Reading Football Club News: October 2016

Reading 2 Nottingham Forest 0: Review

31 October 2016
By Alex Bower

Reading returned to winning ways at the Madejski with a 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest. Goals came from Garath McCleary and Chris Gunter, who both happened to be playing against their former club. Here are some of the things to come out of the game.

Reading Up To Fifth

Back at the start of this season, I don't think that anyone will have expected to be up near the top of the table. After the league positioning of recent years and with both a new manager and squad, fans will have been somewhat optimistic but also realistic about what to expect this year.

While people may be frustrated at times by how the side is set up to play these days, there can be no complaint about where the Royals find themselves currently in the table. Of course it is still early in the season and you only need to take a look at last season to see how things can fall apart as time goes on. Reading have, however, started this season well and can hopefully maintain their position until the end of the year.

Al-Habsi At It Again

Much has been said about Ali Al-Habsi's heroics in recent games, but the Reading goalkeeper was at it again on Saturday. At a time when the Royals were only one goal up, Al-Habsi made a number of crucial saves in spectacular fashion.

It is a seemingly recurring point that Al-Habsi is making great saves at the moment and keeping Reading in games as a result. While it is great to see him performing so well, the next step will hopefully be to see the defence stepping up to prevent such chances reaching him in the first place.

Gunter Goal Silences Criticism

One player who seems to have been on the receiving end of a fair amount of stick is Chris Gunter. The Wales international seems to frustrate many fans with his ability to largely pass the ball backwards and not block crosses when defending.

Potentially my favourite moment of the game was during the second half. Gunter was getting his usual criticism from the fans sitting around me as normal. Shortly after, he was in the box and had scored. Everyone stood up, applauded and was stunned to silence. People may still be critical of his play, but for that moment it was amusing to see them silenced (or at least muttering under their breath) by what was a great and rare goal for the defender.

Has Anyone Seen Beerens?

Prior to this season, Roy Beerens was one of the new players that I felt would really make an impact this season. The Dutchman has skills, pace and good technical ability - At least on paper.

The midfielder's performances have been somewhat frustrating. While he has the ability, he has seemingly struggled to make an impact on games and is becoming an absent figure for large periods while on the pitch.

The problem has also been Jaap Stam's stubbornness when it comes to substitutions. Against Forest, however, Stam did finally substitute Beerens when he was under-performing. The midfielder has a habit of disappearing during games and subsequently still has much to improve on.

Matt Mills - Forever The Pantomime Villain

After missing out on the last game through suspension, Matt Mills was surely happy to be returning to face his ex-club. When Forest come to town there is always one thing you can rely on and that is the consistent chanting directed at the ex-Reading defender.

Despite having pretty much every obscenity thrown at him and being booed every time he touched the ball, Mills even made sure to wave at the East stand after the final whistle. Credit to Mills it was handled well by him and provided much amusement to a large section of the home crowd.

Reading Up To Fifth With Win

29 October 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

As so often happens in football, two former Forest players produced the goals which extended their recent poor run of results. Reading will be delighted with a win and a clean sheet which has lifted them in to fifth spot although Jaap Stam was quick to put the situation into perspective with his post-match analysis. In a fine example of hitting the nail on the head he reflected "... We also gave away possession far too easily, our first touch was not good enough and our passing was not accurate enough..." Quite clearly Stam does not want to raise expectations too high too soon in spite of a second successive victory. Although the Royals won comfortably in the end, it was a far from convincing performance and only achieved courtesy of some excellent goalkeeping from Al Habsi and some inept finishing from the visitors.

Royals Face Forest - Match Preview

29 October 2016
By Alex Bower

"The league is our main priority and we're really focussed on it. We're going to go into the game with confidence, I've been enjoying the style of play and the passing football, not many players these days want to play the ball long, it's about possession football and trying to be patient with the ball."
- Reading FC Defender Jordan Obita

"The Villa result at home was really disappointing we wanted to keep the home run going. You can't take it away from us the run we had at the beginning of the season. We want to look to start that again now, starting on Saturday and if we can get a win then that's really going to help us in the table."
- Reading FC Defender Liam Moore

"We're going to Reading with the aim of getting three points and improving our league position, which isn't good enough right now."
- Nottingham Forest Head Coach Philippe Montanier

Attention returns to the Championship on Saturday after Reading's 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in the EFL Cup earlier this week. The Royals will be looking to carry on their winning streak in the league as they take on Nottingham Forest at the Madejski Stadium.

