Reading Football Club News: November 2016

Reading 2-1 Bristol City: Things We Learned

28 November 2016
By Alex Bower

It was a fifth win in a row for Reading FC as they remained third in the Championship table with a 2-1 win against Bristol City. Ultimately the game was won by an impressive first half for the Royals with goals coming from Garath McCleary and Roy Beerens. It was a slightly uncomfortable second half for home supporters when Gary O'Neil scored for the away side but the Royals held on for the win with some resolute defending.

Here are some of the things to come out of the game:

Garath Should Not Take Penalties

As the famous saying goes, third strike and you're out. Going into Saturday's game Garath McCleary had missed his last two penalties. Against Wigan he opted to hand the ball to Yann Kermorgant for the penalty despite being on a hat-trick; The striker converted. When Reading were awarded a penalty against Bristol and McCleary stepped up, therefore, there were mixed feelings of fear and hope.

Unfortunately for the midfielder, his effort was stopped by Frank Fielding. Fortunately it was directed straight back into his path for him to convert. On two occasions now McCleary has been let off with Kermorgant and himself being able to reach the rebound after his penalty has been saved. Perhaps it is time to give someone else a go.

Hoof And Hope Made Life Difficult

Obviously Reading like to play a possession based style of football these days which (ideally) involves the ball being on the ground for long periods of time. Under increasing amounts of pressure by the Bristol, the Reading players tended to resort to hoofing the ball forwards.

While some would say it was better to clear the ball than risk losing it in their own area, more often than not it just allowed Bristol to attack them again. The statures of Dominic Samuel, Roy Beerens, Garath McCleary, Yakou Meite and Callum Harriott meant they were never going to be able to compete with the statuesque Bristol defence in the air. As a result when playing the more physical sides of the Championship, Reading will need to find a way to maintain control especially when Yann Kermorgant is not playing.

Determined Performance Shows Belief

There were several moments when Bristol were knocking on the door but the Reading players continuously put their bodies on the line to keep the ball out the net. Ali Al-Habsi, Paul McShane, Liam Moore, Tyler Blackett, Jordan Obita and Chris Gunter at the back were particularly impressive but it is clear that there is a level of determination in the squad this year that has been missing previously.

With every positive result the talk of promotion grows ever louder. More importantly, the players themselves are playing as if they believe that it is possible.

Royals Starting To Play With Confidence

No move sums up the confidence the Reading players have in their tactics and ability than Roy Beerens' goal. It was a beautiful move which began with Garath McCleary on the right. The winger chipped the ball into Chris Gunter as he ran into the penalty area. Playing the ball first time, the wing-back crossed to Beerens on the edge of the area who volleyed the ball into the net.

The Royals will still be adjusting to the style of play Jaap Stam is implementing, especially with the likes of Dominic Samuel making their first strides in the first team. If this goal shows anything in particular, however, it is that quality and confidence is apparent in this current team.

Stam For Manager Of The Month?

Reading have won all of their November fixtures, scoring eight goals in the process. It is form that is drawing an increasing amount of attention to Jaap Stam and rightfully so. Royals fans for one will be happy with what Stam has done for the club so far and, based on current form, should definitely be in contention for the Championship manager of the month award. With much talk already about a potential move for the manager, however, perhaps they won't be too keen on him winning.

Reading Make It Five Wins From Five

27 November 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

A goal of breath-taking quality from Roy Beerens after nineteen minutes proved to be the difference between the teams in an evenly contested match. The quality of the goal was tribute to the overall improvement in the quality of Reading's football over the past three months. McCleary's delightfully weighted ball dropped behind the City defence to find a superbly timed run from Gunter who volleyed an equally good ball to the back post for Beerens to volley past Fielding inside the far post.

If there is a better goal in the Championship this season I hope I am there to see it. McCleary had at that point already given the Royals the lead tucking away the rebound from his spot kick in the thirteenth minute awarded following Magnusson's trip on Samuel. The game still hung the balance throughout the second half and there were some anxious moments for home fans near the end when O'Neil pulled a goal back for the visitors in the eighty-seventh minute. For City it was too little too late as Reading extended their impressive winning streak to five games.

