Joe Lumley: 5
What an unfair night for Joe Lumley. Caught off guard by Loum’s perfect flick to Troy Deeney in front of his goal for the early first, and then asked to make a desperate slide towards Chong when Mbengue let him through alone. Made a lovely save in the second half when Hannibal ran past Loum and into his box, pawing a searching effort wide, and generally kept Reading’s backline sturdy in the second half.
Amadou Mbengue: 4
Unfortunately this was probably Mbengue’s worst performance in a Reading shirt so far. He looked panicked by Birmingham’s high press in the first half and wasn’t able to affect the game.
Let the ball through to Chong for the third goal with a mistimed half volley. It looked as though the Birmingham free-kick taker spotted that Mbengue was down tying his shoelaces and forced him into an early play after he stood up again, but there’s no excuse for not being ready to defend in a Championship game.
A bad day at the office and nothing more. We’ll see the usual Mbengue again soon.
Naby Sarr: 4
Gave away the penalty with an ill-timed lunge that looked like the product of starting just your second game of the season in December.
Struggled with Birmingham’s pacey pressing game in the first half, and generally looked like he’d been forced into a start maybe a week too early due to Reading’s injury concerns. Still, it’s good to get Sarr minutes in the tank, and he did show the qualities that should see him improve in a Reading shirt.
Tom McIntyre: 6
Handled Birmingham’s pressing the best of any Reading defenders in the first half and looked the most assured in possession out of the back line (as he usually does).
Did very well to get back and prevent Troy Deeney from completing his hat trick shortly after the break, and got forward well enough to strike a nice effort at Ruddy just past the hour mark.
Probably the best of Reading’s defenders tonight and his passing from deep continues to offer the creativity that’s missing in the midfield.
Baba Rahman: 5
Pretty anonymous through much of the first half, with what crosses he did get off often hitting the first defender. Had to spend much of the early stages chasing back towards his goal and did nothing particularly memorable.
Andy Yiadom: 5
It was good to see Yiadom get some time higher up the pitch today, as he started in a wing-back position. Created and almost took Reading’s first good opportunity when he played a one-two just outside of the book before getting a dangerous shot off that Ruddy saved well.
Helped to pin Birmingham back along the wings in the second half before being perfectly solid when withdrawn into the back three later on.
Mamadou Loum: 5
Unfortunate to be punished quite so severely for trying to block a shot travelling into the box, but didn’t do much to redeem himself. Struggled with Hannibal and Chong’s pace throughout the match and frequently found himself the target of pressing triggers.
Jeff Hendrick: 5
More creative today than in the first half of the season and often on the front foot in the early stages, but lacks the stamina to affect a match evenly, especially when faced with a pacey midfield.
May have actually scored Lucas Joao’s goal towards the end, but in any case, he reacted well to flick the ball over Ruddy, and it’s good to see Hendrick that far forward contributing to an attack.
Tom Ince: 7
He’ll be rueing his missed chance in the first half that could have given Reading a toehold in this game but was his usual consistent self. Could have done better with the free-kicks he got at the start of the second half, but generally contributed to the attack in his bustling style throughout.
In transition moments, Tom Ince is one of the most dangerous players I’ve watched in a Reading shirt for a while, but he struggles for creativity when asked to break down a low block as he was in the second half.
When he did find himself in a transition moment late in the game though, he did excellently to keep the ball in play on the charge and then deliver a searching cross to Andy Carroll who began the scramble for Joao’s goal.
Without the defensive mistakes, we’re talking about Ince’s great performance tonight.
Yakou Meite: 6
Held the ball up well in the opposition box and generally looked sharper than he did before the break. He worked hard all night and won Reading free-kicks in the opposition half.
Still hasn’t quite put the finishing touch on though. I wish he’d taken just one look at the goal before volleying McIntyre’s header into the box straight into John Ruddy, but Meite is clearly benefiting from extended game time this year. He should have done better with a header 70 minutes in.
The best of Reading’s forwards tonight though relative to his contribution, and is doing well with his extended run in the team.
Shane Long: 5
His composure and calm passing in the final third rivals anybody else’s on this Reading team. Contributed well to Reading’s attack in the first half, but wasn’t as incisive as Meite and was withdrawn for Joao after an hour.
Junior Hoilett: 5
Unsurprisingly looks a little out of sync with the rest of the team given he didn’t travel with them to the World Cup break training camp, but helped Reading progress up the field against a stubborn defence.
Lucas Joao: 6
Scored the most poachery of poacher’s goals late in the game, nodding the ball home. Still, it’s good to see him back on the scoresheet, and he looks more full of running than he ever was under Veljko Paunovic. Funny what needing to play your way back into the team will do for you...
Andy Carroll: 6
Came on and immediately perfectly chested a skyball down on his chest as tenderly as a short rib in a red wine reduction. Classic Andy Carroll stuff. Played a big role in the goal, beginning the scramble. Overall, a very good cameo from the big man, and may well find himself back in the starting lineup on Tuesday.
Nesta Guinness-Walker: 5
Full of running when he came on. Absolutely loves a Cryuff turn. Wasn’t particularly effective in breaking down Birmingham once he got into the final third.
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