Now we’re at the halfway point of the season, 23 league games into the campaign, this week we’ll be assessing how everyone in the squad has got on so far.
Everyone will get a grade from A to E based on how the season’s gone for them overall: very good (A), good (B), OK (C), bad (D), very bad (E). Rather than judging them solely on their performances, we’ll also factor in how well these players have lived up to expectations, how often they’ve been able to actually play, and more.
First up it’s the smallest section of the squad: the goalkeepers. Check back in later in the week for our thoughts on the wing backs, centre halves, midfielders and forwards.
To put it kindly, expectations were low when Joe Lumley joined on a season-long loan from Middlesbrough. To put it less kindly, the goalie’s arrival was regarded by many as an unfunny joke. Lumley had acquired a reputation last season in the north east for being error-prone and contributing to Boro finishing outside the top six, so the idea of Reading picking him up as the new number one looked to be a poor decision.
We shouldn’t have been so worried. Lumley’s been a dependable figure between the posts; besides a horror-show performance at Rotherham United, the Boro loanee has consistently oozed composure and authority. He’s been an under-appreciated but key component when Reading have had to grind out narrow wins.
He’s not been perfect though. Lumley hasn’t overtly stood out as a shot-stopper in the same way that previous Reading ‘keepers have, although to be fair he’s not frequently stretched. And I can’t dish out too much praise when the Royals have conceded the third-highest number of goals in the league (33).
Regardless, the fact that Lumley has looked so reliable in his own right - given how his confidence will have been after last season, not to mention after the Rotherham game - is really impressive.
Paul Ince opted against Luke Southwood as second-choice ‘keeper for this season, instead signing Dean Bouzanis on a free transfer from Sutton United. That choice turned heads a little bit - it looked odd for EFL-restricted Reading to bring in another goalkeeper when it wasn’t strictly necessary - but it made sense to add more experience if it was available and cheap.
There’s only so much that can be said about any back-up goalkeeper. Bouzanis wouldn’t have expected to play all that much this season and hasn’t done so: his five appearances consist of one outing in the League Cup and four in the Championship, with the two just before the World Cup being the closest he’s come to a run in the first team.
Overall he’s not looked too out of place, which is illustrated by his average rating being so similar to Lumley’s. You can tell he’s not fazed by playing at this level, he has a good save in him (one at Hull stands out) and probably has better distribution than Lumley. Bouzanis is a solid choice when Reading need to call on him.
Then again, he’s not shown enough in his limited appearances to demonstrate to Ince why he should be in the first team more regularly. He’s a decent ‘keeper but there’s little evidence of him being clearly better than Lumley, and some errors haven’t helped - Bouzanis could have done better for goals against West Bromwich Albion and Watford, and more blatantly got caught in a mix-up at Hull.
Luke Southwood’s having a good season at Cheltenham Town, getting the regular first-team football that’s vital to his development at this stage. He’s been an ever-present in the league and cup, keeping a very respectable eight clean sheets in 23 appearances in all competitions.
Two bench appearances each has been as good as it’s got however for Jokull Andresson and Coniah Boyce-Clarke, with the former needing surgery for a groin injury in early September. Both require a loan exit somewhere in the New Year to get regular first-team football.