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Tactics Review: A Chance Missed For Reading?

The Royals were narrowly beaten at Elland Road at the weekend.

Leeds United v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Elland Road Photo by Anthony Devlin/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

Reading travelled to Elland Road off the back of a 3-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday and proceeded to once more line up in a 4-2-3-1: Rafael; Yiadom, Moore, Morrison, Richards; Pele, Swift; Meite, Rinomhota, Olise; Puscas.

Reading began the game looking to sit back and absorb pressure from Leeds, but with the hosts misplacing a few passes and having a clear exposure on the counter, the Royals took the game to their promotion chasing counterparts. With Pele sitting deep alongside John Swift, and Andy Rinomhota roaming around in front and making driving runs, when the Royals won back possession two of these midfield three would usually push forwards into the vacated space. Rinomhota in particular had a superb game in driving the play forwards and applying pressure on Kalvin Phillips (and even the defence at times).

Pele also, it should be mentioned, won numerous balls back inside Reading’s half before driving forwards himself and again showing how hard he is to dispossess and how far he’s come over the course of the season. However, when Reading did come forwards they lacked a considerable quality to pose any kind of threat to the Leeds goal, either not managing to get bodies forwards or slowing the move down with indecisiveness or a lack of options.

When Phillips, playing in a holding role while intelligently drifting out to the flanks to always make himself an option and drag the visitors out of position, succumbed to injury in the first half, it seemed as if there was an opportunity for Reading to seize on. However this only worked in Leeds’ favour, with Ben White moving into the holding role, Luke Ayling shifting into centre back, Stuart Dallas taking Ayling’s place on the right and Ezgjan Alioski entering the play at left back. This change allowed the attack minded Alioski to push forwards in support of Jack Harrison and the two linked up late in the first half, coming close to finding the breakthrough.

However on the other flank, Omar Richards had one of his best games in a Reading shirt and, despite Helder Costa getting the better of him at times and capitalising on his error for the first goal, put in a fantastic defensive display, while showing pace, trickery and intelligence in pushing forwards up the pitch.

In the second period, Leeds came out strongly and Reading again had a period of panic and uncertainty in the 45-60 min mark. After Pablo Hernandez had given the hosts the lead, Reading never really pushed for an equaliser until a flurry of late chances. The introduction of Charlie Adam gave Reading a threat through crosses from deep, despite Leeds’ man-marking defensive strategy. Surprisingly this was the only change made, with Sam Baldock an unused substitute.

Reading now have two home league games in the next week, with both Wigan and Barnsley visiting the Mad Stad. After an impressive showing at Elland Road, anything less than six points will be disappointing for a side looking to end the season strongly.