A narrow 1-0 win against Rotherham United last time out saw Reading move as high as eighth in the Championship. With Garath McCleary missing a penalty, it looked like the Royals would be taking a point back to Berkshire. A late goal from captain Paul McShane, however, secured a narrow win against the bottom placed side.

Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, will be looking to improve after their 2-1 defeat to Cardiff City. Cardiff were 2-0 ahead by half-time courtesy of goals from Aron Gunnarsson and Joe Ralls. Despite a red card for Thomas Lam in the second, Forest were able to pull a goal back with a late Henri Lansbury penalty. The 2-1 result was subsequently the Reds' second defeat in a row.

After making a number of changes for the Arsenal game, Jaap Stam will be expected to largely revert to his usual Championship starting eleven. Players such as Dominic Samuel, Liam Kelly and Tennai Watson will be hoping, however, to retain their places in the squad. The Reds' have far fewer options to choose from at the weekend as they have nine absent players either through suspension or injury. One player returning from suspension is the ever-popular Matt Mills.

Reading do not have the best record against Forest, having lost on more occasions than they have won over the years. Of the last four games, the Royals have lost three. The equivalent game last season, however, ended in a 2-1 win for Reading. Despite going 1-0 down to a Ben Osborn goal, second-half goals from Matej Vydra and Oliver Norwood secured the win.

After their defeat to Aston Villa, Reading will be looking to get their home form back on track. The interesting statistic to take note of is that Forest are the only Championship side not to keep a clean sheet so far this season. That, combined with a concerning disciplinary record, does not bode well for the side. If there was any time for Reading to start scoring more, it is now.

Match Preview: Arsenal FC v Reading FC

25 October 2016
By Alex Bower

"We're going to look at the games they have played and how they play. They have a lot of movement and a lot of quality in the team and we need to find an answer for that. They need to think about us as well because it is dangerous to underestimate certain teams."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"We can play good stuff as we've seen this season - so let's go and test ourselves against the best. Arsenal are a very good side, obviously... they had won seven on the bounce before the weekend! But it will be a good test for everyone. The shackles are off - we'll go and enjoy the game, and everything is possible."
- Reading FC Captain Paul McShane

"As we all know, Arsenal keep the ball and have lots of possession. They are a big team from the Premier League so it is a really good test for us playing against a team that has a similar style of play, who are better at it than we are - and how we try to cope with them."
- Reading FC Forward Yann Kermorgant

"The FA Cup game was quite an occasion and we were really unlucky not to at least take it to penalties. We played really well and we were so unlucky not to get the result. Hopefully we can get the win on Tuesday!"
- Reading FC Midfielder Garath McCleary

"It's always tense against them and always passionate and you would expect that again on Tuesday, but I am confident that we will want to respond after our 0-0 on Saturday."
- Arsenal FC Manager Arsene Wenger

Reading's EFL Cup journey continues on Tuesday evening as they take on Premier League outfit Arsenal. The tie is bound to bring back raw memories of the 2015 FA Cup Semi-Final which was dramatically won in extra-time by the Gunners, courtesy of an Alexis Sanchez goal.

The record of previous games between the two sides does not bode well for Reading fans. Thirteen times the teams have played against each other and thirteen times Arsenal have won. The last four games will have been particularly memorable, however, especially the 7-5 result in the 2012 League Cup. While it is highly unlikely that the fans will see twelve goals on Tuesday, there is always the potential for drama when these two sides meet.

Reading's journey to this stage of the competition has already been full of drama. A relatively easy 2-0 win against Plymouth Argyle was then followed up with penalties against MK Dons and a 2-1 away win against Brighton despite only having ten men. Arsenal, meanwhile, have soared through thus far with a 4-0 away win against Nottingham Forest in the third round.

