Richards’ goal-scoring return
Omar Richards made his return from injury against Nottingham Forest, slotting into the left-back position which allowed Leandro Bacuna to move into central midfield. The 19-year-old had impressed in his handful of Reading appearances prior to the game on Tuesday but suffered an injury against Brentford last month, cutting short his first team run.
However, Richards’ return was a real triumph for the youngster. He looked good defensively, contributing several important clearances and tackles throughout the game and capped off his performance with a well-taken first senior goal. In previous editions of Five Things I have talked about how big a loss Jordan Obita has been for Reading this season as they have been forced to rely on makeshift left-back’s like Bacuna, Tyler Blackett and Chris Gunter but with Richards seemingly impressing in every game he plays it looks as though he may well be the answer to that dilemma for the foreseeable future.
Solitary win in 12
This week’s depressing statistic is that Reading have won just the once in their last 12 league fixtures and with just 14 fixtures remaining the Royals are quickly running out of time to arrest their bad form. Reading still sit in 18th place in the table and are a precarious four points off the relegation zone and four points off Forest who sit one place above them in 17th.
The Royals are well and truly in a relegation battle with any three teams out of them, Bolton, Birmingham, Hull, Burton, Barnsley and Sunderland likely to be those who spend next season in League 1. Looking at Reading’s next fixtures suggests that their job will only get harder with their next three games coming against Derby, Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers who currently sit in fourth, seventh and first respectively.
With Wolves widely expected to be promoted as Championship winners and the other two sides well and truly in the play-off fight those three games will be as difficult as it comes for Reading who desperately need as many points as they can get.
Reading manager Jaap Stam has had an intriguing relationship with the Royals fans this season to say the least. The Dutchman has certainly not been short of a word or two for supporters when it comes to them showing their disappointment at results and in the aftermath of the Forest draw it was no different from Stam who addressed the fans’ frustration in an interview with BBC Radio Berkshire.
“We’re as frustrated as the fans if not more, but we need them to be our 12th or 13th man to help push us forward.
“It’s not just me who needs to cry out to them to support us, but the fans also know what they need to do. If the fans back us, everyone feels more comfortable in their performance on the pitch.
“But, if your own fans are booing you, shouting and calling out certain things, the players take that on board. They’re experienced professionals, but even at the absolute top level, players hear what fans say.”
Considering that the next fixtures for the Royals will be against Championship high-flyers, the inability to hang on to the 1-0 lead they had against Forest is all the more infuriating because who knows how important those extra two points could have been come the end of the season?
Had Reading managed to hold on and not allow Lee Tomlin to score his last-gasp equalizer then the Royals would have a six point gap between them and the relegation zone and shorten the points difference between them and Forest to just the one, which would give them a lot more breathing space going into such a tough run of games.
That being said, Reading did turn in an improved performance compared to some of the dire showings Royals fans have been treated to in recent weeks. There were some impressive passages of play going forward and Chris Martin should really have given Reading an early lead after fewer than two minutes had passed after being found in the box by Modou Barrow only for the Derby loanee’s effort to fly harmlessly over the Forest goal.
That was the best of the chances for Reading who showed a combination of luck and determination to halt the Forest assault for as long as they did and, despite conceding the late winner, they did look like a better side than the one that lost to Middlesbrough. It seems the training camp in Spain has at least improved performance levels if not results.