Reading had just two shots on target against Hull during the 0-0 draw at the KCOM stadium and picked up just their third point out of a possible 18 from their last seven fixtures – a stat that clearly makes for bad reading if you’re a Royals fan.
The stats unfortunately only get worse. In Reading’s last seven games they have scored a meagre four goals but, in a stat that perhaps sums up this season, only Fulham (56.7%) averaged more possession than Reading (56.2%). Something needs to change and quick.
Injury woes return
Reading suffered two massive injury casualties in the first half with captain Paul McShane and midfielder John Swift being forced off within five minutes of each other. McShane has had a history of injury problems and looked to be struggling with a groin issue and Swift, who has been side-lined twice so far this season with hamstring injuries, seemed to be troubled by it once more.
McShane and Swift took the current Royals injury list to six, joining long-term absentees like Callum Harriot and Jordan Obita. The last thing Reading need with their current bad run of form is to lose important players so it is good that both were able to walk away after the match but the Swift injury is very worrying. If this does indeed mark his third hamstring injury this season, then it could be very bad news for his promising Royals career.
Hull took the lead... or did they?
The closest both teams came to breaking the deadlock was when former Arsenal midfield Jon Toral had his goal disallowed due to the referee deeming that Vito Mannone had the ball under control when Toral scored. Both Jaap Stam and Hull manager Nigel Adkins agreed with the referee’s decision although Adkins conceded that he felt the rule was harsh.
| NA (on Jon Toral's disallowed goal): "In my opinion, it should be allowed but if it's in the rules, the referee has made the right decision." #HULREA— Hull City (@HullCity) January 13, 2018
Pundit Michael Gray however believes the Royals were fortunate that the goal was disallowed, stating on Channel 5’s Championship highlights show:
“Vito Mannone makes the save but he’s reaching to get any contact on the ball. The problem is that it’s not under control. He has not got his body in a position where he’s going to stop the ball from into the back of the net.
“When he is reaching like that the opposition have still got a chance of putting the ball in the back of the net, so it should count.”
However, as was outlined on the show, the rules state that the decision to disallow the goal was correct.
19 year-old left-back Omar Richards was finally given a chance to start against Hull after impressing in his limited chances so far and helped Reading keep a 0-0 which marked back-to-back away clean sheets for the first time since August 2014. Richards also impressed on a personal level making six successful tackles which was the most by any player in the Championship over the weekend.
As I stated in last week’s 5 Things, given the fact that Obita is out for the rest of the season and Tyler Blackett has not exactly looked convincing as his deputy, Richards should get an extended run in the first team and his performance against Hull has only furthered that opinion. Richards looks solid both defensively and when attacking and could follow in Liam Kelly’s footsteps as the latest Reading academy graduate to become a first team regular.
A point gained or two dropped?
In terms of the actual result, it may not have been the greatest result in the world but after picking up just two in their last six, Jaap Stam’s men will take anything they can get at this point. The back-to-back clean sheets is a minor positive to hold onto when there is a distinct lack of them because the best way of arresting this bad run of form is to shore up at the back and then find a way to score more goals.
Obviously, that is easier said than done but considering how bad things have been lately it is clear that regaining some form will not happen overnight and maybe, just maybe, this draw and clean sheet could be the start of the road back to form. Of course, it may just end up being part of a continued slump but where would we be without hope?