While Reading fans will be optimistic following Arsenal's 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough at the weekend, Arsene Wenger is expected to name a changed squad to take on the Royals. The Arsenal manager has said that it will be a similar squad to the one that took on Nottingham Forest with David Ospina, Gabriel, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Carl Jenkinson, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Alex Iwobi, Lucas Perez, Chuba Akpom, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs all set to play a part. Olivier Giroud will also make a return to the side after seemingly falling down the pecking order.

The Royals have no new injury concerns but Chris Gunter will be missing the game through suspension. Paul McShane's return against Rotherham will have handed them a boost, however, going into the game. Yakou Meite and Jake Cooper may also play some part in the game as they made their return on Sunday in Reading's Under-23 draw against Sunderland. Against Premier League opposition, Jaap Stam will be expected to play his strongest starting eleven and subsequently the lineup will undoubtedly be similar to what we have seen in recent weeks.

Away from home and against Premier League opposition it will undoubtedly be a tough game for the Royals. Even with their second team on the pitch, the Gunners have a high quality squad and one that should be capable of winning this tie with ease. That being said it is the cup and in these competitions anything can happen. With Arsenal charging only £10 a ticket and Reading subsequently selling out their allocation, it will surely be an exciting away day either way.

Rotherham 0-1 Reading FC: Things We Learned

24 October 2016
By Alex Bower

Reading bounced back following their home defeat to Aston Villa with an away win against the struggling Rotherham United. The Royals left it late to snatch the win as Captain Paul McShane marked his appearance off the bench with a goal from close range. Here are some of the things that came out of the game.

Stam Willing To Give Youth A Chance - Sort Of

Much has been said in recent times about Jaap Stam's stubbornness when it comes to his team selections and substitutions. Against Villa, when many fans would have liked to see him make use of his bench, Stam felt his starting eleven could see the game out. Reading went on to lose the game. Against bottom placed Rotherham, however, Stam chose to shake things up a bit. The surprise addition to the starting eleven was academy product Liam Kelly, who was making his first league start for the club. The reaction online was positive, with the fan base seemingly happy to see him being given a chance. Unfortunately for Kelly, there is no such thing as an easy game in the Championship and he was pulled off before the half-hour mark. While it was not ideal for the youngster, it was the correct decision based on the direct style of football that Rotherham were playing. It is clear that Kelly in particular is highly thought of by the coaching team and his albeit brief appearance shows that they are willing to give the academy players a chance.

Time To Switch Positions?

Now initially I tweeted the suggestion that a couple of players rotated position in jest, but who knows it may actually work. Much has been said about Yann Kermorgant's goal scoring record and there have been several reasons given as to why it has been poor. The quality of delivery from the wide men has been a major problem, as has the fact that he is often isolated up top. The striker has, however, received many compliments for his work rate and defensive play so far this season. Paul McShane, meanwhile, made his return to the squad as a substitute against Rotherham and popped up with the winner. Kermorgant is seemingly able to win every defensive header, but as soon as it is down the other end he seems to struggle. The striker has also scored three goals so far this season- only one more than McShane. If the league table is anything to go by, Reading need to start scoring more goals in order to improve their goal difference. Perhaps moving Kermorgant into defence and playing someone else up front for a bit would be beneficial. Can't hurt right?

Al-Habsi The Saviour Once Again

While scoring goals is not Reading's strong point, Ali Al-Habsi's forte seems to be saving them down the other end. Far too often the difference between a win, draw and loss has been the Reading goalkeeper. Once again against Rotherham he was as much to thank for Reading's win as McShane. It has to be said though he is still not perfect. On several occasions we have seen him pass the ball to the opposition in front of Reading's goal and his last-minute turns to trick opponents are enough to instill fear into anyone. So far, however, he largely continues to impress.

Need For Nominated Penalty Taker Apparent

Earlier in the season Reading seemed somewhat capable of converting penalties. They have had two in the last two games, however, that have been missed. The first taken by Danny Williams went unpunished as Kermorgant followed up with a headed rebound goal. Against Rotherham, however, Garath McCleary missed his and the Royals very nearly missed out on a win because of it. After Williams' penalty miss, it came to the public's attention that there is not a set penalty taker at the club and whoever feels confident enough to take it gets a go. If the last two attempts are anything to go by, perhaps it is time to commit to a specific penalty taker.

