A strong performance from the Brazilian who had to make some top saves to stop Derby from getting into the game. He denied Waghorn on one occasion when he got in behind and beat away a long-range drive later on in the first half. A second straight clean sheet will be a big boost for him.
Chris Gunter: 6
Another solid afternoon, with no real worries, but again it’s a case of him not offering the same forward threat as Andy Yiadom. He pushed forward down the right well enough in search of space, but had minimal impact due to a) Adam seeming to prefer picking out Ejaria and Blackett on the left, and b) lacking the dribbling ability to take players on.
That said, he did set up Boye in the second half with a nice low cross that the Argentine really should have buried, and should have given Gunter an assist.
Michael Morrison: 6
Given a tough game by Martyn Waghorn who liked to drop off and pick the ball up rather than going up against the centre backs directly. He was caught out a little bit soon after the first goal when Tom Lawrence stole in behind for a shot that he crashed against the bar.
On the whole though a pretty solid afternoon, and one fortunately not overshadowed by him getting in bother by knocking the ball around too much at the back. Then again, that was mostly because the 10-man Rams didn’t have enough players to consistently press.
Liam Moore: 6
Like Morrison, he had a good day at the back and put in some important blocks and clearances to shore things up.
Tyler Blackett: 5
More involved than Gunter on the opposite going forwards, but for me he didn’t make enough happen, despite having some good opportunities to get balls into the box, so should improve his crossing. Also booked for his part in a row with Derby players by the corner flag in the second half, and rather embarrassingly misjudged a crossfield from Pele that bounced over his head for a throw.
Yakou Meite: 7
I know I’ve been fairly harsh when grading Meite previously, but he was much more involved against Derby, so deserves some praise. Bowen pointed out after the match that the Ivorian was playing in his stronger position as a winger (so why have you been playing him up front?), and that tactical switch did indeed seem to bring much more out of him.
Meite had a lot more room to run into down the right, galloping forwards on numerous occasions to get Reading up the pitch, particularly in the second half. He just seemed liberated and put away his spot kick in typically positive Meite fashion, beating Ben Hamer for power low to the goalie’s left.
On the flipside, he seemed pretty raw at times, and should have buried a chance before he could be fouled for the penalty. He could also have been better defensively by offering Gunter more protection, but a run of games as a wide player should hopefully sharpen him up in this regard. It’s a much better fit than playing him as a centre forward.
Andy Rinomhota: 6
Exposed by his midfield partner’s lack of mobility, he had more work to do defensively so naturally found it difficult at times. He could have imposed himself on the game more and his minimal passing range held Reading back, but on the whole a decent enough afternoon.
Charlie Adam: 6
If I were grading this solely on his passing he’d be on for a much higher grade than I’ve given him. Adam sprayed the ball around really well against Derby, getting the ball out wide quickly and purposefully - although he seemed to choose Blackett quite often although Gunter found space down the right pretty well.
However, he was bypassed much too easily by the Rams’ sharp interplay through the middle, leaving them with plenty of space to work in despite being down to 10 men. I’m surprised Bowen put Adam there to be honest, as having such an immobile player in a midfield two against a passing side isn’t a great idea. He was also prone to being ponderous on the ball at times, being caught out a few times by an opposition player.
All in all, it makes Adam a very risky player to use. He’s certainly a great asset with his passing range from deep - that no one else in the team can offer really - but he’s a liability defensively. Having to rejig the side around him to minimise that problem can itself be an issue, so Bowen really needs to weigh up how to use Adam properly.
Did well with his penalty too, sending the goalie the wrong way.
Ovie Ejaria: 6
He lined up as a winger again and, for the life of me, I don’t know why. He was wasted there against Stoke City last Saturday and the same happened today, with Ejaria not involved enough in the play. It didn’t help that, again, he was working alongside a left back in Blackett who lacks the forward drive to consistently overlap and provide a wider option to work with.
Although Ejaria caught the eye by - again - busting out some of his tricks, they generally didn’t result in end product, hence 6/10 rather than 7/10.
Sam Baldock: 5
I may be grading him a little harshly, but for me he didn’t do enough in front of goal to get a higher mark. He did put in a typically hard-working ‘Baldock shift’ up front, but I didn’t see enough involvement in chances - bar putting an Ejaria cut-back wide from close range, having a few efforts from distance and linking up nicely with Joao twice. He needs to have a bigger impact in the final third.
It may well be that he’s still adjusting to a new setup and strike partner. Joao doesn’t work as hard as George Puscas, and is probably less likely to try to get in behind himself, which affects Baldock’s game. Hopefully there are improvements to come on that front.
Lucas Joao: 7
In a way he summed up Reading’s weird performance in the final third. On paper, he did exactly what he needed to do, winning a penalty and scoring a goal - hence the 7/10 - but across the course of the 90 minutes he was pretty frustrating at times and let a few chances slip. A good example of that came in the first half when, having been played in by Meite, he dithered and lost the chance - rather than just hitting it.
On the whole, for me the issue is that he often lacks a real sense of urgency. That’s not just in front of goal - where he does seem to delay too much - but also in his all-round game when he regularly looks lazy. If he keeps up his scoring rate though - which currently stands at three goals in his last four - we won’t mind too much.
John Swift: 7
Brought on for Rinomhota in the second half, he partnered Adam in a defensively lightweight midfield, but fortunately Derby couldn’t exploit it, and he was later given more security when Adam was swapped out for Pele. Goes up to 7/10 thanks to a gorgeous ball in for Joao who converted at the near post. Unlocking a defence with that kind of splitting pass is vintage Swift.
Replaced Adam on 66 minutes to solidify Reading’s midfield at 2-0. Steady defensively, composed on the ball and played some nice crossfield passes out wide, which I’d really like to see him try much more often. If he can do that consistently, he could well be the safer version of Adam that Reading need. With a busy set of fixtures coming up he’s bound to get a few chances to show that side of his game.
Lucas Boye: 4
If he’d been on the pitch for much longer, I probably would have had to drop him down to a 3/10. He had some great chances to add to Reading’s lead in the closing stages, but squandered all of them: a pull-back to Ejaria was cut out before the midfielder could meet it, he received a similar pass from Gunter in acres of space but took a touch rather than burying it, wasting the chance, and put a long-range chance hopelessly off target.
Boye was otherwise overzealous off the ball, giving away some cheap fouls. He seems to badly lack confidence and often comes across as frustrated - has he settled badly in England? I wouldn’t rule out the chances of him returning to Torino in January.
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