Ever-changing defence still suspect
Jaap Stam made three changes for the Leeds game, with two of the returning players (Tiago Ilori and Leandro Bacuna) being part of the defence. This constant chop and change in the back four is the last thing that the Royals need, especially considering how bad that their defence has been in recent weeks.
It is bad enough that the defenders always look prone to a mistake every game but it makes matters worse when at least half of the defence is different each game, especially when some of them are playing out of position – i.e. Chris Gunter playing at left-back or Pelle Clement playing at right-back.
No Holmes but Ilori returns
To add to the defensive issues, Tiago Ilori and Tyler Blackett have been so woefully out of form that, along with Paul McShane and Tommy Elphick being out injured, Stam drafted in youngster Tom Holmes who was just 17 for his debut against Bolton last week.
As I said last week, to be fair to Holmes he put in a decent performance but found himself relegated to the bench for the Leeds fixture as the error-prone Ilori returned. While he didn’t make an error this game which led directly to a goal he still didn’t look comfortable on the ball and it begs the question why he is still getting picked.
Stam said this on the decision to drop Holmes after the game:
”We looked at the opposition in how they play and because they had Samuel Saiz up the pitch there were a lot of one v one situations. So we had to make a choice with the defenders we have, who was fit and who was confident in one v ones in a big space.
“It was difficult to tell him though because I thought he did quite well against Bolton.”
On to one of the few bright spots for the Royals this season in Modou Barrow. The winger has been a very good signing for Reading since his move from Swansea last summer, returning nine goals and four assists.
The Gambian international always looks dangerous with the ball at his feet with his explosive pace and trickery and terrorised Leeds’ full-back Laurens de Bock for the majority of the first-half. Although Barrow’s levels did dip in the second-half he is the sort of player that Reading will be relying on for the rest of the season to help keep them up.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson
Talking of players that Reading will be relying on to keep them up, top-scorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson added his tenth of the campaign against Leeds and has done a very good job for the Royals – especially considering that he is facing competition from last season’s hero Yann Kermorgant and established Championship forward Chris Martin – and is the only Reading player to have hit double figures in terms of goals this season.
Wolves up next
One of the toughest fixtures of Reading’s end of season run is the one that they face next, league leaders Wolves away from home. Despite losing to Aston Villa 4-1 at the weekend, Nuno Espirito Santo’s high-fliers are still three points clear at the top of the table and expected to end the season as the league’s champions.
For this to be Reading’s game in hand after the original fixture was called off is far from ideal as few would bet on the Royals getting anything from the match and it is hard to see how Reading can. The key fixtures however will be every single game afterwards.