Joe Lumley: 6
Didn’t have too much to do, bar picking the ball out of his net once from a goal that wasn’t his fault, stopping some long shots and denying the visitors in a one-on-one in the second half.
Amadou Mbengue: 4
I’ve thought a few times that Mbengue doesn’t really convince me as a full-back, and today was another example. He didn’t look all that solid defensively and should have put more (some) pressure on the cross for the equaliser.
He came up short offensively too though. Meite needed more support down the right wing but didn’t get it from Mbengue, who added little impetus or overlapping from right-back, and was accordingly replaced by Kelvin Abrefa in a late attacking change. On the flipside, he did create a few chances/half chances with dangerous long throws in the second half.
Tom Holmes: 6
Had a tough afternoon against Lukas Jutkiewicz and didn’t fully convince, but not too bad on the whole.
Naby Sarr: 6
First the bad: Sarr should have done better with the equaliser, when Jutkiewicz beat him easily to win the header. He’d have got a higher mark were it not for this slack bit of defending. Otherwise though, this was one of Sarr’s better games. He was strong and tenacious out of possession, and played the ball forwards really nicely on multiple occasions, demonstrating the accurate on-the-ground distribution we’ve not seen enough of this season.
Andy Yiadom: 6
I was worried about this bit of team selection going into the match - Yiadom retained his left-back spot from the second half at Ashton Gate, when to me he looked pretty shaky. He was actually pretty solid today though, covering well on one second-half chance to narrow the angle when Birmingham City got through one-on-one.
The first half was one of his better attacking performances of the season, getting up in support of Fornah well despite it not being his stronger flank. Faded after the break though. I’d have liked to see him get a chance as a right-back when Reading pushed for a goal at 1-1 in the second half, but Guinness-Walker being needed as a left-winger prevented that.
Yakou Meite: 5
He didn’t look fully fit - unsurprising considering he was noted as a doubt going into this match. Reading didn’t get him into the game enough in the first half, and when we did that better in the second half, he wasn’t quick and aggressive enough to get at the full back in the way we love seeing Meite do, although one low cross almost found Hendrick. Withdrawn for Guinness-Walker with eight minutes to go.
Jeff Hendrick: 5
Neat and tidy but little more, not really making much of an impact on the game (when have we heard that before?). That said, he had a couple of vague sights of goal in the second half, almost getting on the end of a Meite cross and also having the ball nicked away from him before he could finish at the near post. Got back well to cover at one point in the second half too when the visitors had gotten in behind too easily.
Cesare Casadei: 7
The much more impactful of Reading’s two central midfielders, Casadei looked positive in possession, doing his best to push the Royals forward. That included a nice range of passing, with Casadei spreading the play nicely at times, although he had some sloppier moments too. Fed the ball into Joao neatly for the opener - the kind of simple-looking but incisive pass Reading have lacked too often this season, and it paid dividends.
Tyrese Fornah: 5
Fair play to Fornah, he was shunted into an unfamiliar position (left-wing) and he gave it a good go, although he didn’t quite have the quality to make a success of it. Like left-flank partner Yiadom he looked brighter in the first half than in the second. You could tell he had the confidence to try to take a man on and get crosses in, but he lacked that bit of cutting edge. Some decent corners but not good enough to fashion anything clear-cut.
Lucas Joao: 6
It turns out that, if you play the ball into the feet of a good striker who’s good at playing with the ball at his feet, you get more attacking quality. That was most obviously true for the goal, when Joao deftly set up Carroll after receiving the ball from Casadei, but it was true throughout the game also.
Not enough quality in the final third in general though. He went close when getting on the end of a Carroll cross in the first half and was unable to poke the ball home, but that was pretty much it.
Andy Carroll: 6
Really good finish for 1-0, finding the far side after meeting Joao’s lay-off. Carroll had a few other sights of goal too, putting one shot wide of the far post in the second half - he should have done better with that opening. As for his all-round play, he seemed to generally win his headers but Reading couldn’t build on them.
Femi Azeez: 5
Didn’t add much on either the left flank or right flank in his 20-minute or so cameo, bar putting a volley wide late on.
Nesta Guinness-Walker: N/A
Got the final eight minutes of normal time in place of Meite and looked pretty bright as a left-winger but couldn’t create anything. Shame he didn’t get an opportunity as an attacking change at left-back.
Kelvin Abrefa: N/A
An even later sub, in this case for Mbengue, he wasn’t on the pitch for long. Given Abrefa’s pace and overlapping ability, I’d have made that change earlier in the game. It had been clear for a while before this substitution happened that Mbengue wasn’t giving enough support down the right wing.
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