Joe Lumley: 6
Bothered by precious little in the first half as Sunderland failed to produce any attacking opportunities. Brought into the action more in the second half as Sunderland increased the pressure on the Reading box.
Ended up with four saves including a fantastic triple save but needs to do better with not parrying balls back into dangerous areas. Distribution was also poor today which is disappointing when you’re aiming at Andy Carroll’s significant frame. Lumley scored barely about 50% with his passing accuracy.
Could do nothing about Sunderland’s goal as Rahman left him high and dry.
Andy Yiadom: 6
A classy opening 25 minutes from the captain today that saw him attempt many dribbles and short link-ups with Ince and Hoilett. Booked just after the half-hour mark for a trip that halted a Sunderland attack, Yiadom had a good first half before being shifted out to right-wing-back after Hoilett was withdrawn.
Became tied down after that by having to mark Sunderland’s pacey Clarke, and mostly busied himself trying to keep the forward out of his box rather than progressing up the pitch.
Amadou Mbengue: 6
Mbengue was probably the best of his defensive partners today, winning all of his tackles, recovering or clearing the ball eight times and even providing 11 passes into the final third. One pass went deep into the box but Reading couldn’t get a shot away.
His recovery pace gives him a clear utility in Reading’s back line, allowing Sarr to be a little more aggressive in how he steps forward. What’s more, it allowed Mbengue to be a factor in the game both in his defensive third and Sunderland’s.
Paul Ince said this week that he can’t play a back four right now, but Mbengue may be making a case to be tested in a back four alongside Tom Holmes as his centre-back partner.
Naby Sarr: 4
Did well to be alert in intercepting a dangerous-looking through ball in the first 15 minutes and was asked to use his physical presence in tandem (sometimes literally) with Carroll during Reading’s set-play opportunities in the first half. In that department, he forced Patterson’s only save of the game with a tame effort.
Still seems very slow, both in terms of agility and straight line speed as he was troubled by Gelhardt running directly at him when Sunderland tried to be more direct.
More concerningly, despite his size, he seems timid in the air. The polar opposite to Carroll’s occasionally reckless play in the air, Sarr far too often makes weak or poor contact on clearances that lead to second chances.
Junior Hoilett: 5
Had a couple of opportunities to make a goalscoring or providing difference early in the game but couldn’t quite find the right cross or shot. Involved throughout the opening half hour though.
Involved again immediately in the second half, earning Reading a corner with a driving run, but was less effective as Sunderland pushed deeper into the Royals’ half. Withdrawn for Scott Dann before Reading conceded.
Baba Rahman: 3
Back in the lineup after missing last week, Baba rushed forward well as Reading seized some possession early on and earned a boot in the chest for his troubles.
Generally reasonably tidy on the ball, Rahman provided some good attacking balance to the pace of the Hoilett, Yiadom, Ince triangle on the right but just cannot find an end product. Ended the first half with an 100% dribble completion rate and a 0% cross success rate, which told the story of a player capable of keeping the ball but not finding his teammates or creating chances.
Found himself restrained further and further as the second half wore on, and eventually switched off late when he tried to shuffle the ball between his feet deep in his box, and instead provided a perfect assist for Roberts to snatch home.
Baba was distraught with himself and took his time working his way around the touchline. It’s likely to be a long few days at Bearwood for the Ghanaian.
Tom McIntyre: 5
A first half so good that Sunderland decided to entirely bypass his segment of the field after the break, meaning McIntyre faded.
He was in the team today to replace Loum’s defensive effort in midfield and did well to shield Sarr with interceptions and challenges on the ball whenever Sunderland made a loose touch in the first half. While McIntyre doesn’t have the full skillset to nail down a CDM position, he does at least have a presence in the middle of the park that’s sometimes lacking in the Royals’ lineup.
It’s also great to bring McIntyre’s passing range and football intelligence higher up the pitch. McIntyre switches off from time to time when defending, but when his thinking and his boots are aligned, he does some really smart things. Midfield allows that to be expressed.
Jeff Hendrick: 4
If anything embodies the Hendrick experience, it was a moment just before the 37th minute when he called for the ball in space for a good five seconds, then when it finally arrived he dithered and lost it to the Sunderland press.
Did precious little else, touching the ball less than both goalkeepers, impressive for a central midifelder. What concerns me most about Hendrick is his inability to stand in an attacker’s cover shadow when defending, meaning teams pass the ball around him with ease.
Tom Ince: 6
Pulled a few surprises from his bag of tricks out in the first half as Reading enjoyed some possession for the first time in what felt like weeks!
Unfortunately, while Ince was sharp with his build-up play, his end product was lacking as Reading had opportunities to forge chances. While admittedly outside of the box, Ince fluffed his lines a few times today when given the opportunity to shoot.
Made possibly his best defensive action of the season on the hour mark as he rushed back the entire length of the field from the corner flag to his own six-yard box to challenge. Ince has been by far Reading’s best performer this season, so it speaks to how good this was that it sticks out as one of his best.
Andy Carroll: 4
Booed heavily by the Mackem crowd, Carroll found himself Involved early on with his usual flicks forward with his head. Generally more useful on set plays though, Carroll faded as the half went on as Reading started attacks deeper while also failing to provide a reasonable cross for the Geordie to attack.
Dropped an inviting ball in front of the six-yard box from a Reading free kick, but was let down by no Royals chasing it down. Found himself the initial target of numerous Reading attacks again but had mixed success today in finding teammates with his knock downs.
Shane Long: 4
Could have done a little better when far forward a little bit before the 20th minute, but Ince’s through ball was unfortunately a little behind him. Always alert to loose balls and works well out of possession but still a bit lacking in any real craft. Doesn’t seem to be able to provide the attacking spark Reading are missing.
Retains the ball reasonably well when he does get to it, with an 80%+ pass accuracy rate, but is too often working hard for very limited reward in this Reading side.
Scott Dann: 4
Dropped into the middle of the back three after his introduction for Hoilett, Dann looked as he usually does: reasonable but glacial. Considering his size, he does at least compete in the air more than Naby Sarr.
Yakou Meite: 4
Offered very little on his birthday and was ultimately reasonably lucky to stay on the pitch given he led with his elbow and made contact with a Sunderland defender late in the game.
Femi Azeez: N/A
Played three minutes and touched the ball three times, with one being a tackle.
Tyrese Fornah: N/A
Actually managed two recoveries in his short time on the pitch and will wonder how he missed out on the team today. Could see game time in the busy upcoming week.
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