Reading lined up in a 4–3-3 formation ahead of the visit of Bristol City on Tuesday night: Rafael; Gunter, Moore, Morrison, Blackett; Pele, Swift, Ejaria; Olise, Puscas, Obita.
In an even first half, with both sides cancelling each other out, they were very few clear-cut chances. A John Swift strike from distance the closest either team came to breaking the deadlock. Swift was Reading’s key man for most of the game, switching the play and picking a pass with ease, managing to link defence with attack and give the home side some structure going forwards.
However, despite another indifferent performance from Ovie Ejaria, Swift was the man axed for the returning Sone Aluko. Admittedly, both men put in below-par performances, but with the Royals 1-0 down and putting balls into the box, Swift could perhaps have been a key man with Reading’s main threat coming from the head of substitute Yakou Meite.
Although the Ivorian replaced Tyler Blackett and played on the right (with Obita dropping back to left back and Michael Olise switching to the left wing), his drifting in to the box posed City as many threats as it did against Cardiff. On this occasion, he was more threatening aerially rather than with runs in behind.
Olise and Obita both put in impressive performances and, despite both being quieter after the Meite substitution, they came alive in the final ten minutes with a number of quality deliveries into the box from the left hand side. Obita has consistently shown his ability to play at either left back or left wing, with the added plus of being able to constantly switch with either Blackett or Richards throughout the game.
Meanwhile, Olise has shown his versatility in being able to play off the right or through the middle, whilst also impressing on the left wing late on with the game opening up. Like Ejaria, his best position seems to be in the middle of the park.
Perhaps one of the two men in the team, with the option of substituting the other in at some point, could be the way forward for Bowen. After impressive displays from Meite and Obita, a recall for Charlie Adam (whilst pushing Swift back up to the number ten role or slotting Olise in that position), could make Reading a more efficient side once more.
With George Puscas showing improved hold-up play, both the Romanian and Baldock did not experience any clear cut opportunities. Therefore, the problem for Reading still lies with scoring goals, having struggled with this since Lucas Joao’s injury.
Despite both the defence and Pele consistently putting in solid performances, slight lapses of concentration at key moments in games have changed Reading from the ‘punishers’ to the ‘punishees’. The Royals may well need to sign a striker before the end of January or will risk looking at a comfortable mid table finish come May.