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5 Things: Sheffield Wednesday (Away)

What to focus on after Reading were dumped out of the FA Cup.

Sheffield Wednesday v Reading - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Change in formation

For the FA cup fixture with Sheffield Wednesday, Royals boss Jaap Stam opted for two strikers up front from the start as he changed to a 4-4-2 formation. Yann Kermorgant partnered the hat-trick hero of the previous round Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and the two did receive a fair share of chances in front of goal but could not convert.

While the formation change did hand the two more opportunities to score, it is telling that neither of them were able to hit the back of the net and with a new striker being signed before deadline day looking increasingly unlikely the two need to find some form in front of goal in the league if Reading are to stay up.

Sam Smith

Academy striker Sam Smith did however make an impact of the bench, crowning his return with a late consolation goal. Smith has looked to be a decent option for the Royals after breaking into the first team this season before seeing his chances curtailed by injury.

With the two more established forwards ahead of him in the pecking order unable to fire in the league this season, Smith may find himself receiving a few more opportunities as the season goes on – especially considering a new striker being signed this month seems unlikely.

McCleary a shadow of his former self?

Garath McCleary has been a fan favourite at Reading since his signing from Nottingham Forest in 2012 and has always been a mercurial player who can create something from nothing. Unfortunately for McCleary he has always missed large parts of the season due to injuries and these setbacks have seen him go from one of the most exciting wingers in the league to a shadow of his former self.

McCleary lost the ball for Sheffield Wednesday’s second goal and did not show the pace, trickery and confidence that fans have come to expect from the Jamaican international. However hard it is to say it appears McCleary’s time at Reading may need to come to an end.

Hull City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images

No cup run this year

In previous years, poor league finishes have been papered over by a good run in a cup competition, most notably Reading’s FA Cup semi-final day out at Wembley where they narrowly lost to Arsenal and any hopes that a similar run in this year’s competition could inspire a bit of belief in the players and fans were dashed by a crushing 3-1 loss to Sheffield Wednesday.

Who knows though, having one less competition to focus on may help Reading find some form in the league but they way they have been playing at the moment it certainly seems unlikely.

Popa gone

Outside of the game itself, Romanian winger Adrian Popa has swapped Reading for Saudi Arabia, joining Al-Taawoun on loan until the end of the season. Popa has barely featured for the Royals since his move from Steaua Bucharest last year, making just 16 appearances and scoring one goal with the majority of those being from the bench.

Obviously Popa is not exactly a key member of the team right now but with the likes of Sone Aluko, McCleary and Roy Beerens continually turning in lacklustre performances on the wing, Popa may not have been a bad option to turn to should Stam decide he wanted a change. You can only hope that this means an attacking option of some kind is brought in between now and the end of January. Unfortunately hope may be all it is.