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Brentford 4-1 Reading FC: When Luck, And Skill, Deserts You

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It was a painful watch in West London on Tuesday night and here Marc dissects the dreadful defeat away to Brentford.

Ian Walton/Getty Images

First-Half

Let's crack through the details so we can delve into why Reading were so bad. Throughout the first-half, the game was even and pretty much devoid of cutting edge, Brentford were coming forward perhaps a little too comfortably in comparison to the away team but most attacks were cut off by cynical fouls, resulting in three early bookings. One of which came for Joey van den Berg, who later nonetheless launched into a successful, if hugely-risky tackle, on Lasse Vibe when the striker was about to tap home.

Slowly growing into the game, the Royals almost led when George Evans headed a free-kick against the far post, and the Bees cleared their lines from the ensuing goalmouth scramble to score two goals in quick succession. The first, gaining traction after a blatant handball went unpunished, saw three home team attackers queue up to score, which Josh Clarke did. The second saw a lame duck cross toddle along into the area for Vibe to smash home unchallenged.

Second-Half

Naturally, the first goal was crucial to the second period and Yann Kermorgant almost grabbed it, but for a goalline clearance shortly after the whistle. Sadly, from then on a series of hideously lax passes allowed Brentford in and only Ali Al-Habsi kept the scoreline down until Maxime Colin made it 3-0 on 58 minutes.

Just a few minutes later and the Royals had a goal; John Swift laid in Stephen Quinn to win a penalty to be duly smashed home by Kermorgant. Game on? Not quite, the Bees slowed the game down and picked off a fourth in the latter stages after Callum Harriott cracked the post from 18 yards.

So, what went wrong?

Let's start with the attack. Scoring goals has emerged as the problem area for Reading over recent weeks and Tuesday night was no different. Firstly, the issues arise with the basics. Passes were consistently misplaced and were weighted in all manners aside from the one ideally suited, leaving the visitors struggling to impress a serious possession game across the park.

Secondly, the technicalities. Jaap Stam's 4-3-3 system is, to put it lightly, thinly spread. When approaching the opposition half there would continually be no immediate option in front of the ball carrier, usually a defender, forcing them to spray out 30 yard passes to the flanks. At least three men tended to sit out on each wing (full-back, winger, and central midfielder) leaving a massive gap slap bang in the middle of the pitch. Not only does this make play predictable as lofted balls amble out to the touchline, but leaves lone striker Kermorgant completely isolated.

In addition, when balls were crossed into the box from wide positions, there weren't the bodies around to make an attempt on goal. It's no surprise that Reading haven't fired in a single shot from inside the six-yard box all season.

I get that Stam's a young manager and this system is new. It's a work in progress. Now's the time to see some progress and liven up this comfort zone approach to games. The Dutchman needs to learn that there are teams in this division, as Tuesday night attests, that can work you out and punish you.

Now, the defence. All of Brentford's threat came from the wings, and not for a lack of defenders out wide. Once again, the flanks were packed with Reading players all too happy to stand off and invite the ball in. The result? Successful crosses were met by strikers thoroughly clean of any markers, and those strikers scored. Needless to say, whatever marking was meant to be going on at Griffin Park was less convincing than a Sam Allardyce apology card.

Surely there must be something to be positive about?

After Newcastle beat us 4-1, we looked at a harsh outcome and accepted it as one of those games. This occasion is only similar in terms of the scoreline. The chickens have come home to roost but at the very least these problems are very identifiable, they can be worked on and with more fine tuning and a healthy dose of red backsides, the players and management can turn it around.

The positives lie in the table. 10 games is the acceptable moment to take it into decent consideration and at such point Reading are eighth, a very strong return with good results that must be banked and moved aside in favour of focusing on continually improving and making dour nights such as these a distant memory.

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

*****

Points change on this stage in 2015/16 (52): -1

Points change on this stage in 2005/06 (106): -6

Points change on this stage in 1997/98 (42): +8

Projected Points Total 2016/17: 78