Reading travelled to Brentford unbeaten under Mark Bowen, but that four game run soon came to an end with a 1-0 defeat in West London. The Royals lined up in an unchanged 3-5-2: Rafael; Yiadom, Moore, Morrison, Miazga, Richards; Rinomhota, Swift, Ejaria; Baldock, Puscas.
Despite it being difficult to tell what was happening on the pitch at times, what was clear to see was that (especially in the second half), Reading struggled to play with width on a cramped Griffin Park pitch. With Brentford in a 4-3-3 with wingers who liked to cut in onto their stronger foot, and attacking full backs always providing an option with an overlap, both Omar Richards and Andy Yiadom struggled to deal with the duel threats. This was best displayed by the only real Brentford chances of note coming from out wide, including the cross that Ollie Watkins headed home the winner from.
Yiadom will have a well-deserved break in midweek after picking up a suspension following his fifth yellow card of the season, and despite the obvious problem this will pose, a slight positive can be found in the continued tenacity and physicality the Royals continue to display in making life difficult for their opponents.
Brentford were the better side on the day and their gameplan worked perfectly, nullifying both John Swift and Ovie Ejaria and, despite a few impressive Ejaria dribbles, neither were able to threaten the Bees’ goal. The one real chance Reading had came from a quick free kick which put Puscas through on goal, opting to try to round the keeper and not quite being able to finish past the stumbling David Raya.
Bowen’s substitutions did not have the desired impact with both Yakou Meite and Garath McCleary either being flagged for offside or just not able to force a chance. This may have been due to the Royals’ ineffective long balls or Brentford controlling the middle of the park when the visitors did attempt to play through the lines, with most Reading attacks coming from counter attacks following interceptions.
However, neither substitute could create anything of note, with a powerful curving McCleary drive the closest the Royals got to an equaliser. The introduction of Lucas Boye late on provided a late spark for Reading but, as was the story for the whole game, the lack of willingness to shoot cost Reading dear as they didn’t manage a shot on target all game (bar Puscas’ poor attempt in the first half). Reading looked a different side after Sam Baldock succumbed to injury early in the second half, and perhaps this contributed to them looking off the pace from there on in.
With another tough test against Leeds on Tuesday night, Reading will have to offer a lot more in the final third to trouble the best defence in the league, and Bowen will have to ensure that the competitive spirit his side have shown under his brief tenure does not wane for a second against the title contenders.