Match Preview: Rotherham United v Reading

21 October 2016
By Alex Bower

"We are not used to the feeling of losing and the players don't like that feeling. The players are determined to go out and do better on Saturday, I don't think they played badly on Tuesday because they worked very hard, but they will be doing that again to try and get a win in Rotherham."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"It's an important game for us now to bounce back from a last-minute goal, and we can show our character and resilience to come back from a disappointing evening. That last minute defeat will seem a long way away, and we'll be looking forward again."
- Reading FC Defender Chris Gunter

Reading will be hoping to follow-up Tuesday's late defeat to Aston Villa at the Madejski Stadium with a win away to Rotherham United. The Royals were level with the Villans as the game approached the final whistle with goals coming from Jonathan Kodjia and Yann Kermorgant. It was a last-minute penalty that would hand Villa the win, with Jordan Ayew converting with ease.

Bottom placed Rotherham will also have a point to prove, having just appointed Kenny Jackett as their new manager. The Millers have lost nine games so far this season and have won only once, at home against Brentford. As Tuesday's fixture demonstrated, however, if you are a new manager looking to improve a spell of poor form, then Reading are the team to play.

Previous games between the two teams are not a massive indicator as to how Saturday's game will go. Reading have won the most games with nineteen victories. Fourteen times the game has ended in a draw and Rotherham have won on ten occasions. Reading earned points from both fixtures last season, with a 1-1 draw away from home and a 1-0 win at the Madejski.

This season, Rotherham have lost their last six matches. They have not lost seven league games in a row since April 1962. The Millers have also not lost against Reading in five home league games. While the team are currently bottom and performing below par, everyone knows that it can all change at the drop of a hat in the Championship.

In terms of absences, Paul McShane remains a doubt for Reading with a hamstring injury that has seen him miss the last two games. Joseph Mendes, Jake Cooper and Yakou Meite are all also out for the Royals as they recover from their injuries. Rotherham, meanwhile, could be without Dael Fry, Kelvin Wilson and Tom Adeyemi.

Going into the game as favourites, Reading will be keen to win on Saturday following their late defeat to Villa. There is no such thing as an easy game in the Championship, however, and the Rotherham squad will be keen on impressing their new manager.

Recent Meetings With ROTHERHAM

23 February 2016 Championship Rotherham (HOME) W: 1-0 Read report...
20 October 2015 Championship Rotherham (Away) D: 1-1 Read report...
28 April 2015 Championship Rotherham (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
04 November 2014 Championship Rotherham (HOME) W: 3-0 Read report...
15 March 2005 Championship Rotherham (Away) L: 0-1 Read report...
21 August 2004 Championship Rotherham (HOME) W: 1-0 Read report...
07 February 2004 Division 1 Rotherham (Away) L: 1-5 Read report...
25 August 2003 Division 1 Rotherham (HOME) D: 0-0 Read report...
22 February 2003 Division 1 Rotherham (HOME) W: 3-0 Read report...
07 September 2002 Division 1 Rotherham (Away) D: 0-0 Read report...
03 March 2001 Division Two Rotherham (HOME) W: 2-0 Read report...
30 September 2000 Division Two Rotherham (Away) W: 3-1 Read report...
Reading and Rotherham - Head to head record (since August 1994)
Games Between Reading and Rotherham 12
Reading Wins 6
Rotherham Wins 3
Draws 3
Reading Goals 16
Rotherham Goals 10
Average Goals Per Game 2.17

Reading 1-2 Aston Villa: Talking Points

19 October 2016
By Alex Bower

Reading's unbeaten run at home this season came to an end as they were beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa. The result also meant that Villa fans did not have to wait any longer for an away win.

Here are some of the things that came out of Tuesday's game.

