David Button: 3
Either unconcerning or impressive since joining, Button today showed the first sign of the mistakes that have led to him not playing consistently for five years.
Button’s day of fumbles and weak stops started early, fumbling Hoskins’ opening goal through his body and into his own net.
With the second goal, the ball was struck about as easily as it could have been from a decent position, straight into Button’s midriff. Unfortunately, confidence clearly shot, Button could only parry it into his side netting.
Lastly, in a similar situation to the second, Button was challenged with a relatively easy shot given the position from which it was struck and got a hand to it but could only push it into his net.
Like the Joe Lumley Rotherham game last year, Reading fans will move on from this if Button is excellent again soon, but it’ll need to be really soon.
Tyler Bindon: 4
Not his night and (how many times have we said this in recent years?) not a full back. Clearly told to push forward more than he did against Burton, Bindon was caught high up the pitch in no man’s land for Northampton’s first.
Impressively capable for a CB in small spaces with the ball but that’s just not a winning strategy and players should be put into positions from which they can excel, not cope.
Harlee Dean: 4
Got the closest to blocking the opening goal but another of the players caught out by Northampton’s quick counter attack for the second. Offers very little in buildup play and needs a more technical passer alongside him.
Nelson Abbey: 6
When the kids were panicking early, Abbey almost got himself into the most trouble of the lot, getting lucky to not give away a penalty immediately after the opener. After that though, he became Reading’s best defender for the rest of the night.
Abbey is capable of shutting down entire counter attacks by virtue of his pace when running back towards his own net and almost shut down the second Northampton goal in that way before Button finished the job for the Cobblers. Gobbled up countless through balls that Northampton tried to throw down the flanks.
Matt Carson: 3
It’s unfortunate, but Carson really struggled out there and is part of a developing issue Reading are having at LB.
Played the second Northampton goal really poorly (though was unlucky to not see the shot saved), pulling his covering run up early while seemingly trying to play the offside trap and then losing the footrace and being lucky not to get sent off for trying to drag the attacker down.
Has great delivery into the box, but that’s just not useful when he has to spend so much time further back on the pitch than a more experienced LB would to cover his defensive responsibilities.
Charlie Savage: 5
Booked for a late challenge shortly after Northampton’s opening goal and seemed to be rustled early on, with some sloppy losses of possession. Still trying to do too much, mostly because Wing seemed disinterested in defending the early stages.
Dropped deeper to assist the defence in buildup and looked better in that role, reinforcing my view he should stick deeper and leave the higher areas of the pitch to Wing for now.
Reading needed to change something at half time so Savage found himself pulled off for Hutchinson: probably the right decision given his booking.
Lewis Wing: 5
Started very slow but made a fantastic pass deep to Tyler Bindon midway through to see the Kiwi get a cross across the box.
Looks to play passes forward into dangerous areas far more than others who have played in the same place this season. Got Ehibhatiomhan free for a shot on the edge of the area and started the move that saw Bindon get a good cross through the box.
Still needs to do more to help out the team defensively, but this was better passing forward.
Paul Mukairu: 4
If I were his coach, Mukairu would be playing two-touch football for the rest of the week. Mukairu has better feet than Knibbs, but trusted them far too often in his first-half appearance and often ran himself into trouble by holding onto the ball far too long.
Lucky not be punished early on in Reading’s sloppy start when his run into the middle of his defensive third saw him dispossessed. Unfortunately not the only time he lost the ball after holding onto it for too long.
Hauled off for Knibbs at half time in a move that showed why Harvey has been starting.
Femi Azeez: 4
Just too lightweight and, while occasionally incisive, didn’t do enough to move Northampton’s goalkeeper and defence around. Better in the first half when he did well to get the ball away to Vickers for his first-time shot that was unbelievably well saved by Burge.
Lacked concentration at key moments in the second. Should have put the ball across the ground hard and low for one of Ehibhatiomhan or Ballard as the game ticked into the last 15 minutes but lofted it over everyone.
Whiffed on a fantastic chip to the far post from Lewis Wing, snatching at the ball when he needed to be calm. If the ball doesn’t go in for him soon then he’ll likely lose his place.
Caylan Vickers: 5
Came alive for the first time in the game shortly after the half hour mark when he orchestrated an entire attack, starting multiple phases of play before being incredibly unlucky to see his first time shot saved.
Provides creativity when Reading can get the ball outside of the opposition box, but doesn’t have the body type to get it down the field physically so needs good service to do his best work.
Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan: 5
Booked early on when Reading were threatening another away capitulation. Feels as though it’s the creativity (or lack thereof) behind him that primarily affects the results Kelvin gets.
Kept to the edge of the box for most of the first half which limited the quality of his chances. Got a good shot away from Wing’s pass late on in the second half, but had precious little other than that. Reading need to do more to ensure that Kelvin is facing the goal when he receives the ball.
Dom Ballard: 6
Probably the Reading player who came out with the most credit. Had enough chances to win it and put one away. Found right in front of the Northampton net shortly after coming on and only just had his shot charged down.
Did excellently to make the absolute most of the Northampton keeper’s error after the hour mark, putting a ruthless ball across the ground and into the net. Vickers provides creativity in this attack that it’s sometimes lacking without him, but Ballard is showing the ruthlessness that a team struggling to score is going to need.
Sam Hutchinson: 5
Changed the style from midfield when he came on, trying more long balls than Savage with mixed success. Didn’t do anything wrong but Northampton had mostly stopped attacking in the second half, content to hold onto their win and thus Hutchinson had less to do. Didn’t get close to stopping Northampton’s third.
Clinton Mola: 2
The most impressive performance in RG2 this year must have been from Clinton Mola’s agent because how on earth he convinced the Royals his client could play LB is beyond me. He seemingly does not have anything like the pace or composure needed to play at this level.
Not only was he incredibly poor in his cameo, he also somehow managed to confuse the ref into showing him two yellow cards, sending him off, and then inviting him back onto the pitch.
Mola was booked for hauling down his defender during a very slow turn in the 73rd minute and then again for needlessly throwing himself into a high challenge in the most obvious yellow card this year. The referee correctly sent him off, and then after an argument with the Reading coaching staff, appeared to invite him back on for the end of the game. Bizarre.
How was Mola on the pitch? Well at one point he had an opportunity to cross into the box in the late stages and put it so high over the net he hit the Reading fans. Bowen must be wondering where the receipt for Clinton is…
Harvey Knibbs: 6
Did far better than Mukairu in the same role, showing us that his two-way play is why he’s kept his place this season. Won more duels than he lost and recovered the ball multiple times without losing it. Did well to sow confusion in the Northampton defence to give Ballard the time he needed to score.
Ben Elliot: 5
Did ok in his brief cameo but mostly became another Reading midfielder exploring the edge of the Northampton box without troubling the goalkeeper.
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