Joe Lumley: 6
Bravely got down to stop Teemu Pukki in his tracks when he was put through one-on-one in the first 20 minutes. He was probably lucky not to have much to do in the first 45 after that, as he took a nasty boot to the back of the head. Seemed to have shaken it off by the second half. Could do nothing about Idah’s drive that curled away from him.
Made a fantastic clean stop from Sargent’s hard low shot 65 minutes in to keep Reading in the game, and then turned in a classic Joe Lumley time-wasting performance when the Royals needed it late on. All in all, a very solid outing from the loan keeper.
Tom Holmes: 7
His general solid self in the first half. Helped Reading to keep the match under control. Seemed to mostly be tasked with keeping Pukki quiet and stuck to his task diligently throughout the game. The Finnish finisher finished the game frustrated, and that probably tells you how well Holmes played.
There was a school of thought that while Holmes had played well in the first half of the season, he’d be able to play even better with an old hand such as Naby Sarr or Scott Dann alongside him once those players returned. On the evidence of tonight though, Holmes may be that old hand.
Andy Yiadom: 6
Interchanged nicely with Ince and Hoilett in the first half down the right-hand side and had some joy, getting crosses into the box for Carroll to knock down. Defensively he stuck to his task and won all of his ground and aerial duels.
Won several free kicks for Reading with his dribbling tonight and doubtless no player found himself in either box for quite as long.
Naby Sarr: 5
A real physical presence in Reading’s backline: something they’ve been missing since Michael Morrison left the club in the summer. And yet twice in 10 minutes he was beaten physically by the spritely Josh Sargent. First, losing out cost us Norwich’s goal, and then minutes later he cost Tom Holmes a yellow by letting Sargent send Pukki through.
Looks a little lacking in match fitness and you’d hope that his speed and sharpness improve as the season flows onwards.
Tom McIntyre: 5
Performed well defensively in the first half but still seems lacking as a balanced left-wing-back. His passing range serves him best when in a deeper position, and he still excels in getting it onto Andy Carroll’s chest.
But every time you see McIntyre forward as the second-highest player, you can’t help but wonder who else might be better positioned there. Each time McIntyre is asked to provide creativity while closer to the opponents’ corner flag than the half-way line, NGW’s case to start only seems to grow louder.
Junior Hoilett: 6
Did very well to catch Norwich out early and win Reading their dangerous free kick that Ince smashed at Gunn. Arguably could have had a penalty, and probably would have done if he had taken just one more stride forward.
Amusingly also picked up the ball for a throw before it had crossed the touchline at one point. You’ve got to love Championship refs sometimes (note: you absolute don’t).
Jeff Hendrick: 5
Helped Reading to look reasonably effective today when on the ball, which isn’t something you can always say. Did well to direct the ball around Reading’s side to retain possession, but still looks limited when it comes to breaking the lines.
Hendrick’s real problem though is that he still looks like an absolute saloon door off the ball. At many times he may as well not be there. Hendrick won not a single tackle or duel at all tonight and was dispossessed three times. He needs to find some key role in the side in 2023, or there’ll be no repeat loan in 2023/24.
Mamadou Loum: 6
A little calmer in possession tonight than he looked earlier in the week, but still guilty of losing the ball outside of his own box multiple times when Norwich pressed high. With a little more time on the ball, and especially in the central third, it still looks a little chaotic, but Loum was generally in control tonight.
Booked for a cynical challenge late on, but he was a physical presence throughout who made himself more present in the game than Hendrick, recording more than double the passes into the final third than his midfield partner. Not bad for the man who’s meant to be providing defensive grit.
Tom Ince: 6
Did well with his early free kick, smashing it at Gunn who could only futz it over. That proved to be just the first of several searching set plays Ince provided throughout the game.
He helped the link-up play between Yiadom and Hoilett on the right side nicely and was generally a huge asset to a Reading team that is making huge strides with regards to comfort in possession.
Lucas Joao: 5
Good to see him back in the line-up, but he looked a little as though he hasn’t started since November 8. His work rate has definitely improved this season, and he needed it to, but he’s not offering as much creatively and his fast feet are just a little more sluggish than we’ve previously seen. He would often seem just one touch away from breaking through Norwich’s defensive line.
Should have done better to get a pass into the box under control in the 35th minute. If he had done, he could have had a real chance. Unlucky not to score on the hour mark as he headed down well, but unfortunately straight at the keeper from a dangerous-looking corner.
Andy Carroll: 7
A good night from Carroll who demonstrated how he can be used as part of a system, rather than as the inevitable end result. Carroll was used as the first point of attack, rather than the end goal, and proved effective. The Geordie was his usual difficult-to-handle self while inside Norwich’s half. He offered knock-downs in Norwich’s box throughout that could have found willing attackers.
It may not be physically possible to save an Andy Carroll penalty. If you hit the ball so hard that it will bend metal, then it doesn’t really seem to matter if the goalkeeper gets anywhere near it.
Yakou Meite: 5
Came close to single-handedly scything through Norwich to end the game late on, and could only be stopped by the goalkeeper rushing out. Surprisingly quiet other than that though and only recorded one shot during his 25 minutes on the pitch.
Did not seem to be offered the penalty that was buried home by Andy Carroll…
Nesta Guinness Walker: 6
Immediately showed us what we’d been missing down the left side when he came on. Did brilliantly well to win the (admittedly soft) penalty by jinking back and forth in between two defenders and giving the referee a very tough decision to make.
Still looks a little erratic defensively but there’s no doubt at this point that out of the three available left-wing-backs when we play a back three, NGW is the best suited to the attacking side of that role.
Amadou Mbengue: N/A
Not really on the field long enough to make a significant impact, but threw his body about in his usual committed way when he had the chance to.
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