David Button: 5
Quiet in the first half and not fully to blame for Oxford United’s goal, but he does seem to be developing some issues with cross-collection that teams are targeting. Countless crosses are put in very deep towards him to see if he’ll claim, and he often won’t.
Bailed Nelson Abbey out of a bit of a defensive mixup early in the second half when his reactions allowed him to snuff out an Oxford opportunity while way off his line. Saw Reading calmly out of the final Oxford attack of the match to cap off an ultimately quiet night for Button.
Andy Yiadom: 5
Buzzed around really brightly in general and linked up well with Femi Azeez, Sam Smith and Lewis Wing in particular in the first half. Helped to create a few overlapping moves with Azeez.
Potentially lucky to get away with no further suspicion from the referee when he abruptly stopped his man as well as the ball in the box during an Oxford counter.
Dangerously tried to wander out of his own penalty box with the ball when Oxford were pressing high but got away with it. Found himself pinned back by a speedy winger for much of the second half and gave away a dangerous set-piece in the closing stages. Used his experience to do reasonably well, but couldn’t help but allow Murphy a few shots that whizzed just past the net.
Tom Holmes: 5
Back in the starting lineup for the first time in months, but linked up well with his common right-sided partner from his starting days - Yiadom - in the early phases.
Beaten to the ball for Oxford’s opener and collapsed to the ground in frustration.
Booked when he gave away a free-kick right outside of the box early in the second half, when he let the ball through his legs and tackled the opposition player.
Shortly after he attempted a repeat of his overhead kick goal against Hull, but couldn’t quite get the technique right this time. Fair enough.
Nelson Abbey: 5
Involved in a defensive mixup with Button that seemed mostly of his own doing early in the second half, almost allowing Oxford an unexpected chance. Seemed to get a little rattled by that and made a few aggressive mistakes shortly afterwards, giving Oxford a few chances to maintain pressure.
Was withdrawn for Tyler Bindon shortly before the hour mark to prevent any further mishaps.
Jeriel Dorsett: 5
Struggled a little more than he has so far and looked a little rusty on his return to the side. Won the ball high up the field and sprung a Reading attack that looked very dangerous with his aggressive defending early on.
Sluggish to get across to the crosser for Oxford’s opening goal, especially as the player miscontrolled the initial pass and then provided Dorsett with a few loose touches to disrupt.
Withdrawn for Mbengue early-ish in the second half when Reading were struggling to break through waves of Oxford pressure.
Michael Craig: 5
Linked up well with Wing ahead of him in the first half and defended well at times when deep in his own box in the second half but struggled to help Reading relieve the pressure, especially once on a booking.
Brought off for Savage in the 67th minute.
Lewis Wing: 6
Got around the pitch well and put in some hearty challenges throughout. Played some nice first-time balls with Craig in the centre of midfield as well and freed up Vickers and Azeez in space out wide.
Put in a fantastic long ball for Smith (potential offside be damned) to latch onto and showed more of the vision that has made him a standout at this level. Finished his excellent first half with a testing free-kick that had to be palmed away.
Was further retreated and reduced to mostly defending in the second half but definitely showed a more physical side than previously seen.
Harvey Knibbs: 7
Given a half chance to shoot at the end of a Reading counter-attack but saw his shot charged down early on. Dominated Oxford in the press early on and helped Reading to retrieve the ball high up a few times. Helped Reading defend deep just as well a few others.
Came close to getting an assist when he cleaned up Azeez’s loose pass and found Femi right in front of net.
Got back well and made a fantastic tackle late in the game to stop a dangerous Oxford counter attack that had slipped past our other central midfielders.
That was indicative of his whole evening: Knibbs never stopped running and was a large part of Reading finally breaking Oxford’s stranglehold on possession in the late stages. Having run his race and two others, Knibbs slumped to the ground in exhaustion at the full-time whistle.
Femi Azeez: 6
Created so much threat with his effort and intensity in the first period. Put a searching cross into the far post that couldn’t quite drop in time for Smith in early proceedings and was part of a move that almost found the striker free inches in front of the net before the half-hour mark.
Ran straight through the middle of the Oxford defence past three or four Oxford players to start an attack before putting the first-time shot that resulted from the play just wide in one of his best moves.
Made himself a yard of space to earn the first shot on target from either team in the second half but will have wanted to get more power on his shot.
Got sloppier as he tired later in the game and underhit a few passes that could have set Reading free. Small details still need to be worked out but the signs are good from Azeez.
Caylan Vickers: 5
Played on the left of the forward bank of four. Wing tried to get him more involved in the early stages but he struggled to make as big of an impression as Azeez on the other side. Could have done a little more to get across and stop the cross for Oxford’s opener.
Given the unwanted job of being the draft excluder in the wall when Reading had to defend a dangerous free kick early in the second half. Showed some flashes of talent when given chances to break but those were few and far between as Oxford dominated possession in the second half. Withdrawn for Elliott in the 79th minute.
This wasn’t the amazing performance the “start Vickers” crowd (including myself) wanted from the youngster, but the performances of Azeez on the other flank shows the benefit of what a run in the team can do.
Sam Smith: 7
Came close to being part of a goal twice in the opening stages. Couldn’t quite reach Azeez’ cross or pick a pass to give Knibbs enough time with the ball when Reading were breaking in the Oxford box in the 15th minute. Continued to hold the ball up so well throughout the whole phase of play.
Ran directly at the Oxford defence in transition to earn a yellow card for Thorniley later in the half.
Got lucky but also benefited from skill with his equaliser. Connected with Wing in a potentially offside position, but made no mistake with either the touch to take it down or the deft finish under the keeper.
Reduced to mostly pressing as Oxford seized control of possession in the second half but operates well with Knibbs in that role.
Tyler Bindon: 6
Dropped from the lineup for the first time in a while, Bindon will have wanted to make a point. Tonight, he showed his usual range of skills, being aggressive but not always efficient in duels and accurate in his passing.
Made a really calm turn out of trouble with a striker right on his back in stoppage time to get the ball clear. In general, while he doesn’t possess the physical prowess of Abbey, he did ultimately help Reading to slow Oxford’s roll and take control of play more towards the end of the game.
Amadou Mbengue: 5
Couldn’t connect with his first cross after entering the field and had to be bailed out defensively by Charlie Savage early in the Welshman’s shift. Was more creative than Dorsett but also wasteful (posting a passing accuracy below 50%), showing both his best and worst attributes.
Charlie Savage: 5
Brought on for Craig in the 6 role, and cut out a dangerous attack shortly after coming on when Mbengue was beaten on his inside foot.
Re-attempted his screamer against Charlton Athletic from six days ago while on a similar patch of SCL turf, but couldn’t quite find the power to beat the Oxford keeper.
Helped Reading to be calmer on the ball in the closing stages when they had it, but couldn’t pick the right pass when the ball came to him in the final attack of the game.
Ben Elliott: 5
Played out left but did manage to drift inside at times and be more creative. Definitely helped provide a bit more energy to Reading’s press when they had previously looked leggy. Showed strength on the ball a few times which isn’t necessarily something previously associated with Elliot’s technical play.
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