Lack Of Substitutions

The major talking point from this game was the lack of substitutes introduced by Jaap Stam. Much was said about the strength of Villa's squad and the options that were available to Steve Bruce before the game and that was shown by the substitutes he brought on. Bruce started the game with the likes of Jonathan Kodjia, Rudy Gestede, Leandro Bacuna and Albert Adomah. The manager then had Ross McCormack and Jordan Ayew available to him from the bench. These substitutes were made with less than fifteen minutes of the game to go, when the scores were level and with Villa increasingly pressing higher up the pitch.

It was obvious that Villa were looking to grab a winner and while Reading looked like they were struggling as the game came to a close, Stam made no changes. In the post-game interviews the manager has said that he did not feel that his side looked tired- A statement that many fans would disagree with. Even if they were not tired, the team on the pitch did not look like they were able to create sufficient chances to win the game. As a result, it would seem that despite all Stam says about looking to win games he was happy to draw this one.

The worst part of the whole situation was when Reading went behind. With only a couple of minutes of the game remaining he thought that their best chance of grabbing a goal was by bringing on the defensive Danzell Gravenberch and throwing him on up front. It was a pointless substitution and one that came far too late. It is a concerning situation for the likes of Dominic Samuel who is clearly missing something in the manager's eyes.

Opponents Have Cottoned On

Pretty much every football fan will now know about the appointment of Jaap Stam and the introduction of Dutch style football at Reading. The Royals play a specific way every game and in the early stages of the season it seems to have worked.

The issue is that the managers and coaching staff of opposition clubs have cottoned on and are playing the same way when they come to the Madejski. The Reading plan is to pass the ball around the back in order to coax the opposition out of their own half and create some space. As Villa showed, however, they are happy to sit back and defend deep until they are able to counter.

Even when Reading concede, the plan never really changes and as a result they are becoming somewhat predictable. The Royals are not helped by the lack of quality when it comes to deliveries into the box and the generally slow tempo of their buildup play.

While it is frustrating to watch oppositions sit back for large spells of the game, it is effective and Reading need to work out a way to break them down.

The Stress Of Passing Around The Back

One major part of the current Reading tactic is passing the ball back and forth around the back five. You know it is going to happen countless numbers of times throughout the game and it is not the most entertaining thing to watch.

Now, during the first half it was somewhat bearable when Villa were not overly keen on pushing up anywhere near the Reading defence. The second half, however, was when it got stressful. Early in the half Ali Al-Habsi almost handed Leandro Bacuna a golden opportunity to score when his short pass to George Evans very nearly did not make it. Watching Villa players chasing down the ball as it was played amongst the Reading defence with the fear that Al-Habsi would try another of his Cruyff turns and mess it up was not an enjoyable experience.

The concerning thing about the whole concept of passing around the back is that the Reading defence did not seem to be overly comfortable doing it either. When the pressure on them was increasing in the second half, players such as Al-Habsi and Liam Moore were shouting at each other when it went wrong. It is not an exciting tactic to watch on a good day but it is downright stressful on a bad one.

Competition At Full-Back

When you have options in a squad for a single position there is always going to be discussion amongst fans as to who they feel the best person to play there is. The best examples of this in the Reading squad at the moment just happen to be in both full-back positions.

Tyler Blackett and Chris Gunter were favoured at left-back and right-back against Villa and one glance at Twitter would suggest that fans were not happy about it. Gunter in particular came in for plenty of stick due to poor quality crossing, defensive positioning and his inability to block crosses.

Personally I feel that while Blackett did show signs of improvement in the second half, Jordan Obita is by far the better option at left-back. As for Gunter, while he is the scapegoat for what was largely a disappointing performance by the team, I would also like to see Tennai Watson play more often. Gunter has the experience, but Watson already looks like he can handle life in the Championship from what we have seen during his brief appearances in the first team.

Classy Memorial For Jamie Golding

While the result was not one to remember for the home fans, the touching round of applause for Jamie Golding during the game was a highlight. The Reading season ticket holder passed away earlier this month from bowel cancer at just 28 and fans wanted to commemorate him at the game. As a result, in the 28th minute of the game fans from all sides of the ground stood to applaud him as his picture came up on the big screen.

It was a classy moment, particularly from the Villa fans, and a reminder of how football can bring people together.

