Ali Al-Habsi: 6
After saving Reading on two or three crucial occasions against Newcastle, this was an oddly quieter afternoon for the Omani. None of the goals gave him any chance at all and he was on the floor for Daryl Horgan’s goal after the Irishman’s initial powder-puff effort had been blocked. One also needed a search party to find the markers for Preston’s third, Al-Habsi left exposed at the back post. Apart from the goals, Preston’s shooting was generally wayward.
Chris Gunter: 6
Gunter is receiving a savaging on social media but was unlucky to be often caught one on one against Aiden McGeady, on loan to Preston from Everton and a man whose career trajectory was called into question by Roy Keane in advance of Euro 2016. Now McGeady is experiencing a real purple patch at Deepdale and Gunter wasn’t the only player to be found wanting in attempting to contain him. On the ball, the Welshman was unable to find much time or space.
Paul McShane: 6
McShane went off injured late on but until then that generally not been at fault for the poor result, save for a couple of sequences when his pace was exposed. As mentioned above, he teamed up with van den Berg to keep Jordan Hugill quiet and was as committed in the challenge as ever. The meltdown for Preston’s second goal was a collective catastrophe rather than the fault of any one player.
Tyler Blackett: 5
Too often on the back foot and not quick enough to anticipate danger, Blackett was left cruelly exposed for the first goal as a weak attempt to clear a dangerous ball from Ben Pearson ended up being punished to the maximum. Blackett cannot help the way Horgan’s perfect cut back was swept in so gloriously by Tom Barkhuizen and mistakes are not always punished so royally but his passing was brittle and his confidence knocked after such a setback. Comparisons to former Manchester United recruits Chris Casper and Grant Brebner are unavoidable.
Jordan Obita: 6
A competent display from Obita although the early form that saw him threaten to become a key attacking player for Reading has lessened since Nigel Adkins converted him into a full back quite some time ago now. He is always ready as the spare man on the left and has enough technical acumen to keep the pot boiling but rarely would his crosses find their man. Still, a more than useful cog in the system and a talented footballer.
Joey van den Berg: 6
Van den Berg generally continued his good form of the Newcastle game and watching from behind the goal, one receives something of an education – the former Heerenveen man really knows how to read a game. He also received some credit for the failure of Preston danger man Jordan Hugill to impose himself on proceedings while his passing to the wing backs was also very good, generally finding the man and never hurtling out of touch.
Jordon Mutch: N/A
Only on the pitch for a third of the contest before succumbing to injury, it’s likely coincidence that Reading’s best section of the game coincided with his being involved. Always taking part in the passing and confident in possession, he is something of a square peg in a round hole when playing as an inside right but escapes from the afternoon blameless and with reputation intact if not his body.
John Swift: 5
I was pleased to see Swift back in the starting line-up but this wasn’t his afternoon. Too often denied space by the scurrying Ben Pearson and Daniel Johnson, he always looked irritated that he didn’t have more time to create damage and the odd perceptive pass was a less effective route to goal than McCleary’s creativity with the dribble.
Garath McCleary: 7
By no means a stellar display from the wingman but he probably stood out as Reading’s main threat. An early mazy dribble had Tom Clarke all of a tangle and his shot provided ferocity enough to force a good save out of Chris Maxwell. As against Newcastle, he provides the key that can convert the possession game into chances – having a player who can go past his man is crucial and he can generally be happy with his personal contribution.
Yann Kermorgant: 7
Nothing special up front and generally bettered by the PNE back line, his defensive headers and flick ons were good enough to earn the Breton a slightly generous seven – on a day when almost everyone earns a 6 out of 10. The amount of effort he puts in will always win him favour from the stands and a Preston supporting pal picked him out as her best of the Reading players on the day.
Lewis Grabban: 6
We proclaim him as being played out of position but I for one do not have intimate knowledge of his early career. His fortunes ebbed and flowed with the overall team’s – he was good for half an hour, creating space from deep and generally showing ability in possession, but his passing became brittle with the rest of them after we went behind. Under threat from Roy Beerens who looks to have far more of the natural winger about him and it’s been useful to take a look at a player who might be a permanent signing. Still has much to prove if he wants to come to the Mad Stad.
Danny Williams: 5
Changed the game for the better after replacing Liam Kelly against Newcastle but perhaps the diminutive Irishman would have been a better bet here as substitute when Jordon Mutch departed from the fray injured – this was all huff and puff, as per usual from the German-American, and one suspects he lacks the true technical ability to fit neatly into a passing side. Often on the end of the few chances that came after half time though.
Reece Oxford: N/A
Tall and classy in possession – worth a look in the coming weeks.
Roy Beerens – N/A
Looked far more suited to the formation than Grabban but had too little time to create an impact.
Who was YOUR man of the match? Vote in our poll at the bottom of the page, and leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Average Rating: 5.9
Best and worst performances from 2016/2017:
6.7 - Preston North End H (W 1-0)
6.6 - Wigan A (W 3-0)
6.6 - Brighton & Hove Albion (W 2-1)
5.9 - AVERAGE
4.8 - QPR H (L 0-1)
4.7 - Brentford A (L 1-4)
4.4 - Fulham A (L 0-5)