Jaap Stam’s side came into this clash at Griffin Park in search of three points to avenge the frustrating 1-0 defeat at the hands of Bristol City last weekend. It was a result that was hard to take, not just because Reading enjoyed the lion’s share of the chance, but the defeat put an end to a run of 15 home matches unbeaten. After an underwhelming start, Reading fans went into this game hoping for the win.
It was a quiet first half going forward for The Royals, who found themselves on the back foot for large patches of the half. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson saw a strong run halted by an excellent Josh Clarke block early on, but found chances hard to come by, with his next best opportunity coming after rounding Brentford stopper Dan Bentley, but the former Wolves man couldn’t regain his footing to find a finish.
Brentford defender John Egan spurned a great chance inside quarter of an hour before Josh Clarke made the breakthrough on 16 minutes. The winger took advantage of some lacklustre defending to fire past Vito Mannone from close range and give The Bees a deserved lead.
Kamohelo Mokotjo and Ollie Watkins both had efforts saved by the Italian, who dealt well with everything that came his way, before Paul McShane headed narrowly wide from a well-worked corner routine.
Dean Smith’s side enjoyed the lion’s share of meaningful chances. With Liam Kelly and Dave Edwards overrun in midfield and Tyler Blackett and Paul McShane looking shaky at the back, the lightning quick Rico Henry, Josh Clarke and Jozefoon were given the lease to run at The Royals back line, and if it weren’t for Brentford’s attacking profligacy, Reading could easily have been three or four goals down at the break.
Jaap Stam made the bold decision to haul off Jon Dadi Bodvarsson for Roy Beerens at half time and play record signing Sone Aluko through the middle. The change proved an inspired one and the Dutchman helped power the Reading fightback after half time, forcing Dan Bentley into a sprawling save to deny the former Hertha Berlin winger a goal of the season contender.
Josh Clarke and Jozefoon continued to cause the Reading back line problems but each wasted scoring chances before Reading were gifted a chance to equalise from the spot. Teenager Rico Henry hauled down Liam Moore in the box and top scorer Liam Kelly hammered his penalty into the top right, evading the fingertips of Bentley in the Brentford goal.
Centre half Andreas Bjelland nearly put the hosts back in front but some heroic defending from Moore and co somehow kept the ball out of the net. Calls for a penalty were made again soon after, with Moore once again going to ground in the box, but the referee this time waved away the protests.
Reading nearly nicked a somewhat undeserved winner in stoppage time when substitute Leandro Bacuna playing in Sone Aluko, who unleashed a venomous strike which crashed off the bar and out to safety.
It’s hard to argue The Royals deserved anything more than a point from this clash. 3-5-2 seemed the obvious system for this game, but once again fans were forced to question Stam’s tactics on the road, with the Dutchman opting for a 4-3-3.
If there are any positives to take from this result then at least we can be pleased with the way the side turned things around in the second half, recovering from a torrid first 45 minutes to snatch a draw. By no means was it perfect but last season Reading would have likely lost this game.
Jordan Obita’s return is cause for optimism, even if it was marked with a fairly disappointing performance. Garath McCleary didn’t do his chances of starting any good with an anonymous performance. Whilst it’s difficult not to say Stam got his tactics wrong away from home again, the pragmatism shown to turn the tables in the second half at least helps ease the worries.