On a cold day in the north-west of the country, Reading visited a Wigan Athletic side which, similarly to us, have been fighting for form. Indeed, Wigan’s run has been worse recently than Reading’s, with no wins in their last four or even a point, so both teams would have been looking for a decent performance and three points from this one.
What happened was, as usual, teams that are that close cancel each other out, leaving it to be a dire game for which in reality a point did neither team any favours. So to the game itself, I am going to try to point to positives, but this may be hard to do, as from Reading’s side there were precious few.
To be fair, Reading started with a little positivity; an early run from Garath McCleary causing havoc in the Wigan defence, but his final ball found Yakou Meite who was just offside. Wigan then upped the ante, and started to cause problems for a Reading team lacking in any sort of game-plan.
John Swift was a prime example of this and looked lightweight in midfield, highlighted nine minutes in when he was pushed far too easily of the ball, which luckily only led to a corner. The game continued on in this vein with Reading being sloppy in possession, getting muscled off the ball and Wigan largely being wasteful. This was highlighted on 15 minutes when Nick Powell put a powerful header wide of the post with Anssi Jaakkola beaten.
That’s not to say that Reading created nothing. On 19 minutes Andy Rinomhota made a surging run through midfield, linking well with McCleary prior to a shot just wide from Meite.
However, the wasteful Wigan team continued to spurn chances, with Anssi pulling off some stunning saves in goal for Reading, one of which was a power attempt from Powell that forced a reflex save from the Finish stopper which went for a corner. From the resulting set play Wigan did have the ball in the net, only for us to be saved by the linesman’s flag. Had we a player on the line then this would have surely counted.
The rest of the half continued in this style with Wigan missing a number of chances from free headers and finding Anssi in fine shot-stopping form. The most Reading had to show from this half was a couple of flashed balls across the box, and a yellow card for Chris Gunter after a tackle on a Wigan player which was certainly in the ‘agricultural’ column.
Well the plus side is that we didn’t concede in the first ten minutes. although Wigan continued from their first half efforts by missing some good opportunities early on. Tyler Blackett made a little bit of a mockery of Clement’s comments about Wigan being a ‘hard’ side with a crunching tackle on the 58th min which helped Reading push forward, and ended up with Swift being brought down on the edge of the box. However, his free-kick was wasted with a disappointing shot over the bar.
Meite showed a good part of his game when he chased down a long ball over the top of the defence, giving the defender something to think about and, when the Wigan player hesitated, Meite nicked the ball, having a shot and forcing a corner. Swift forced the Wigan keeper into a fine save on 65 minutes with a sharp effort from 25 yards out.
Then the moment that the fans have been crying out for: Danny Loader being given a chance. With chants of “He’s one of our own!” ringing out, the young England international took the field. Maybe this was a hard game for him to affect, but what he brought was a little directness. His pace started scaring the Wigan defence and, while he didn’t have a shot on target, he was a constant threat.
After doing nothing to affect the team for 65 minutes, in the space of just 10, Paul Clement played all his substitutes. For me this was a little late in the day, with it being obvious that Aluko was struggling to get into the game after the first 45min. I do feel for Aluko in this team, as it’s obvious that he is trying, but he’s not getting the luck or the breaks that he can build confidence from. Clement swapped Meite off for Marc McNulty and McCleary for Josh Sims, and to be honest all three subs made a difference, and you could argue that they could all push for a starting position against Leeds United on Tuesday.
Towards the end of the game there was a period of pinball in the Reading defence, before finally being cleared off the line. With the game petering out, the three subs once again linked up for Loader to have a snapshot which got blocked and forced a corner.
And that was that. Paul Clement on the radio claimed that it was an entertaining and interesting game. He was obviously watching a different match to the rest of us as, for me, it was turgid. There was no composure, no tempo and while the majority of the Reading fans will scapegoat Aluko for this performance, my finger of blame points firmly at Swift.
He seemed more intent on kicking players than creating anything and, as a creative force, he was lacking. It’s clear that Kelly and Swift don’t work in midfield. I don’t know why – it’s the old Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard problem that England have – they should work together but they just don’t.
Leandro Bacuna must be livid that he was dropped, and similarly Andy Yiadom could have a slight claim on this fact as well, let alone Tiago Ilori (to be fair John O’Shea wasn’t awful). I can only presume that this is with one eye on Leeds. In which case, given that we would need every player on form to beat them, surely, it’s better to secure three points against an opposition where the chances of winning are higher?
The formation didn’t work either. It was too easy for Wigan and a better team would have hammered us. The comments that Clement is coming out with are mind-boggling. The man is trying to sound like he had a plan when, to anyone at the game, it was obvious that no one told the players. If they did, they really didn’t understand it.
People will point to a point away always being a good thing, but this wasn’t. With Leeds on Tuesday, I think people will start praying as we will need divine help to get anything out of it based on our efforts at Wigan.
What did you make of the game? Tell us in the comments below or on social media.