Reading can count themselves somewhat lucky after taking a point away from Wednesday evening’s match against Peterborough United – in a tense and windy game, the two sides played out a drab affair without much to get excited about.
Going in to the game, both sides had the honour of sharing the joint worst defensive record in the league – 60 goals conceded each, in 29 and 30 matches respectively. They were also two sides in poor form results-wise, with both teams yet to register a league victory in 2022.
As the team news came in, my pre-match optimism received a small boost at the sight of Yakou Méïté in the starting line-up. His first league start of the season came in place of Junior Hoilett, who faced suspension after his red card against Coventry on Saturday. There was also space in the eleven for Danny Drinkwater, with Josh Laurent absent from the matchday squad entirely. There was sadly still no sign of Ovie Ejaria, and new signing Brandon Barker was likely not yet fit enough to make the squad.
Peterborough got off to the stronger start, and had the first big chance of the game in the 10th minute. A poor pass from Michael Morrison was intercepted and found its way to Jonson Clarke-Harris, whose powerful dipping effort was well saved by Karl Hein.
Playing with the wind of Storm Dudley behind them, Posh continued to apply pressure, and looked the more likely team to find an early breakthrough. Hein was forced in to action again in the 20th minute, palming away a long range effort from Nathan Thompson.
Moments later, Reading had their first real opportunity of the game. Tom Ince found space to run in to down the left before cutting the ball back for Lucas João in the box, but the ball was just behind the striker. Back down the other end, a sliced Hein clearance found its way to Ollie Norburn, but Norburn’s resulting chip was weak and slowly floated in to the hands of a relieved Hein.
In the 33rd minute, Reading won a free kick on the edge of the box after Andy Rinomhota was fouled. As John Swift and Tom Ince stood over the ball I held my breath – it was Ince who struck the free kick, which had plenty of power but was straight at Steven Benda, who palmed the ball over for a corner.
Posh came close again soon after – a header back across goal was flapped at by Hein, and needed to be headed over the bar by Morrison.
And that was mostly it for a first half that lacked any real quality. A poor half overall, particularly from a Reading perspective – Posh with the better chances, but goalless at the interval.
Half-time – Peterborough 0-0 Reading
As we began the second half, it was now Reading who had the wind behind them. That didn’t seem to count for much however, as Peterborough were the side that actually looked like they wanted to score a goal. A volley was comfortably caught by Hein in the 51st minute, before there was some chaos in the box following a Posh corner – the ball was eventually cleared, and Royals fans collectively took a deep breath.
Not to be discouraged, Peterborough were on the front foot again moments later. After winning a dangerous looking free kick on Reading’s left, Posh floated a ball towards the far post that somehow stayed out. Reading were really holding on now, with Peterborough’s poor finishing responsible for the lack of goals rather than any convincing defending from the visitors.
After the hour mark, Reading had a rare shot – Méïté picked the ball up on the edge of Peterborough’s box and unleashed a powerful strike, but Benda saved relatively comfortably. Down the other end, the ball found its way to Kwame Poku, whose effort was beaten away by Hein.
In the 73rd minute, Reading then had their best chance of the second half, and probably the game. After driving down the left flank Baba Rahman found Swift in the box, but he couldn’t find any power on his header and Benda made another comfortable save.
Just a minute later the ball was back in Reading’s box; after Jack Marriot was slipped in behind, Hein was brave and dived at the striker’s feet, smothering the ball well without fouling his man.
As the game entered its final ten minutes, Reading were forced to defend once again. Hein slapped a few crosses away unconvincingly before Morrison blocked a shot on the line, and another dangerous Posh free kick was somehow headed over the bar by the home side. Again, Reading very fortunate not to have conceded.
The Royals then miraculously woke up for a few minutes. A good run from Lucas João came to nothing as the striker’s tame effort was side footed straight at the ‘keeper, before Swift evaded a few challenges to eventually over hit a through ball past João and in to the gloves of Benda.
A last minute free kick presented Reading with an opportunity to snatch a win – to sum up Reading’s evening, it ultimately came to nothing, and a chorus of boos rang out as the referee brought proceedings to a close.
Full-time – Peterborough 0-0 Reading
Well, it’s a point? Which is better than we’ve managed in our last seven league fixtures. It’s also nice to see a clean sheet… although I think that was more down to Peterborough’s lack of composure in front of goal, rather than any inspiring Royals defending.
Normally, a point away from home isn’t too bad. But in the context of the season, and the performance, I’m not feeling too positive. Peterborough were the better side for most of the contest, and they’re probably quite disappointed to have come away with just a point after that. Reading never really looked like scoring from open play, which is frustrating when you consider that, like us, Peterborough have been conceding goals for fun this season.
Something’s got to give
I always try to be positive as a football fan, but I really don’t know where our next win is going to come from. On paper, with the squad we have, I should be looking at our next four games with at least some optimism, but I’m really struggling to.
Something’s got to give. Something has to change, because if it doesn’t, we’ll be playing Peterborough again next season – but it won’t be in the Championship. We have almost a fully fit squad to choose from now (bar a few absentees), and we’re running out of excuses for some of these performances. I expect a lot more, especially from some of the more experienced players in that squad.
I’d also love to know why we can be so reluctant to make substitutions. Despite the players lacking intensity for practically the whole match, we made one change, and that didn’t come until the final ten minutes. Why not bring Dele-Bashiru on for Drinkwater (who was poor once again in my opinion), and throw Mamadi Camará on for Méïté? We could really have done with an injection of energy in the second half, which someone like Camará would definitely bring.
We’ve now got a few days to prepare mentally for what will be a tough away game at Preston on Saturday – but the big question remains. Will Veljko Paunović still be our manager by then? Time will tell, and I don’t think tonight has helped his case at all.