This game epitomised the phrase “a game of two halves”. In the first half Reading were simply not at the races in the attacking parts of the game, seemingly happy to be penned back, giving our defence more defending practice than they needed.
In truth the first 20 minutes or so consisted of total Huddersfield dominance, with Liam Moore giving a silly free kick away after five minutes in a dangerous position which the Terriers did little with. Given the pressure that Reading were under, the back three actually looked comfortable, but after 10 minutes or so Matt Miazga put in one block too many and looked like he tweaked a muscle. He was replaced with the ever-impressive Tom McIntyre.
This isn’t to say that in the first half Reading contributed nothing. Well, almost nothing. We had some really nice build-up play just before the Miazga injury which fizzed out into a goal kick, and then after 14 minutes a powerful Lucas Joao run on goal left the goalkeeper and defender in a heap for a few minutes. Also, towards the end of the half, a powerful drive and shot brought a save out of Grabara. In reality though, the chances we had in the first half were generally long-range efforts.
In essence that was the first half: sustained periods of Huddersfield pressure with actually little to show for it - pretty much like most of Reading’s play last season. In reality the first half could have been a pre-season game, given the tempo and mood around the match.
Half time: 0-0
It’s pretty obvious that Jose Gomes read the riot act to the players at half-time as the second phase of the game had a lot more effectiveness from the Royals. It didn’t though start off wonderfully well, as a bit of loose play from Tom McIntyre gave Huddersfield an opportunity that brought a smart save from Rafael.
The Royals then stepped up a couple of gears; we had a spell of pressure that saw us hit the bar from a powerful Andy Yiadom strike which then was followed up by a smart save from Lucas Boye.
The linesman on the near side was, for me, having a torrid game. Early in the second half a series of strange decisions saw the travelling Royals vent at the hapless official after one too many decisions went against us when it looked for all intents and purposes that he just got it wrong.
Then the game changed. The introduction of George Puscas may not have directly led to the goal, but it was obvious that the thought of his direct running scared the living bejesus out of the Huddersfield defence.
This indirectly led to them standing off a little, allowing John Swift to find Ovie Ejaria who then waltzed through the Huddersfield rearguard to slot the ball into the net. A question will have to asked around Grabara in the Huddersfield net as the ball seemed to go under his hand - if that goal were scored against a Reading keeper I would be a little bit annoyed.
The goal, as they always do, gave the Royals confidence and more of a zip around the pitch, and it was not surprising when after yet another Royals corner, Swift found Michael Morrison in a congested penalty box. He put the ball in the back of the net to give the Royals faithful a happy trip back to the Royal County (and other places).
It’s always nice to have options off the bench and all three replacements did a job well. Tom McIntyre looked a natural in the centre-back role, Andy Rinomhota as always patrolled his midfield area with aplomb and Puscas is, well... direct. With Puscas at every opportunity he had (four in his 20 minutes), he was happy to take the ball and run at defenders.
I do question though his decision-making as square balls across goal - rather than shots - on his first two runs today might have been more effective. However, when he did break and try to square the ball he on that occasion probably took the wrong option!
Based on the first-half performance you have to question how good this Reading side is. Based on the second and we can mix it with anyone. Tell me we would have seven points from a run of Cardiff City, West Bromwich Albion and Huddersfield and I would have questioned your sanity. We have though, and it’s been a brilliant start to the campaign.
This is the second game in a row that we have allowed teams to come at us. Is this a strategy that Gomes is adopting or is it that we struggle to start matches with a high tempo? Either way it’s good to be massively positive and for the first time since the last season in which we played Huddersfield, we are actually in the top half of the table!
Reading (3-5-2): Rafael, Miazga (McIntyre 12), Morrison, Moore, Yiadom, Swift, Pele, Ejaria (Rinomhota 76), Richards, Boye (Puscas 69), Joao