Swift and Ejaria on song
In recent games, John Swift and Ovie Ejaria haven’t been at their best and struggled to hit the heights they had earlier in the season. However, both were on song at Hillsborough and usually when they both play well it leads to Reading getting a result.
Swift was playing deeper just in front of the defence and Mark Bowen described Swift after the game as being his quarterback. Playing deep allowed Swift to dictate play and he was always looking to move the ball forward quickly. This allowed Reading to transition from defence to attack and create numerous chances on the break.
Ejaria was playing out on the left and he gave Wednesday’s right back Urhoghide a torrid afternoon, leading to him being given a second yellow for a late challenge on Ejaria early in the second half. In possession, Ejaria came more central with Omar Richards providing the width on the overlap; coming inside allowed Ejaria a lot more space and allowed him to pick out a beautiful pass for Yakou Meite in the first half.
Swift and Ejaria performing well again will be key if Reading are going to get anything out of the game next week away at Leeds United.
Return of Rinomhota
Andy Rinomhota has struggled for game time since the arrival of Bowen and it was his first start in the league since December 21. Much of Rinomhota’s misfortune has been down to the good performances of Pele but the loanee was out of this game with an Achilles and groin injury.
Rinomhota wasn’t playing in defensive midfield where he had previously been played under Bowen, but instead was back in his best position as a box-to-box midfielder. This change of position, back to a role more similar to the one that saw him win player of the season last year, allowed him to shine. He was breaking up play and instantly bursting forwards which allowed Reading to stay on the front foot for much of the game. He added much-needed steel to the midfield and provided balance which allowed Swift to impress alongside him.
Chris Gunter and Jordan Obita have been good for Reading this season but neither offer the dynamism and attacking threat that Richards and Andy Yiadom do. Both were excellent on Saturday - they didn’t give Kadeem Harris or Alessio Da Cruz any time on the ball whatsoever and I can only remember a handful of times that the Wednesday wingers managed to get a cross into the box.
Both Reading fullbacks were comfortable in possession and able to dribble past Wednesday players with ease. When Reading were on the attack, Richards and Yiadom provided width constantly, overlapping the players in front of them throughout the game. Then it was Yiadom’s excellent shot from distance which was turned in by George Puscas for Reading’s second goal.
Puscas has struggled up front by himself for a while now and in past games his effort has come into question with many fans. However, in this game, Puscas’ effort and application were excellent and he was deserving of his goal during the second half. The Romanian’s hold-up play was much improved and he impressively left Ejaria’s pass during the first half to allow it to go through to Meite.
With the money Reading invested in Puscas over the summer and the contract they gave him, I think it is important that Reading stick with Puscas and give him the opportunity to come good. After goals in consecutive games for the first time in a Royals shirt, let’s hope Puscas can push on and score more goals before the end of the season.
In my last piece I talked about Reading’s lack of movement in attack, but Michael Olise’s introduction to the team was arguably more important for his work out of possession than what he did on the ball. Olise was constantly on the move and often coming deep to collect the ball along with offering out wide when Meite and Ejaria drifted inwards. This movement allowed other players to pick up pockets of space and made Reading a lot more unpredictable going forwards.
Olise occasionally gave the ball away cheaply and was subbed off for Charlie Adam in the second half as Bowen looked to add some experience and hold onto the win. However, the youngster was very impressive overall and once again proved to Bowen just how much quality he has.