Didn’t have too much to do in the way of shot-stopping, but his poor kick in the build-up to Stoke’s second played its part in killing the game. Should have booted the ball upfield more convincingly with Stoke pressing, but his inaccurate chip meant Reading were caught out of possession. Doesn’t seem so confident with the ball at his feet when the opposition are pressing high, and Pauno should tell Rafael to play it safe more often.
Tomas Esteves: 5
It was his defensive error that set the tone for the day from a Reading point of view. He was at the end of an awkward cross but, rather than getting it clear, only managed to head it tamely back into the danger area for Campbell to score.
Going forwards he had some promise, particularly in the first half, but generally lacked end product. Almost had an assist with a free kick to the back post that Gibson didn’t convert, and went just wide of the post with a long-range effort of his own in the second half. Withdrawn in a double swap as Reading changed shape at 2-0.
Andy Yiadom: 5
Started as a right centre back but moved to right back in the second half, and looked a bit off the pace, having been out of the side since the win at Derby County. The woodwork spared his blushes soon after the break when he was robbed off possession, only for a Stoke player to hit the post.
On the flipside, he supported Esteves well early on as Reading exerted their dominance in the early stages, although he didn’t commit forwards as much as I thought he may have done. Put in some nice crosses from deep in the early stages, setting up Semedo’s golden opportunity and almost doing the same for Puscas later on.
Michael Morrison: 6
As with the Preston game, he himself wasn’t at fault for individual errors as those around him were, so I’ll push him up to a slightly higher grade. Should have had a penalty in the first half when his shirt was pulled in a post-corner melee.
Lewis Gibson: 4
A mostly OK debut for Gibson, who got 90 minutes at Championship level for the first time in his career, but he made two crucial errors, so I’ve pushed him down to a 4/10. Really should have scored at the back post from Esteves’ cross at the far post, and had a howler at the end to gift Stoke their third goal. He should learn from the experience, but at the moment, it’s a three-way toss-up as to who’ll start alongside Morrison next time out of him, Tom McIntyre and Liam Moore.
Omar Richards: 6
No complaints with his performance. Looked confident on the ball and pushed up well on the left to give Reading some width and put some decent crosses in.
Andy Rinomhota: 5
In midweek I criticised his lack of impact in possession, and although he was similarly ineffective when Reading were trying to break down Stoke at 2-0 in the second half, he looked much better when Reading were on top in the first. He had more licence to push up when Reading were in a 3-5-2, with his movement being much more dynamic and conducive to Reading playing through the lines. More of that side of Rino in future weeks please.
Josh Laurent: 6
One of his better games in possession. Looked really confident on the ball, particularly in the first half, doing the simple stuff well but looking that bit more positive with his passing. Less effective after the break when Reading needed more creativity to break Stoke down, but that’s not really his job in the side. Perhaps should have read Esteves’ weak header for 1-0 better, with Campbell beating him to the ball.
Alfa Semedo: 6
His first-half performance was the best display we’ve seen from him so far. Put himself about really well off the ball, looked tricky and dangerous on the ball, and got forward in support of the front two well. Should have scored with an early header from Yiadom’s deep cross, and would have done so just after, had Gunn not denied him acrobatically.
However, he faded after the break. As Reading’s closest thing to a playmaker, we needed more ideas from him as Stoke sat deep and made themselves hard to break down.
Lucas Joao: 5
Just not in the game. Even when Reading were looking on top in the first half, they struggled to get the ball into Joao. You kept thinking that he’d find that one opening to get Reading back into the game, like at Coventry, but it never came.
George Puscas: 5
Like Joao, he didn’t have many sniffs of goal, and he didn’t trouble the goalie with the ones he did have. He perhaps needs some more time playing alongside Joao to really hone that pairing - this is after all the first time they’ve started together in a while.
Sam Baldock: 5
Replaced Puscas but played more on the right than through the middle, which really isn’t to his strength. His work rate was good, as we’re used to, but tactically he wasn’t the right fit for a Reading side trying to break down a well-organised Stoke team; he lacks the guile to operate in close areas, and the away side left little space for him to run into. Almost made it 1-2 with a jabbed effort that went just past the post.
Michael Olise: 6
I was surprised to see him left on the bench, he should have come on earlier, and shouldn’t have been shunted out to the right. He didn’t create too much, but I’ve pushed him up to a 6/10 as he showed a bit of spark in the second half that Reading badly lacked. Unfortunately, with Pauno using him as a winger - when Olise would have been better deployed as a central playmaker - that spark wasn’t to much effect.
Sone Aluko: 5
Didn’t have much time to make an impact and didn’t.
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