Late Penalty Hands Villa Rare Away Win

19 October 2016
By Alex Bower

After waiting 437 days, Aston Villa finally secured an away win on Tuesday evening as they beat Reading FC 2-1 at the Madejski Stadium. The Villans took the lead in the first half when a Jonathan Kodjia shot deflected past Ali Al-Habsi in the Reading goal. The Royals found an equaliser in the second half with a bullet header from Yann Kermorgant after Danny Williams' penalty was saved by Pierluigi Gollini. A last minute penalty for Villa was the final turning point of the game, which Jordan Ayew calmly dispatched to secure the win.

Jaap Stam named an unchanged side for the game following their 1-1 away draw against QPR. Steve Bruce, meanwhile, made five changes after his first game in charge against Wolves. Alan Hutton, Nathan Baker, Gary Gardner, Leandro Bacuna and Rudy Gestede all came into the starting eleven in place of Micah Richards, Tommy Elphick, Aaron Tshibola, Jack Grealish and Ross McCormack.

From the off it was clear that Bruce came to the Madejski with a game plan. With Reading now known for their Dutch style possession football, Villa sat deep with numbers and looked to counter. While Reading were maintaining a possession percentage of around 60-70%, the home side were struggling to create any real chances in front of goal for the majority of the game.

The first opportunity to break Villa down came after only a matter of minutes when Garath McCleary was picked out down the right. His low ball into the box was hacked clear from danger by the Villa defence. The story of the game, however, was the lack of quality when it came to crossing in the final third. Whether it was from open play or from corners, Reading were often incapable of clearing the first man. Yann Kermorgant often gets criticism for his goalscoring record, but it is difficult to convert crosses that do not reach you.

Despite the home side dominating possession, Villa were the team that took the lead. With players like Bacuna, Adomah and Kodjia in the team, it was clear that the away side would be dangerous if allowed to counter. Adomah broke down the left before playing a low ball across to Kodjia in the box. His shot cannoned off Tyler Blackett in the box and deflected past Al-Habsi into the bottom right corner.

The Royals had one final opportunity to level the score before half time but Gollini in the Villa goal met a rebound before John Swift could latch onto it. At half-time it was clear that possession was not the statistic that mattered and Reading went in 1-0 behind.

With the second half underway it looked like it would be more of the same. As time went on, however, Villa began to open up and push up the pitch more than in the first half. The away side were nearly gifted a second when Al-Habsi's pass to George Evans was short but it had just enough on it to keep out of Bacuna's reach.

After just eight minutes, the Royals grabbed the equaliser. McCleary raced onto a ball over the top of the Villa defence but was tripped by Aly Cissokho in the box. The referee awarded a penalty which Williams stepped up to take. The American international's effort was stopped by Gollini but he could only push it towards Kermorgant. The striker directed a bullet header into the top right corner of the goal to level the score.

The game was relatively even as the second half went on, with both sides trying to get a second. A McCleary strike from the edge of the box and an Evans header were both stopped by Gollini while Bacuna and Kodjia both fired wide of the Reading goal.

It was the Villa substitutes who would ultimately change the game, with Bruce bringing on Jordan Amavi, Jordan Ayew and Ross McCormack. Allowed far too much time on the ball, Ayew dribbled his way into the Reading box and was tripped by an outstretched Liam Moore. The referee once again pointed to the spot and Ayew calmly placed it into the bottom right corner.

Reading had only a matter of minutes to try and find the equaliser once more and Stam opted to bring on Danzell Gravenberch in place of Evans to try and do so. It was McCleary that came closest, however, as his optimistic shot from right of the box narrowly went wide as he fired across goal. The final whistle blew and Villa secured an away win to end both their poor away run and Reading's unbeaten run at home this season.

The appointment of Steve Bruce is a massive coup for Villa and the boost of his arrival is already showing. Tactically he got it spot on and his substitutes showed that they wanted to win the game more than Reading. A draw would have probably been a fair result but Reading just seemed to run out of steam as the game drew to a close.

