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Tactics Review: Royals Denied By Blackpool

An experimental team from Mark Bowen twice came from behind to snatch a 2-2 draw against League One Blackpool.

Reading FC v Blackpool FC - FA Cup Third Round Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Reading kicked off their game with Blackpool in a 4-4-2 formation: Walker; Howe, Miazga, Burley, Richards; McCleary, Rinomhota, Olise, Obita; Boye, Baldock. However, for most of the first half Reading seemed to switch into a 4-2-3-1, with Lucas Boye playing behind Sam Baldock in order to link the play.

Boye was one of the more impressive players on the day, looking sharp and showing good control and intent to get forwards, but consistently being put into difficult situations by his teammates' passes. Too often was he given too much to do, needing to take on two/three players with limited support and options available to him.

For the first half an hour though, Reading looked bright and controlled the game, with many of their attacks coming from good link-up play between Teddy Howe and Garath McCleary down the right hand side.

With Jordan Obita on the left wing, he and McCleary would regularly move centrally when the other had the ball on the wing - this best typified by the two chances Obita had on his right foot from crosses in from the right hand side. With Sam Baldock constantly moving about and making runs, the Blackpool defence was being stretched with Royals runners moving into the spaces.

However, there was always an imbalance in midfield and this was exploited by Blackpool time and again, with Michael Olise (despite a great performance from the youngster) not offering the protection Reading’s defence needed, alongside Andy Rinomhota.

Olise is more suited to the 10 role, meaning Reading’s lack of central midfielders on the bench when Boye was substituted. Olise would’ve been more suited to moving forwards into Boye’s position with another central midfielder coming in behind but, with no other options, continued in central midfield and, despite bossing possession, was not defensively apt enough to stop some of Blackpool’s attacks.

This left Reading’s defence exposed at times, with Blackpool having a large amount of second-half chances, with the intensity and attacking intent sapped from the Reading side. The introduction of Danny Loader for Sam Baldock as a like-for-like replacement worked well, with a well-taken goal drawing Reading level at 2-2. However, the substitution of Boye killed any real attacking threat Reading had, with the Blackpool midfield able to fill the midfield gaps he would drive into, leaving Sone Aluko and Danny Loader isolated from the midfield.

Despite an up-and-down performance from Andre Burley, both he and Ramarni Medford-Smith put in assured performances at the back, both being confident in possession and being tasked with a big battle against the towering Armand Gnanduillet. As well as this, Matt Miazga being handed the captain’s armband and not one Reading fan batting an eyelid shows just how key and a part of this club the loanee has become as looked comfortable back on the pitch after injury.