Reading travelled up to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday afternoon without a win since New Year’s Day. In response to their defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion, Mark Bowen lined the Royals up in a 4-3-3 with three changes to his line-up.
Rafael; Yiadom, Moore, Morrison, Richards; Swift, Rinomhota, Olise; Meite, Puscas, Ejaria.
In addition to the Owls playing the towering Atdhe Nuhiu up top, the wet and blustery conditions made it clear that the home side would be looking to use the weather to their advantage. With no Barry Bannan in the midfield for Wednesday, they lacked creativity and so consistently went long to try and pick out the big Kosovan. Despite a poor patch just after half time, especially for Liam Moore, Reading dealt with this threat relatively comfortably and found it easy to play their own football also.
With John Swift dropping into Pele’s holding role just in front of the defence and the tough-tackling Andy Rinomhota in front and next to Michael Olise (who was Reading’s main midfield threat in driving the play forwards), the Royals found a good balance in midfield in order to offer an attacking threat without being overpowered.
Ovie Ejaria moving into the middle to outnumber the opposition midfield and link up some fluent passing moves allowed the fantastic Omar Richards space on the left to push forwards into the vacated space. One such movement from Ejaria was effective in leading to Reading’s opening goal, Ovie receiving the ball infield before driving forwards and slotting the ball through to Yakou Meite. The Ivorian himself had moved in from the wing with a great run, but a lot higher up the field, essentially able to offer a threat as a second striker when needed.
Ejaria put in one of his best performances on the wing this season, managing to use his trickery to get Osaze Urhoghide sent off and link up with both Swift and Richards in attack. Most of Wednesday’s men were lunging into tackles all over the park and, apart from a short spell after half time, Reading managed to continue to play football while still showing their robustness.
With George Puscas putting in a great shift and showing an improved work rate, and Sam Baldock energetic off the bench, Reading always looked a threat and ended up comfortably winning 3-0. The most pleasing stat for Bowen was surely that all three forwards were on the scoresheet, after putting in performances that deserved the rewards they got.
One area in which Reading need to improve is their efficiency on the counter, squandering numerous opportunities with poor passes and replying on defensive mistakes in order to continue the attack (the foul on Rinomhota for Reading’s third). However, the introduction of Ayub Timbe and the explosive pace he showed on a couple of occasions late on in the game will give the Royals a much-needed alternative threat in attack, especially on the counter.
With Reading’s next game being a trip to Elland Road, it will most likely prove to be one of the toughest games they’ll play this season, but if they can demonstrate this defensive organisation and attacking threat, the Royals may well be able to continue the feel-good factor which is well and truly back.