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5 Things: Norwich City (Away)

An unsurprisingly negative list of key points from yet another loss.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson injured

The biggest loss for Reading happened before the game even started with the loss of top-scorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson who suffered a calf injury. Bodvarsson is currently the only Reading player to reach double figures in terms of goals scored this season and has been one of the better additions of the season with the former Wolves striker keeping more established names such as Yann Kermorgant and Chris Martin out of the team due to his recent form.

Luckily for Royals fans, Bodvarsson tweeted out before the game that his injury was not a serious one and should not keep him out for too long.

An injury on my calf ruling me out from the Norwich game. Thankfully not a serious one. I’ll be back out there sooner than later. #URZ

Substituting Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly was the best of a bad bunch of Reading players on the pitch against Norwich, grabbing the first of Reading’s two goals to give the Royals a chance of getting back into the game. He also popped up with an assist for Sam Smith’s 51st-minute strike, but was withdrawn 10 minutes later when Reading were chasing a third which would equalise the game.

The 21-year-old is a creative, attacking midfielder who can not only score goals but pick a team apart with his great range of passing, but manager Jaap Stam opted to take him off for Joey van den Berg to audible boos from the away end. To be fair to Stam, Kelly was absent in the midweek fixture against Wolves with an ankle injury and so Stam took him off as a precaution.

However, replacing Kelly with a defensive midfielder like van den Berg is the definition of a backwards move. Van den Berg is the type of player you would bring on to consolidate when you are in a winning position – not when you are chasing the game.

Sone Aluko

Sone Aluko has been a terrible signing for Reading, especially considering it was a deal reported to be a club record of around £7.5m according to Sky Sports. Aluko has never been a prolific goal scorer throughout his career, having returned just eight goals in 49 league appearances for Fulham and 13 in 90 for Hull.

The Nigerian international has scored only two goals for Reading since he has joined and was the closest signing that fans got to a marquee signing after missing out on Nelson Oliveira and Jordan Hugill, despite the fact that he has never been the sort of player to lead a team towards promotion which is what the Royals were missing.

Reading v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

In fact, the biggest problem with Aluko is that he goes missing far too often and he did the same against Norwich, continuing a pattern that you really do not want to see from someone who is reportedly Reading’s record signing. To put Aluko’s form in context, on all of our player ratings from the entire season, Aluko averages a 5.3 rating out of 10 - a truly dreadful rating from the marquee signing of the Royals season.

Could have drawn but…

After Sam Smith scored Reading’s second goal of the game to make it 3-2, the Royals had just under 40 minutes to push forward in order try and grab at least an equaliser and push forward they did. Second-half substitute Yann Kermorgant and Smith were amongst those who went close for the Royals as they actually ended the game with 12 shots (seven of them being on target) but, truth be told, the scoreline did flatter Reading because Norwich could and should have been out of sight.

The Canaries dominated the first half with wingers Josh Murphy and Onel Hernandez being the stars of the show. A Royals defence which had both of the side’s most error-prone defenders starting in Tiago Ilori and Tyler Blackett was always going to struggle and had it not been for missed Norwich opportunities it is probably not an exaggeration to suggest that we may well have seen a repeat of last season’s 7-1 drubbing at Carrow Road.

The performance was so bad in that first-half that for the first time this season there were audible chants heard of “We want Stam out!” from the travelling Reading fans.

Three points off relegation

Not only did Reading fans have to deal with yet another bad performance by their team, need I remind you that Reading have one win in their last 18 league fixtures and none in nine, but for the first time in months the six-point gap between them and the relegation zone has shrunk.

Bolton’s surprise win over promotion contenders Aston Villa, thanks to former Royals’ frontman Adam Le Fondre, meant that they leapfrogged Reading into 19th and have a three-point cushion ahead of Jaap Stam’s men. This win means that Reading are now 20th and just two spots above Birmingham who sit in the third place in the relegation zone and whose win over Hull is what cut Reading’s relegation gap in half.

To make matters worse for Reading is that with other teams around them starting to pick up points at key times, five of their last eight fixtures are against teams which are in the running for automatic promotion or the play-offs. With just three points’ grace keeping them out of those places and the majority of their final fixtures being against high-flying side’s with something to play for it does not look good for Reading right now and every single point will be invaluable as they continue to fight to stave off relegation.