Vito Mannone: 7
Is another goalkeeper on their way to a Player of the Season award already? Mannone looked very competent and while his save from Tom Barkhuizen was perhaps one for the cameras, his plunge at the feet of Stephy Mavididi as the game drew to a close was an excellent moment. He does looks slightly reluctant to use the back four as much as Stam no doubt would like him to and at times, his long punts recalled Adam Federici. Looks experienced and a good replacement for Ali Al-Habsi.
Chris Gunter: 5
Constantly harried by Preston’s pressing game and Barkhuizen in particular, this was far from the Welsh right back’s best game. Unfortunately, his inability to whip in a cross continues to hamper things – too often the ball is dollied up unthreateningly from a position just inside the opponents’ half. The goal came down his side with a sharp breakaway.
Tyler Blackett: 5
On Reading’s last visit to Deepdale in March, I wrote: ‘too often on the back foot and not quick enough to anticipate danger’ and whaddya know? – it’s déjà vu time again. At times, Blackett seems to want literally eons to get the ball under control and he really struggles to move the ball forward at pace. What he can do of course, is tackle and mark well and it would appear to be as the left sided centre back in a trio that he is best suited.
Liam Moore: 5
Improved as the game went on but was so often the provider of hairy moments, passing across his own box and collecting the ball from Mannone with the likes of Jordan Hugill and the lively Chris Maguire bearing down on him. The result was a regular keystone cops re-enactment as he strove desperately to move the ball on into midfield. He may deserve some credit along with the rest of the back four in keeping the score down and we should not forget that he was imperious against Aston Villa in the midweek win.
Paul McShane: 5
Take one hard nut of a central defender and one hard nut of a centre forward and pitch them into a physical battle - only one is the wrong side of 30 - and what do you get? Unfortunately, McShane, while ever willing, struggled with the physicality of Jordan Hugill all afternoon. He was also too often the player left to bring the ball out of defence, Preston clearly identifying him as less comfortable in possession than partner Moore.
Liam Kelly: N/A
Withdrawn after little more than half an hour, he was, in common with the first half of the Gillingham and Villa games, too deep. With Leandro Bacuna seemingly the most defensive minded of the midfield trio, Kelly really ought to be up in the mixer and while it’s understandable that he would drop to find space against such a combative midfield, he has the ability to dictate a game. Hopefully he will be back soon.
John Swift: N/A
Only on the pitch for 25 minutes of the contest before succumbing to injury, he struggled with the sturm und drang of the contest but it’s impossible to appraise his contribution. Get well soon John.
Leandro Bacuna: 5
A first game in a Reading shirt for Bacuna and he looked leggy through a lack of matches. Joey van den Berg’s poise was much missed in the defensive midfield position and Bacuna rarely looked comfortable in possession as the tackles flew in around his ankles. I was slightly annoyed that money was spent on a midfielder when all available funds surely need to be directed towards the purchase of a forward but the injuries to Swift and Kelly may eventually mark Bacuna’s capture down as one of remarkable foresight.
Adrian Popa: 6
I remain convinced that Popa is going to be a mainstay of a side as a player who has been such a fixture at European legends in Steaua Bucharest and has played in all three matches at Euro 2016 surely has much to offer. He was good against Villa and again here, he seemed to provide the most convincing threat, twisting in and out and generally giving Preston right back Darnell Fisher a tough time, the only thing missing was end product, partly mitigated by the lack of anything to aim for.
Pelle Clement: 5
Clement would appear to add something different in his calm distribution and clever ability to find space. Against Villa, it worked a treat and he also did very well after the break against Gillingham. Here, however, he was caught in a zone between the Preston defence and midfield and was too often completely lost. In possession, he needed too much time and if this was largely because of a lack of options to pass to, he was rightly withdrawn for the potentially more dynamic McCleary.
Mo Barrow: 6
Occasionally skipped away from his markers thrillingly and has the ability to come free with the ball despite being surrounded – but Barrow’s impact on the match was only sporadic. Preston sat deep in defence which somewhat negated his impact and he perhaps need space to run into to be truly effective. That said, his continued presence on the pitch always kept the opposition occupied and he is developing into our major current threat.
George Evans : 6
All the substitutions were enforced by injury, but Evans’ entry into the fray was entirely necessary irrespective of this. He immediately provided more backbone and has the lungs to get around the pitch. Harshly booked, it might be good to see him get a little nastier. Offered no attacking threat but that probably isn’t his job.
Joseph Mendes: 6
There’s an argument for keeping big Joseph in the team permanently until a striker is procured as for all his limitations, he competed well for the ball in the air and has a tremendous attitude. Passing moves do lessen in speed when he is involved as he is technically not the best. As with Evans, he needed to come on when he did even if players had still been fit.
Garath McCleary: N/A
G-Mac came on in an unfamiliar central role just behind Mendes and while he saw plenty of the ball, really struggled to cope with a Preston team that was comfortably settling for all three points. He needs games although with Popa and Barrow both doing well at the moment, he might struggle to break into the team consistently. He always looks more comfortable with a touchline to hug.
Agree with Rob’s ratings? Let us know who you thought impressed in the Deepdale defeat and vote for your man of the match below.
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