Jonathan Bond - 6
An unfortunately memorable mix up with Paul McShane apart, Bond justified his recall at the expense of Ali Al-Habsi, plunging twice to deny Adam Reach from close range, looking secure under the high ball (a worry ever since that last minute ricket at Sheffield Wednesday) and coping comfortably with the long range efforts of Paul Gallagher and others. A festive run in the team is now in order even if the apparent determination of certain Radio Berkshire pundits to watch a different match from the rest of us is apparently still in evidence. Unlikely, however, that a new manager won't at least conduct an audit of the goalkeeping situation in January.
Chris Gunter - 5
On the day that his Wales side were drawn to meet England in Euro 2016, it was a frustrating afternoon for Gunter. Up against the lively Reach, he failed particularly to stop the Middlesbrough loanee when cutting inside and his reliance on his right foot continues to be a problem. In the modern game, full backs need to provide more attacking threat and Gunter failed to make any impression in this regard.
Andrew Taylor - 5
As remarked many times before, Taylor is generally a steady eddie in the Chris Armstrong mould but today, he was something less than that, offering zero attacking threat and failing to stop a late burst from Marnick Vermijl in particular. The idea of Taylor ever seriously threatening the final third in the way that Vermijl did is preposterous and once his latest injury setback is behind him, it should be time to put faith in the home grown permanent employee Jordan Obita once again.
Anton Ferdinand - 7
Quite possibly Reading's best player on the day and the opponent he most regularly came into contact with, Will Keane, was rendered anonymous. It was reassuring to see the calmness with which the former Sunderland and West Ham man mopped up danger - a far cry from the bambi on ice tendencies Michael Hector has displayed of late.
Paul McShane - 6
A possibly generous score for McShane who cost Reading the game when brushing against the calves of Joe Garner, an opponent who would always need no second invitation to go down. Add to that the aforementioned contretemps with Bond and you might think it was an inauspicious display from the Irishman. But, in general, he looked committed and capable against the Trevor Morley-style wiles of North End's scorer on the day. That both central defenders got through the ninety minutes was encouraging as they will need to be on top form at Hull.
Oliver Norwood - 6
Displayed a nice brand of curling crossfield passes as is his wont and at least maintained possession, but showed little penetration and was generally overshadowed by the impressive Daniel Johnson. Still, it has been a hugely encouraging season for the Northern Irishman after falling out of favour at times towards the back end of 2014-5. Nothing today will have seen him lose the right to a place in the starting line-up although Martin Kuhl might perhaps have considered a change of formation to three central midfielders in order to gain the upper hand.
Danny Williams - 5
An inability to keep possession and to get near to Johnson in the tackle made this one of Williams' off days even if fans won't be surprised to learn that his endeavour was never less than 100%. Again, and despite Alex Fernandez's late introduction, the manager might have seen a 4-3-3 as a way of combatting Preston's solid but stolid formation. Williams may then have been afforded more time to do what he does best.
Hal Robson-Kanu - 6
Withdrawn immediately after the goal early in the second period and likely not match fit, Robson-Kanu nevertheless displayed some neat reverse passes and clever through balls - it was he who provided much of the service for Matěj Vydra's runs. Operating on the left, he looked dangerous in possession without ever converting that into a serious threat. That he is back from the treatment table perhaps a tad earlier than expected is nevertheless encouraging.
Garath McCleary - 6
A performance typical of this season for the Oxford-born man. In a 4-4-2, he's perhaps asked to tuck in too much and to perform too many defensive duties and while he generally carried these out admirably, Preston looked to double up on him and sometimes even enlisted a third man to patrol his movements, Garner tracking back to some effect. McCleary was left with little change out of Greg Cunningham even if he worked hard.
Matěj Vydra - 6
Vydra stung the fingertips of Jordan Pickford with a late drive but generally showed the same failings he has displayed on a number of occasions this season even if his twinkle toes provide understandable reason to leave him on the field. Through in one-on-one situations with defenders, one suspects the Vydra of his Watford days might have been confident enough to beat his man. Now, with niggling injuries a possible issue, he is more inclined to halt and play the ball backwards.
Nick Blackman - 5
Lifted the ball agonisingly over the crossbar and the fast advancing Pickford after he appeared to do everything right via an astutely timed run, that was the key moment for Blackman and Reading on a day when congestion in the hole between Preston's midfield and defence was ever his undoing. Too early to pronounce his disappointing form as a reversion to type and we should remember that stunningly unlucky free kick against QPR but the best way to deploy him remains a conundrum.
Ola John - 6
The Dutch-Liberian winger perhaps did enough to warrant a starting place against Hull and looked lively, experiencing far more joy against Vermijl than Hal Robson-Kanu did in his 35 minutes on the pitch. Whether he is the same player when starting a game is a question but he did enough here justify a closer and more sustained look.
Alex Fernandez - N/A
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