"We posed a threat throughout, but you need to take into consideration that you're playing against a good side- and you can't afford to give a team like Villa any space with the quality and pace they have."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"I have to pay special mention to the supporters in the last 10 minutes. They breathed life into the lads. For a club that's been in trouble, over the past couple of years in particular, to have 5000 fans at Reading on a Tuesday night is remarkable."
- Aston Villa Manager Steve Bruce

Match Preview: Reading FC v Aston Villa

18 October 2016
By Alex Bower

"Every game that we play we try to win, if we play a side like Villa on the Tuesday it's not going to be easy. They've spent a lot of money and invested a lot of money in players and trying to build a team that has a chance of promotion to the Premier League. It won't be easy for them either. They've got a new manager and they'll want a result. They want to make it difficult for us, but we want to win our home games and play our style of football even against a good team like Villa."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"We have to be confident in what we do and keep going to make sure we are successful in games. When we play well we have to make sure we reward ourselves with three points. We want to keep going and we're ready for it."
- Reading Player Joey van den Berg

Reading will be looking to extend their unbeaten run at the Madejski Stadium to nine games in all competitions when they take on Aston Villa on Tuesday evening.

The Royals returned from the international break with a 1-1 draw against QPR at the weekend, securing eighth place in the Championship table in the process. Pawel Wszolek gave the Hoops the lead early in the first half but Danny Williams was on hand to level the score only a few minutes later.

Despite being relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season, Aston Villa have had a poor start to life in the Championship. One manager down and currently sitting twentieth in the table, things are not looking good. A positive for new manager Steve Bruce is that he managed to pick up a point in his first game against Wolves. Jonathan Kodjia gave them the lead after a quarter of an hour from the penalty spot. The equaliser also came as a result of a penalty, however, with Helder Costa converting.

If it was not bad enough for Villa already this season, they will also be without two important players in their defence. Captain Tommy Elphick and Micah Richards both picked up calf injuries against Wolves and subsequently they have no chance of featuring on Tuesday evening according to Bruce. Jack Grealish may also be absent from the game if the FA hand him a three game suspension for a stamp on a Wolves player. With results not going their way and confidence low, injuries and potential suspensions were the last thing they needed.

Reading, meanwhile, will be on a real high following their recent run in the Championship. The team is beginning to show a mental strength that has been absent in recent years and have an identity and style that many have picked up on in the media. They will, however, be without captain Paul McShane once more as he remains out with a hamstring injury. He is joined on the sidelines by Jake Cooper and Yakou Meite.

Villa have not won away from home for over a year but it is bound to happen sooner or later. The past fixtures between the teams suggest that perhaps it could be against Reading. Nineteen games have been played between Reading and Villa, with the Royals winning only two, drawing two and Villa winning the other fifteen. The last time the two sides met was in the 2012/13 season in the Premier League with Villa winning 1-0 at home and 2-1 away.

Even when bearing that in mind, the odds have to be in Reading's favour. The team's form at the Madejski has been impressive so far and the confidence in the Villa squad at the moment will surely make the home team the favourites. Once again the away side will probably sit deep and look to counter with the pace they have in their side. The issue will be whether the Royals can break through and whether Reading's strikers can start contributing goals.

Playing against Villa this early in Bruce's tenure, however, will be a positive for the Royals as the new manager himself has admitted that there is much work to be done. With over four thousand Villa fans coming down for the game, however, they could cause an upset.

Performance Worthy Of A Win At QPR

15 October 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

It is always good to pick up a point away from home but Reading's performance today was worthy of a win. Having fallen behind to a well taken goal from Wszolek, Reading equalised through Williams seven minutes later and went on to dominate possession and create more clear openings than the home side. Although the finishing is not there yet, there were times, especially in the second half, when Reading put Rangers under considerable pressure with the some slick and precise passing. Williams stood out, not simply for the equaliser, but for the way he probed with purposeful running and well-timed, accurate passes.

The Loftus Road pitch is probably smaller than many in the league making the new Reading style of play slightly more difficult. It made it easier for Rangers to deny the Royals back four time and space to play the ball out of defence in to midfield. Al Habsi was forced to play the ball long and wide more often than he would have liked and possession was not retained as easily as it might have been.