Match Preview: Reading FC v Bristol City

26 November 2016
By Alex Bower

"We're happy with how we're playing at the moment, but we know we can still improve. Third place is nice, but it's good to put in a performance and to keep winning games."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"Bristol aren't in great form but we know they will pose a threat so we know we've got to be switched on. We'll try to attack this one the way we have with the other games over the last few weeks, we want to come out confident and try to impose ourselves on the game really quickly."
- Reading FC Defender Tyler Blackett

"Jaap Stam has come in and has tried to educate supporters and players with regards to how he believes football should be played. They're very expansive and make a lot of passes. Sometimes that can be quite frustrating for English fans to watch, especially when a lot of those passes take place in your own half. However, it's clearly working for Reading so no one can argue when you're being successful."
- Bristol City Manager Lee Johnson

"I've had some bad times at the Madejski Stadium - I can't remember ever winning there. Reading's form is a worry for us, but that's something we need to overcome. In this league, it's always going to be a difficult game."
- Bristol City Defender Mark Little

Reading will be looking to hold onto third place in the Championship on Saturday as they face Bristol City. The Robins currently find themselves in tenth and will be keen on improving their current form by securing the win.

The Royals have now won four Championship games in a row, beating Burton Albion 3-0 last time out at the Madejski. Dominic Samuel scored his first league goal for the club when he converted at the back post. Danny Williams made it two with his finish from close range and a John Brayford own goal made it three.

While Reading are in a good spell of form, the same cannot be said about City. The Robins have won only one of their last five games and have not won away since September. In their last game away to Birmingham City a single goal settled the game. With only minutes to spare Che Adams netted for the Blues and they went on to win the game 1-0.

Recent match-ups between the sides suggest the odds are in Reading's favour going into the weekend. The Royals have won the last five games between the two sides and the last time Bristol won away from home against Reading was back in 2009. With home advantage on their side, Reading will be confident of continuing their winning run.

In terms of absences, the Royals will be without a number of their squad. Stephen Quinn remains out with a knee injury- as is Yann Kermorgant- and John Swift is also sidelined. Anssi Jaakkola has yet to return to full training so will not be in the squad. Joey van den Berg, meanwhile, has been recovering from his injury and there is a small chance he could play some part at the weekend.

Bristol have some injuries of their own to contend with as Joel Ekstrand is ruled out with an ankle injury. Winger Luke Freeman has returned to training after an ankle injury and could be in contention for a place in the squad to face the Royals.

Bristol have some talented players at their disposal, including the likes of Tammy Abraham, so should not be underestimated. Based on Reading's current form and previous performances by Bristol at the Madejski, however, the Royals will be the favourites to pick up their fifth league win in a row.

Reading 3-0 Burton Albion: Things We Learned

20 November 2016
By Alex Bower

Reading returned to Championship action in style on Saturday with a 3-0 win against Burton. The Royals have now won four games in a row in the league and have pushed themselves up to third in the table. Here are some of the things that came out of the game.

Samuel Repays Faith
Fans have been calling for the introduction of Dominic Samuel for weeks now so many will have been happy to see his name on the team sheet at the weekend. Others would not have been so keen on playing an untested youngster as the sole striker in the Championship. The latter will have been eating their words on Saturday. With Yann Kermorgant out through injury, Samuel was gifted the opportunity to lead the line against Burton. The youngster had the beating of the defence in terms of speed and was a great attacking outlet for the side. His first goal for the Royals was well taken and demonstrated exactly the difference between what he offers the team in comparison to Kermorgant. It is still early in his Reading career but the signs are promising.

Outstanding Obita
Jordan Obita has faced increased competition at the left-back spot since the arrival of Tyler Blackett. Against Burton, however, Jaap Stam mixed things up a bit with a change of formation and as a consequence both Obita and Blackett found themselves in the starting lineup.

The only question was whether Obita would be used as a left winger or a full-back. Based on his performance it was a bit of both as he spent as much time attacking as he did defending. His inch perfect cross into Danny Williams was a highlight and he continuously threatened down the left wing. Obita was doing so well even Roy Beerens seemed to be leaving the crossing to him. While the formation may not the favoured option for the majority of the season, Obita in particular flourished in his new role.

