a team that looked to have far more ammunition to use as the game wore on. Yet you can only really judge them based on what they had to do and what they accomplished and so to keep a clean sheet and beat the current leaders is a feat that you just can't sniff at.

Moore and McShane were immense in the back-line today and even those who maybe had slightly off days further forward like Danny Williams, Kermorgant and even Swift, put in such a hardworking shift defensively to ensure we took all three points. If you arrived at the Madejski looking to be entertained then you're probably going to be heading home underwhelmed but if you came looking to see Reading get all three points, then you can't fault the game plan and the way Stam's side executed that strategy.

As for Huddersfield, the quality is clearly there but like Reading they rely heavily on team work and well worked game plan rather than having quality individuals who can turn a game on their own. Today that plan was destroyed by la Parra who won't be a popular person on the team bus back home.

With the limited finances and years of confidence destroying poor performances at this football club, you've got to take advantage of any small opportunity and scrap hard for every point, and that's the most satisfying thing about Reading right now. Yes they may not be the most attractive side to watch but there's clearly a long-term plan in mind, one the squad is absolutely buying into. You can't expect change overnight and the chances are that some of these players just won't ever be good enough to really thrive in this system but they're all giving it 100% and we're getting enough moments of quality, coupled with dogged, passionate defending to ensure that we're a match for anyone.

Long may it continue because if this is the start of the project... you can only salivate at what could be to come.

Reading: Al-Habsi, Obita (Watson), McShane, van den Berg (Evans), Moore, Gunter, Williams, Swift (Quinn), Beerens, Harriott, Kermorgant

*****

Points change on this stage in 2015/16 (52): +2

Points change on this stage in 2005/06 (106): -3

Points change on this stage in 1997/98 (42): +10

Projected Points Total: 87