News and Views

Reading 3-2 Brentford: Things We Learned

16 February 2017
By Alex Bower

Reading fought their way back to victory on Tuesday evening with the eventful fixture against Brentford ending 3-2. Despite going ahead through John Swift, the Royals let their lead slip in the second half. Goals from Jota and Lasse Vibe after the hour mark gave Brentford a 2-1 lead. Danny Williams led the Reading comeback with his goal before substitute Roy Beerens fired into an open net for what would be the winner. After an eventful game, here are some of the things we learned.

Passion And Belief Grows By The Game

While the game didn't exactly go to plan for Reading, it was a hard fought win for the home side. In previous seasons the squad would have collapsed when they went behind but this season it is clear their mental toughness is on a different level. Yes, some of the players had a few choice words to say to each other when Brentford took the lead, but it is obvious that this team believes they should be winning and will push themselves in order to do so.

All you need to do is have a look at the picture of Liam Moore that circulated on social media straight after the game to see what it meant to the squad. The defender wasn't alone, however, with the team urging the crowd to make some noise (including Garath McCleary who made the effort to appeal to those in attendance despite being run off his feet).

As a Reading fan it was at times a stressful one to watch but the atmosphere after the third goal and at full-time is why we keep coming back.

Defensive Frailties

It's something that is talked about a fair amount in recent games but against Brentford in particular it was a worry. As Reading fans will be all too aware, Captain Paul McShane, Joey van den Berg and Tiago Ilori are all currently missing through injury. Tyler Blackett has done a fairly good job at filling in at centre-back in the past but their absence is being felt.

The other concern will be for Reece Oxford. Apparently rather than play a natural centre-back in that position, Stam would rather play Chris Gunter there and drag Danny Williams back to right full-back. While it is impressive that Reading are still winning without their steadying influences at the back, the sooner they return the better.

More In Midfield

One of the main concerns during the game was the ease at which Reading gave the ball away in midfield. John Swift, in particular, has not been the same player he was prior to his injury but is still managing to pick up goals. On several occasions, however, it was his passes that failed to find their target.

In fact the final ball was a problem for the Royals for a large portion of the game with a lot of attacking plays collapsing due to a poorly placed pass. One player who has stood out to me in recent times is George Evans. His steady influence in front of the defence is much needed and he showed his class when brought on against Brentford.

Whether it was due to tiredness or just lack of concentration, there were far too many errors being made in midfield that will hopefully be ironed out before the next game.

Player Positioning

As has been mentioned, Stam has several injuries to contend with and that has been shown with his recent squad selections. Those teams would also suggest that the manager definitely has his favourite players in the squad who he wants to play regardless of position.

Take, for example, Garath McCleary. The winger has done an amazing job this season for the Royals and has subsequently been a vital player for the team. Against Brentford he lined up as a striker alongside Lewis Grabban. In the past he has also played as a winger and a full-back. Despite being a similar kind of player to Grabban, Stam opted to play the pair up front.

McCleary is most effective when he is running at defenses down the wing. At times it seems that Stam needs him in the team but plays him in different positions as to where he can fit him in that day. It's a similar scenario for players like Grabban who has already played as a central midfielder and striker, Williams as a central midfielder and full-back and a variety of left/right-backs filling in at centre-back. Oh and don't forget striker Yann Kermorgant the part-time defender.

At times it has worked, at times it hasn't. You can't help but think, however, that the straightforward option of playing squad members in their best positions would be the most effective plan.

A Win Is A Win

One thing that Reading fans are particularly good at (myself included) is analysing games in depth regardless of results. Each game there will be things teams do well and things that they don't do as well. At the end of the day, however, you just have to take every game as it comes and do what you can to win.

Reading took the lead, lost control of the game for a large spell and then lost the lead to boot. They didn't give up, however, and thanks to some great substitutions from Stam (which arguably could have been a little earlier) they managed to grab the win. There will be things for Stam and his squad to work on before the next game but the most important thing is that Reading have kept up with their promotion rivals ahead of some very tough games.

Share this article: