News and Views
Brighton Friendly - Match Report
08 August 2012
By Hob Nob Anyone?
Our inaugural visit to the Amex in April was an important landmark in the title winning tour de force of last spring. A deflected Harte freekick, an Adam Federici penalty save and the woodwork contrived to give us a 1-0 win from the Dick Turpin school of daylight robbery. Brighton are an effective, free-flowing up-and-coming side who made us really earn our 6 points against them last season and in many ways their passing game provided ideal opposition in this latest warm-up match as it seems likely that we will come up against similarly fluent Premier League outfits next season.
As they did back in April, Brighton pulled Reading around the park with their passing and moving in the first half of this testimonial fixture for the former Albion 'keeper Michel Kuipers. It was Kuipers though who made the first save of the game, plunging to block a Pogrebnyak stabbed effort from Le Fondre's knockdown following a left wing cross. Ominous signs for our Premier League opponents? Hardly. The Pog showed enough signs of promise on the night to excite the small gathering of Reading fans, but he looked rather rusty in actual fact and indeed he wasted Reading's clearest opening of the night in the second half - running through following a Brighton's defensive mistake he only had to square the ball to Le Fondre to roll into an empty net but his low cross was fished out gratefully by Kuszczak, the Brighton 'keeper who replaced the veteran Kuipers after his 15 minute outing at the start of the game.
By then Reading were deservedly trailing after a first 45 which lacked any urgency. The goal came from the penalty spot, Federici unable to match his heroics of April as Vicente rolled home following minimal contact from the always defensively uncertain Cummings on Ashley Barnes who produced a dive which would have made Tom Daley nervous. A Federici save onto the post denied the excellent Craig Noone from distance as Reading failed to contain the home side who themselves didn't really have the cutting edge to punish us. You wonder whether Premier League sides will be as profligate if we aren't on our A-game.
The second half was noticeably better as we began to see the Reading side which steamrollered the division in the second half of last season, with Guthrie busy at the heart of matter in the midfield winning the ball and playing the sensible pass. The usual 'percentage' game was back and although HRK was largely ineffective on the left hand side, the introduction of Garath McLeary on the right and his Bolt-esque pace gave us a genuine threat at last as we at last imposed ourselves on Brighton to such an extent that substitute 'keeper McCarthy - introduced on the hour - handled the ball fewer times than an Australian athlete holds a Gold Medal.
A good move involving McLeary gave Le Fondre a good opening which was deflected by an Albion boot over the bar, but you get the feeling though that for all his faults defensively, Ian Harte and our set-pieces in general will be key to our chances of success this coming season. Our best chances came from Harte's left foot; a first half freekick had the Albion 'keeper glancing in admiration as the ball drifted wide and his a number of corners in the second half could and should have been converted as HRK, Gorkss and Hunt all wasted presentable headed chances and Hunt again made a hash of another gorgeous Harte centre in added time. Ironically, the inevitable equaliser actually came from the right hand side as a splendid Cummings cross was met by HRK who strained his neck muscles like a sprinter in a photo finish to loop the ball over Kuszczak for a merited draw against a side who will be real contenders in the Championship this forthcoming season.
Reading now go into their final friendly against Palace hoping to show a little more sharpness over 90 minutes than they did at the Amex and a morale boosting win will stand us in good stead against a Stoke side who quite honestly are themselves probably the model for McDermott to follow given the style we have adopted successfully over the last year or two. The question mark really remains over whether the forward options we have at our disposal are going to be able to succeed at the top level in a side which likes to defend deeply and hit teams on the break with pace and directness. A more match-fit Pogrebnyak will be key.
Report by Neil Maskell
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