Didn’t have much to do in the way of stopping Boro shots, but was still faultless when called upon. Had to deal with two unorthodox but difficult dangers in the first half: a ballooned deflect shot that he tipped over the bar, and a Michael Morrison deflected header, which he treated in the same way.
Good distribution too - a new-found positive for this season. He’s been asked to play out from the back much more under Veljko Paunovic than under Mark Bowen, and he again did that well against Boro. The home side didn’t put him under too much pressure when he did that, but he was still accurate over short and long range.
Tom Holmes: 7
A second straight match at right back for Holmes, who didn’t look out of place defensively and protected his side very nicely. When Reading were in possession, Holmes looked pretty confident in striding forward through the middle third, typically staying wide rather than coming central as Andy Yiadom often does. However, he couldn’t take advantage of space he sometimes had in the final third to really punish Boro. That’ll come with practice though; I won’t be too harsh on a converted centre half.
Michael Morrison: 7
Morrison had a different challenge in front of him for this game in relation to the Watford match: Boro didn’t press him too much, but they did threaten by putting the ball into the box aerially a few times. However, Morrison dealt with it all very nicely and deservedly took a fourth clean sheet in five alongside the rest of the defence.
Liam Moore: 8
Made a crucial goal-line block in the second half that kept it at 0-0, so I’ve bumped him up to an 8/10. Otherwise he was as defensively sound as Morrison, but also gave Reading some attacking momentum a few times by driving up the pitch with the ball. A really strong performance from a player that’s responded well to the new management.
Omar Richards: 7
Another strong, composed performance at left back from Richards. He was less involved on the ball against Boro than before, with more of Reading’s possession going through Holmes on the other side. Still solid though, bar a nervyish back pass in the first half that Rafael dealt with.
Most weeks I struggle to think of anything specific to pick out for him, but for a defensive player, that’s not a negative. Richards consistently goes about his business effectively and without drama.
Andy Rinomhota: 6
His usual busy self in the middle to protect Reading’s backline. Had a few bright moments in possession when bursting forward, such as in the build-up to an Ejaria effort that was hit past the post from range. I’d like to see him push up the pitch and link up with the forward players more, as that’s his best way of getting involved in Reading’s offensive play.
Josh Laurent: 6
His biggest involvement was to waste a really good chance from the edge of the box, ballooning a shot over the bar when supplied in space from a set piece. Apart from that though he was steady on the left of Reading’s double pivot, helping the side keep possession nicely.
Yakou Meite: 5
A quiet afternoon for Meite. Looked brighter in the first half and had two efforts: one blocked, one blasted well off target. Less effective both when Ejaria took his spot on the right and when he was put up front in place of Joao in the second half though, and was eventually withdrawn for Puscas.
Michael Olise: 6
Had one of Reading’s best chances - and only shot on target - in the first half when he twisted and turned in the box before firing at the goalie. Also set up Laurent with a bit of quick thinking, playing the former Shrewsbury man in with a short free kick.
Ovie Ejaria: 6
Reading’s best player going forwards, Ejaria was given a freer role than he has been before, popping up on the left, right and centre of the three-man attack behind the lone striker. He looked noticeably sharper than in previous weeks, and although he didn’t quite manage to fully unlock the Boro defence, he did go close from range a couple of times.
Lucas Joao: 5
A quieter afternoon than we’re used to for Reading’s top scorer. Didn’t do much wrong, but with less service coming his way, he wasn’t able to get involved enough and give the side that edge in the final third. Had a shot blocked and went wide from range with another effort. Replaced up top by Meite in the second half.
Side note: I had difficulty deciding between a 6/10 and 7/10 for Ovie but, given the overall lack of shots on target, I’ve rounded down. Similarly, I may have been a bit harsh on Meite and Joao, but four 6/10s for an attack that didn’t come up with too much would have, for me, been too kind.
Alfa Semedo: 5
Made his debut by coming into the number-10 role when Joao went off in the second half, and didn’t come up with much. Can’t remember him creating anything for Reading. I was a little surprised he played there, given his experience as a more defensive midfielder.
George Puscas: 5
The flow of the match was against Reading in the quarter of an hour or so that Puscas was on the pitch, and as a result, he wasn’t in the game. Barely touched the ball and didn’t have a shot, although he wasn’t far away from connecting with a cross late on.
Sone Aluko: N/A
Replaced Olise late on, but too late to have an impact or be given a grade.
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