David Button: 6
Made a fantastic save from Trevitt’s curling effort just after the half-hour mark, diving with two strong hands to his left. Could do nothing about Exeter’s first goal though, moments after, with the ball bouncing into the side netting from a redirect.
Generally good with the ball at his feet but had a bit of a wobble in the second half at one stage, almost allowing an Exeter player to steal it off him. Nothing spectacular today but nothing completely egregious either.
Amadou Mbengue: 5
Got himself wound up late in the first half, earning himself a yellow card. Locked down his side better than Matty Carson on the other but wasn’t up to his usual standards in the first half. Gave away the ball a few times down the right side and generally struggled to make a similar impact to the one he did in his impressive performance last week.
Withdrawn at half time for Andy Yiadom.
Nelson Abbey: 6
Held firm and showed good positioning in his own box in the opening 10 minutes as Exeter were able to attack early on. Abbey twice cleaned up attacks from Exeter simply by being in the right place. Struggled to deal with Exeter’s relentless pressure in the first half but grew into the game well in the second and didn’t appear overwhelmed for any long periods of play.
Able to use his pace well to recover when in trouble, but not quite as good on the first challenge in the air. Unfortunately lost his man in the buildup to Exeter’s second goal, getting himself caught in two minds on how to defend it.
Harlee Dean: 5
Coming in for his debut, the experienced Dean immediately raised the average age of the back four by half a decade. Unfortunately struggled to help Reading lock down Exeter’s balls into the box, eventually leading to the Grecians’ first-half goal.
Found himself the target of a few corners and had to scamper back towards his own half a few times. It looks like he’ll replace Andy Carroll’s role from corners when he does play, often being asked to put the ball back across the box for a striker. Got bored once in the second half and took a rising shot that only missed by a yard or two.
Reasonable off the ball in his own box, but not the same player as Tyler Bindon with the ball at his feet and it showed, with his low pass accuracy (over 20% below Bindon’s last week) contributing to Reading having issues sustaining pressure.
Matty Carson: 6
Given a really tough job today in the first half, tasked with Exeter’s speedy right winger. Carson’s pace was able to stop some of the most worrying chances from coming in, but his ability to get up and make crosses was muted by the need to defend deep.
Made some interesting decisions that led to Exeter attacks, including an egregious one early in the second half when he let an Exeter player deep into his own box when he stopped the ball from going. As has become tradition, withdrawn for McIntyre on the hour mark.
Sam Hutchinson: 6
Struggled with the speed of Exeter’s midfield, leading to them being able to turn and face Reading’s goal between the lines. Grew into the game well though and helped his young teammates to ride out a few spells of pressure in front of an involved home crowd. Found himself the only midfielder able to put a stop to relentless Exeter pressure at times.
Charlie Savage: 5
Hustled around the park defensively in the first half as Exeter were able to sustain pressure. Imperfect in that role but helped keep Exeter’s shot attempt outside of the box.
Should have done better with Harvey Knibbs’ cutback in the first half. Found alone at the top of the box, Savage was only able to roll the ball tamely into the keeper’s arms.
Clearly on free kicks now after his goal against Millwall, Savage was able to get his effort around an encroaching Exeter wall in the first half but couldn’t get it down again.
Good on the ball today but totally sidestepped by Exeter when asked to defend, Savage failed to record a single successful tackle. Will have better days.
Femi Azeez: 6
Made some sharper passes than we’ve seen so far this season in the first half, and was an important part of what Reading were able to do offensively, but a little out of the game in the first half.
Muscled off the ball when he had a chance to break one-on-one with the keeper, with his poor touch letting him down shortly after the 40-minute mark.
Shortly after though, he did well to reach Vickers’ looped pass down the wing and cross it back into the box for Knibbs to put away.
Had chances to score today, including twice in quick succession in the second half - first when Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan but the ball on his foot in front of the net (but in traffic), and then when Ben Elliot put him through, Azeez went agonisingly close with his low shot.
Harvey Knibbs: 7
Won the ball back well a few times early on and provided a great cutback for Savage in the first half that deserved a goal. Faded a little as the first half went on as Exeter kept the ball away from the parts of the pitch in which Knibbs excels. Asked to do a lot defensively which he did with middling success.
Incredibly composed and calm in the box when his chance finally did come in first half injury time. He sat his defender down before dispatching the ball into the right side of the net.
Looked better in the second half when McIntyre came on, perhaps encouraged to get forward by his more experienced defensive partner. Withdrawn for Paul Mukairu in the 76th minute.
Caylan Vickers: 6
Such an exciting player to watch. His highlight in the first 15 minutes was salvaging an overhit ball down the wing and still managing to get his cross in by putting his defender into the spin cycle. Right after the quarter-hour mark his agility helped Reading to clear their lines from a dangerous counter attack.
Played an excellent ball down to Azeez on the right side that led to Knibbs’ goal at the end of the first half. Perhaps unlucky to be withdrawn at half time, but Reading needed to change their shape.
Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan: 8
I spoke about Kelvin on the podcast as being a player with a high floor, and I really believe that. Kelvin gives you exactly what you need from your more physically imposing striker, throwing his body around, helping the team to hold the ball up and - most importantly - providing a dangerous target on the last defender’s shoulder.
Had a header on target from Dean’s second ball shortly after the restart but perhaps could have done better if he’d taken it down. Did incredibly well on the hour mark to shrug two players off the ball and put a cutback right in front of the net for Azeez.
Pulled up on the 75-minute mark with something hopefully no more than cramp but it’s worth noting he did receive treatment earlier in the game. The speed with which he can shift the ball from one foot to the other allows Reading to progress up the field no matter where Kelvin appears. Another encouraging performance.
Ben Elliot: 6
Helped Reading change the momentum of the game after he came on, sitting deeper in the field than Vickers had been. Stepped away from his marker excellently before putting Azeez through with a perfect pass just after the hour mark. He has a nice turn and pass in him and is very comfortable on the ball.
Elliott will be part of an excellent technical midfield at Reading some day and should be able to dislodge Sam Hutchinson in this side if his decision-making can improve.
Andy Yiadom: 6
Came on at half time for Mbengue and contributed to Reading’s good period just before the hour mark, getting forward better than Mbengue did. Cleared a dangerous ball into the box out from Exeter late in the game as the Grecians finished the second half strong.
Produced a lot of running down Reading’s right side late in the game that led to a few crosses into the box but nothing ultimately that could find a striker.
Tom McIntyre: 6
Got forward shortly after he was introduced and almost picked out Knibbs in the box. Generally locked down his opposite number a little better than Carson was able to and the left side calmed down after his introduction.
Paul Mukairu: 5
Came on. Lost the ball twice down the left flank. Picked up a knock and got substituted. Amazing speed of appearance: blink and you’ll miss him.
Basil Tuma: N/A
Brought on in the 85th minute for the ailing Mukairu. Worked hard on the press when the ball came into his area but didn’t find himself called into action too much.
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