Two things have become pretty apparent under Jaap Stam’s tenure. Number one, we’re a damn good side at home and two defeats in 29 competitive games at the Mad Stad is a pretty awesome record. Two, we’re pretty damn ropey away from home with just three wins from our last 12 away games and only two clean sheets (plus another at Wembley) on the road in the whole of 2017. Sure enough, those away frailties were once again exposed by a clinical if not overpowering Preston side.
Heading in to the game, Stam was once again handicapped by injury, in this case Joey van den Berg who was forced out with a thigh problem. In his place came debutant Leandro Bacuna, with an otherwise unchanged lineup from the side that beat Aston Villa 2-1 just four days previously.
Rob Langham will be along with more detailed thoughts on this one a little later this weekend but the key moment came midway through the first half when Jordan Hugill found himself free about eight yards out, with enough time to sit and answer some of the key questions that have blighted mankind, before eventually smashing past Vito Mannone.
From there, it just got much worse. Liam Kelly and John Swift both had to leave due to injury and with no recognised striker in the lineup to begin with, our chances of battling back to salvage anything seemed slim.
Ultimately we managed just a single shot on target from seven attempts, while Preston registered eight from their total of 21 shots. Even Jaap Stam himself admitted we’d not been good enough to pick up a win and we’re once again left asking questions as to just why we can be so solid at home but so shoddy away.
Credit to Preston themselves who once again showed what a decent side they can be on their own patch. Alex Neil’s side have already beaten Sheffield Wednesday at Deepdale this season, so this wasn’t an unexpected result, especially when Reading’s injuries and lack of forward options are taken into account. However, if we want to be realistic automatic promotion contenders we’ve got to start getting results away from home and start keeping some clean sheets.
As mentioned, Rob will be along with plenty more thoughts and reflections, including a full set of player ratings, so stay tuned for those. We’ll also return with a Tilehurst End Podcast on Monday, so please get your thoughts in for that.