There Is A Plan B
As previously mentioned, Jaap Stam opted with a 5-3-2 formation against Burton instead of his usual 4-3-3. With Paul McShane, Liam Moore and Tyler Blackett playing in the back three together with Chris Gunter and Jordan Obita as full-backs, Reading looked largely content at the back. The full-backs in particular also spent a fair portion of the game getting forward, providing extra options down the wing.

With Yann Kermorgant, John Swift and Joey van den Berg all out through injury, Stam had to try something different and based on the end result it worked perfectly. While it has to be said that Burton were not the best team to visit the Madejski this season, I'm sure many will be happy to see this formation revisited.

Refereeing Standards Show No Sign Of Improving
Sadly in the Championship in particular, poor refereeing decisions are part and parcel of games. Keith Stroud was the referee for the game at the Madejski and he seemed to upset a fair portion of those in attendance with his decisions. The worst of the decisions was the foul on Samuel as he seemed to be through on goal. Instead of playing the ball, Ben Turner appeared to just push Samuel over. The referee waved away appeals and had to speak to Stam after he protested the decision.

Unfortunately for football fans, the problem is not limited to one single referee and it seems to be a common problem in the division. For once, it would be nice to not have the actions of the referee to complain about.

Promotion On The Cards?
No one would have expected to be as high as third but that is where Reading currently find themselves. Of course when things are going well it is easy to get carried away and subsequently talk has already turned to promotion. The Royals are also no longer flying under the radar with more media outlets now focused in their direction. If Reading can continue their current form then of course they are promotion candidates. Nothing is guaranteed, however, and everyone knows how quickly things can change in this division. That said, things are going well at the moment and long may it continue.

Match Preview: Reading FC v Burton Albion

19 November 2016
By Alex Bower

"Burton have a strong team. They have good players and as a side physically they are very strong. From the games that we've seen they give the opposition a hard time. The work rate that they've got upfront and in midfield as well as on the ball is impressive. Defensively they've got strong players so we know it's going to be a hard game."
- Reading Manager Jaap Stam

"We know we are going to face a very tough team who are coming fresh into this league.  They need to perform and to show people that they haven't come here just to go straight back.  They have got some results.  They play in a different way to other teams and they like to attack and we have to be ready for that."
- Reading Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi

"Teams haven't dominated possession against us, especially away from home this season, which is one of the things we feared. They might have the majority of the ball on Saturday and that may suit us for a change. But you have to see how the game pans out. You can't go into a game thinking you are going to defend as it might be you are domination."
- Burton Manager Nigel Clough

"We're just going there to win, to get that first away win of the season which is massive for us. If we get that (away win) it's a massive bonus and we will kick on for next week.”
- Burton Midfielder Tom Naylor

Reading will be looking to win their fourth Championship game in a row as they take on Burton Albion on Saturday. Following the international break, action finally returns to the Madejski Stadium with the arrival of the newly promoted side. 

Despite it being their first season at this level, Burton are seemingly already adjusting quite well to life in the Championship. The Brewers are currently in eighteenth having beaten Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham. 

The Royals, meanwhile, are also doing pretty well in the league. While it is still early in Jaap Stam's reign, Reading's recent run of results have pushed them as high as fourth in the table behind Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield. 

Based on recent league form, Reading will be clear favourites to extend their winning run. The two clubs are currently at opposite ends of the table and the Royals have home advantage. The only time they have met previously was back in 2009 when the Royals recorded a 5-1 win in the League Cup. 

If Reading are to get the result they are after, they will however have to do so without John Swift. The England U-21 picked up an injury while on international duty and his creative influence will be missed. The positive for Stam is that he has no other fitness concerns going into the game. 

Nigel Clough, meanwhile, will have some injuries to contend with. Striker Jamie Ward will be absent after breaking his wrist during training. Defender Kyle McFadzean is also missing from the squad as he starts his four-match suspension.

In what will be the first league game between the two sides, it is difficult to see any other outcome than a Reading win. The Royals are on a good run and have the better quality squad. While the absence of Swift is not ideal, players such as Garath McCleary have been playing well recently and has the ability to break down what will be a stubborn Burton defence.