Despite the excellent result at Wolves last week it seems many fans took the decision to stay at home rather than watch what was to be a another frustrating Royals performance. Although frustrating, the result doesn't tell the full story. This was a much improved performance by Reading - mainly thanks to the involvement of James Lambert. We should have wrapped the game up several times after taking the lead, but our lack of striking power cost us two points.
The starting line up had a couple of changes to last week mainly due to injuries. Bernal and Wdowczyk both were forced to sit it out with Hopkins and Booty making a return to the team. In midfield Caskey also made a return with Williams absent. It was pleasing to see both Lambert and Gilkes in the line-up and both proved themselves as key players (despite Gilkes lack of shooting ability).
As soon as the game was underway the lack of atmosphere was obvious. This of course wasn't helped by the lack of away support. You just have to respect those 4 Grimsby supporters for making the journey.
Reading started brightly and James Lambert quickly showed signs of the things to come. Within a couple of minutes Lambert could have been responsible for putting the Royals two goals up. Firstly he legged it down the left wing and put over a great low cross. Gilkes over on the right just failed to connect. Seconds later Lambert hit a powerful shot that was heading into the back of the net. The Grimsby keeper pulled off a good save to push the ball to the right of the post.
Reading continued to enforce their superiority over Grimsby. Grimsby seemed completely out of the game and Reading started not only to pass calmly but create a few more chances than we've seen in the past few games. We'd created more chances in the first couple of minutes than in the entire of the Wolves game. I get the feeling we'd have put a few away with a proper forward line. Brilliant to see Lambert and Gilkes linking up well and pacing past the Grimsby defence but there was no-one to put them in. Morley was holding the ball up well, and playing his part, but not as a killer instinct striker. Gilkes almost scored what would have been a unique headed goal from him as once again he was left as the hit-man in the middle. Bodin played the ball from the left and Gilkes headed wide.
While Lambert continued to cruise down the left Gilkes went down the right, then into the middle, and was bought down every time. The Grimsby number 5 must have chopped Gilkes 20 times but somehow didn't get a card. We wasted a couple of free kicks. Very strange seeing Gilksey play right wing (and centre forward) as well.
Then Gooding didn't want to miss out on all the fun and went on a little run even Gilksey would have been proud of. He tapped the ball over one players head, turned another and stormed through the middle showing no suprise of his success. It didn't come to anything though. Gooding once again was right in the middle of the action when Reading really should have taken the lead. His shot resulted in the keeper going down, fumbling the ball, and then the entire Grimsby defence and about 6 Reading players bundling and kicking shit into the keeper. Most ammusing. But the ball didn't end up in the net.
About three minutes before half time Wright, still on-loan from Forest, was forced to make his first save. A wriggley little run through the Reading defence on the Grimsby left saw Wright get down really well to a close range shot. Then another chance saw the flag stay mysteriously down and the Grimsby forward hesitate in suprise, attempt a lob, only to see Wright leap and pluck the ball out of the air. Right on half time Lambert again almost scored with a run and then a shot aiming for the bottom right which the keepers legs kept out. 0-0 at half time but the game going Reading's way.
It took about 10 minutes of the second half before Reading took the lead. A long ball was played over the top (Branfoot style) which saw Morley on-side ahead of his markers. He took it forward well, actually outpacing the Grimsby defenders, played the ball to the left of the keeper, and was pulled down by the keeper as he went through. Penalty! The keeper somehow escaped with a yellow before Morley stepped up and put the ball to the keeper's right as he went the wrong way, and firmly into the back of the net. YES! 1-0 to the R's!
They'd let it slip a bit at the start of the half but after taking the lead we started to actually play well and we really should have sealed the win. Reading actually looked confident and full of ability for the first time in ages. And we started making a hatful of chances. But we just couldn't put them in. Morley swivelled and hit the ball into orbit. Lambert kept storming down the left, outplaying and outpacing the full back crossing the ball so well. Gilkes and Morley in the middle both were superbly positioned storming in but could do nothing with it. Frustrating was an understatement. An excellent ball from Lambert saw Gilkes turn well and hit a great shot just wide of the right post. Again, another ball from Lambert saw Morley in the middle with a brilliant chance, he hit it at the keeper when he should have put the game beyond doubt.
It was all Reading. But we were wasting chance after chance. This was a game we should have won by several goals. Grimsby realised Reading just couldn't score and suddenly realized they had a chance of pulling the game around. Bodin made a vital last gap tackle to keep Reading ahead. Then on 82 minutes it was 1-1. Against the run of play and all that but almost not a suprise. The forward inside the area just left of middle fired in right into the bottom left of the goal.
Reading responded. An excellent ball from Gooding to Gilkes on the right wing saw Gilkes take it well, but again do nothing with it with his final touch. Then it was all over. We'd wasted a wonderful chance to win a game with ease. Unless we discover how to score we're going to be in trouble. Drawing at home against teams like Grimsby isn't the kind of result thats going to pull us up the table. Gilkes had a good game - but not in a striking role that he kept finding himself in. He's not a scorer. Lambert was blinding. The defence wasn't too bad. Bodin had a much improved game. Wright had another great game. Morley unfortunately lacked that killer touch. Disapointing result and a really frustrating performance. BUT at least we should have won it and played far better than I'm used to this season.
Hob Nob Anyone? Man of the Match: Lambert