Reading strolled to a win against a dismal Luton side, who look certain to go down unless something changes. The away side have a penchant for scoring goals so far this season, but created absolutely nothing as the Royals scored three in a league game for the first time since Cardiff, thirteen games ago.
In fact Luton’s only shot on target was the first shot of the match. A free-kick fell to Martin Cranie at the back post, but his effort was parried by Rafael. A decent save, but one that you expect him to make. The goalkeeper was a bystander for much of the rest of the game, but looked more assured than last week.
Reading then started to pile on the pressure, and Ovie Ejaria started to show his class early on. A little touch past a Luton player in midfield was followed by a beautiful, outside of the boot pass into George Puscas, but the Romanian forward shot over the bar. Omar Richards got in on the action too with a slaloming run through the Luton defence before drawing a good save from James Shea.
John Swift put the resulting corner on a plate for Michael Morrison to head home, under no real pressure from any Hatter. Ejaria may make all the headlines, but Swift keeps on delivering. He’s still created the most chances in the league, even as he’s been moved into a deeper role under Bowen, and effectively missing two games after being sent off early against Fulham.
Not too long after, Ejaria, from the corner of the box, whipped one across the keeper and into the far corner to double the lead; it’s been a decent couple of weeks for goal of the season contenders. The move started with Richards tracking back, and getting in a decent slide tackle, before Liam Moore - who ended up on the edge of the box when the goal was scored - brought the ball out of defence. He left the creative duties to Swift, and the ball was slid through to Ovie wide on the left. The star man slowed things right down, so much so that a fan behind me thought the opportunity had gone, before shifting it onto his right foot and striking home.
Luton were far too open at the back, and the floodgates almost completely opened when Puscas started running at a defence in total disarray. However it should be of no surprise that his total lack of pace allowed the away team to get back at him. George’s best chance came just before he made way in the second half, a header drawing a diving save from Shea, but his contribution wasn’t so much on the scoresheet. It’s a real asset to have a player that is so adept at holding up the ball, whether it’s into his feet, or fired in at chest height.
His strike partner Sam Baldock had a couple of chances too. Played in by Andy Rinomhota and Puscas on separate occasions, the former Brighton man hit the side netting and the keeper. The two up top are starting to show signs of an understanding, and one that could be quite profitable if both consistently find the lethal touch they’ve showed promises of.
Much like the Millwall game last week the second half was more subdued, in part because Ovie was withdrawn for Garath McCleary on the hour mark. That slight change of formation led to a period of possession for Luton, but they couldn’t even muster a shot post-half time.
McCleary looked lively when he was introduced, playing in a slightly more advanced role than Ejaria, but still more centrally than he’s used to. He hounded the Luton backline - who had been slow on the ball all afternoon. The ‘winger’ capitalised on Alan Sheehan again taking too much time on the ball, which left him bearing down on goal, and a beautiful finish saw an emotional celebration after he’d been phased out by the previous regime.
The substitution of Puscas for Yakou Meite further deteriorated the shape of the team. Almost all his touches came on the wings, which left the lone striker a little isolated. That can’t have helped Danny Loader when he came on with ten minutes to go - in fact the young striker only touched the ball four times.
The only potential avenue that Luton had to get a goal back was robbed from them, when the ball hit Matt Miazga’s arm in the box. It must be said the arm was up above his head, and it’s one of those ‘you’ve seen them given’, but the referee wasn’t at all interested.
One man I don’t want to overlook is Rinomhota. People often categorise him as a box-to-box midfielder - which to some extent is true - but he also has a brilliant ability to protect the back four, and let the other two in midfield be the creative influence. Obviously we look more solid with two CMs starting from deeper, but Rino would be in my team every single week.
On the whole it was a comprehensive performance, but it can’t be stressed enough just how poor Luton were. The midfield three were outstanding, and the scoreline could have been embarrassing had either striker managed to pitch in.