Late Draw With Derby: Match Review

03 October 2016
By Alex Bower

Reading left it late to make a comeback against Derby County as Saturday's game finished 1-1. The Rams took the lead in the second half when ex-Reading man Matej Vydra cleverly netted but a dramatic George Evans goal at the death meant that the points were shared. Here are some of the things that came out of the game.

Plan B

It is pretty clear even this early in the season what Jaap Stam's game plan is. Possession is key, as is passing the ball back and forth between the back five. During the first half the tactic worked relatively well since Derby offered the bare minimum going forward.

The issue arose when Derby scored. While Reading looked fairly comfortable in possession, they did not create many memorable opportunities. When they went a goal down, many will have probably expected the tactic to change in order to try and get the equaliser. It took an extra twenty minutes for Stam to try something different with Mendes coming on for Gunter and to play two up top.

There has been much discussion about the team not having a plan B with Reading's setup suited to holding on to winning scorelines rather than chasing games. At least now we have seen a semblance of an alternate idea but a variety of options are still required for when the game does not go to plan.

Liam Moore & Al-Habsi Continue To Impress

Other than John Swift, there are no players who have impressed so far this season more than Liam Moore and Ali Al-Habsi. Since signing for the Royals, Moore has become a rock in the heart of defence. Once more against Derby he put in a performance to remember with the highlight being a crucial last minute slide tackle in the box.

Equally important for Reading is keeper Al-Habsi. When it looked like Vydra was going to score his second of the game, Al-Habsi pulled off a spectacular save from point-blank range to keep Reading in the game. Ultimately it was a save that earned Reading a point and therefore was vitally important.

No Love Lost With Vydra And Blackman

Once upon a time Nick Blackman was scoring goals for fun at Reading. Admittedly it was for the first time in his Reading career, but it was a purple patch that almost single-handedly pushed Reading up the table. Then he put in a transfer request and joined a Derby County side which would also later buy Matej Vydra despite a lacklustre season with the Royals on loan. The moment that Vydra was taken off to be replaced by Blackman pretty much summarised the home fans' thoughts on their performances at the club and their departures.

Both the departure of Vydra and the arrival of Blackman were met by a chorus of boos from the home support- Vydra's no doubt due to the fact that he scored against his old club and Blackman because of his transfer mid last season. While Alex Pearce was applauded after the final whistle, it appears that Blackman in particular was the pantomime villain of the piece.

More Game Time For Mendes?

Much has been said in recent games about Yann Kermorgant and his performances. His work rate is exceptional and he is important when it comes to holding the ball up. The issue is that he is often drawn back into defence to help out and is struggling to create many chances in front of goal (in part due to the quality of delivery from the wings). Perhaps it is time for a slight change of tactic spurred on by Stam's substitutions late in the game against Derby. When Mendes was brought on to play up front alongside Kermorgant he looked strong and provided an extra option going forward. It is clear that Kermorgant does not cope well without a strike partner so perhaps it is Mendes' time to come into the starting eleven.

Where Has The Pace Gone?

With possession based football the name of the game with Reading these days, build up is often slow. The issue is that while the Royals are keeping the ball, they are moving it too slowly to create any real threat and player movement is limited to say the least.

Reading are lucky enough to have players like Garath McCleary, Roy Beerens, Jordan Obita and Chris Gunter who are all capable of running at defences down the wing with pace. You therefore begin to wonder why they are in the team when the game is played at such a tempo that they are ineffective.

I am sure that opposition defences are more than happy to face a team who plays in such a way as it is becoming somewhat predictable and easy to defend against when you have the majority of the team sitting deep. Even the likes of McCleary are beginning to look disinterested so it could be time to change it up a bit soon.

Eighth Before The International Break

I doubt any Reading fan will have expected to be as high as eighth at this point of the season. While Stam's style of play is at times compared to watching paint dry, it has often been effective and the team are doing better than many will have expected in a new manager's first season.

Obviously there is plenty of the season still to go and it seems that teams in the Championship are beginning to cotton on to Reading's style of play. If the Royals can finish somewhere around where they are now at the end of the season, however, I am sure there would be no complaints.