Reading Football Club News: September 2016

McCleary Returns As Derby Visit

30 September 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading will try and put the heavy mid-week defeat at Brentford behind them when Derby County visit the Madejski Stadium this weekend. The Royals were on a run of eight fixtures without defeat, that had seen them climb to fourth in the Championship table and reach the fourth round of the league cup. The 1-4 defeat at Brentford stopped Reading in their tracks - just when fans were starting to get a bit ahead of themselves, dreaming of a promotion push this season. However, the defeat leaves Reading in 8th place with ten games played and just three points away from second place - a very healthy position given the dramatic changes at the club over the summer and two defeats from our opening three league games.

All things considered the Brentford defeat remains a very minor setback, and victory over Derby County would likely take us back into the top six. Derby County find themsevles envious of both Reading's start to the season and their managerial situation. Chris Powell takes control of the visitors on a temporary basis following the suspension of manager Nigel Pearson. Although sitting in 20th position with just nine points, County were 2-0 away winners at Cardiff in the week under Powell's control and he will be hoping to record another away victory in charge, with Pearson unlikely to make a return.

Garath McCleary will be available for selection again having served the final game of his suspension following his red card. He will expect an immediate return to the starting eleven, particually as Stam tweaks his side following the Brentford defeat. Danny Williams will also be hoping to be back in the side after missing out at Brenford due to minor ankle injury picked up in the win against Huddersfield last weekend. Scoring goals remains a big problem for the Royals once against this season, but Kermorgant is expected to remain up front after his consolation penalty at Brentford.

Talking Points From Huddersfield Win

25 September 2016
By Alex Bower

Reading extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight games on Saturday as they beat ten-man Huddersfield Town 1-0. The Terriers were top of the table prior to the game so it was a big win for Jaap Stam's team.

A major talking point will have been Rajiv van La Parra's red card before the half-hour mark due to two separate bookable offences. Reading made their one man advantage count when Roy Beerens netted his first league goal for the Royals. It was a lead that they were to hold onto until the final whistle despite some immense pressure from their opposition in the second half.

Here are some of the things that came out of Saturday's win.

Liam Moore Has Been Immense

The transfer saga surrounding Liam Moore was prolonged to say the least, but his capture was definitely worth it if recent performances are anything to go by. Reading's goal difference took a bit of a battering in the first few games of the season as the team conceded eight goals in their first four Championship games. Since Moore's arrival the team have let in only two goals in five Championship games.

As a team who sometimes struggles to get their strikers firing on all cylinders, being able to keep a clean sheet is vitally important. Ali Al-Habsi has pulled off some impressive saves already this season but the centre-back pairing of Paul McShane and Moore is one that is working well for the Royals.

Let's Talk About Kermorgant

The troubles surrounding the need for a consistent striker are ever present. In recent games Yann Kermorgant has been handed the target man role, playing up front by himself. The concern is that the striker has only scored once this season away to Cardiff. Thankfully the rest of the Reading team are chipping in with goals which is greatly helping their cause.

While Kermorgant did not score against Huddersfield, you have to say that he was one of the best players in the team. In the second half when Reading were struggling to get hold of the ball, Kermorgant was back in his own area heading the ball clear and away from danger. His work rate cannot be faulted as more often than not he was running back into midfield to defend and try and get the ball back.

It has to be said, however, that while his work ethic cannot be faulted he is not playing in the positions he is meant to be. Increasingly as the second half went on and the pressure was being piled on the home side, Kermorgant dropped further back into the defence. While he made a number of important clearances, he was not up the pitch to hold the ball up. Callum Harriott was deployed as the lone attacking player due to his pace, but when the Royals returned to hoofing the ball away from their goal he stood little chance of keeping it in an aerial battle.

If Kermorgant was being played as a defender against Huddersfield then it was a very impressive performance from him. As a striker who is meant to be in the team to get goals, however, it was somewhat below par.

Tactics Still Need Work

When Huddersfield went down to ten men and Reading took the lead, the game looked like an easy win for the home side. The Royals could have scored more than one in the first half but many will have felt that they would go on in the second and add to their lead.

In reality, however, Reading were unable to keep possession despite having the extra man and being at home. Huddersfield increasingly piled on the pressure and Reading retreated to their own half. Instead of passing the ball around, it was increasingly hoofed out and only served the purpose of inviting Huddersfield back into their half. Admittedly Reading too were often looking for another goal themselves but the build-up was often rushed.

It is clear that Reading have already come a long way under Stam this season in a short space of time but the second half acted as a reminder that there is still a lot of the season left to go and work still to be done.

Up To Fourth

With a new manager at the helm, a new style of play, many new faces at the club and the achievements of recent years, I doubt many would have expected Reading to be as high as they are at the moment. The Royals are currently in fourth and are only three points behind the league leaders.

Obviously it has to be said that it is still early in the season. Only nine games have been played and there is still the majority of the season to go. In a new era at the club, however, there are far worse ways to start and everyone involved in the club seems to be buoyed by the recent performances.

Of course Stam is not getting carried away and insists that the club are not aiming for promotion. While it may not be an official target, every club will try and finish as high as they can. If the team can continue to perform as they are at the moment then of course anything is possible.

Royals Beat Ten-Man Huddersfield To Extend Run

25 September 2016
By Alex Bower

"It was a hard, very tough game. We knew it was going to be like that from the start. Huddersfield are a tough side as a unit, as a team and they also have some quality players."
- Reading FC Manager Jaap Stam

"I was disappointed about the result but proud about the performance. We were the better team in the second half."
- Huddersfield Town Manager David Wagner

Reading extended their unbeaten run in the Championship to six games as they won 1-0 against ten-man Huddersfield. The Terriers were top of the table before the game but a deflected Roy Beerens goal was enough to earn the home side the win.

An early red card for Rajiv van La Parra saw Huddersfield go down to ten men in the first half. Despite being a man down for the majority of the game, Nahki Wells had the opportunity to equalise late on but could not convert the chance.

Jaap Stam made a couple of enforced changes to his Reading side following the suspensions for Garath McCleary and Tyler Blackett. Callum Harriott was handed his first league start on the right wing while Jordan Obita came in at left-back. Joey van den Berg also came into the starting eleven after recovering from his hamstring injury. David Wagner, meanwhile, named an unchanged side.

The first shot of the game fell to Huddersfield when Tommy Smith cut in from the right to test Ali Al-Habsi. It was a relatively easy save for the Reading keeper and the home side came close to a breakthrough when a long ball by van den Berg was floated to Roy Beerens. After bringing the ball down onto his chest, the winger was however unable to keep the ball in play.

Elias Kachunga was looking fairly threatening early on and he was next to have an effort on goal for the Terriers. After receiving the ball from his teammate, his shot was deflected wide of the goal. It was a fairly even game but the turning point came when van La Parra was sent off.

The Dutchman was booked initially for a tackle on Jordan Obita. Despite staying down injured, referee James Linington handed him a yellow for what he deemed to be a foul. While the first yellow was somewhat debatable, the second was clear-cut. After van La Parra won himself a foul in his own half, he reacted angrily and walked away when summoned by the referee. As a result, the player received his second yellow for dissent and was sent off. It was an avoidable booking and one that he only brought upon himself.

Huddersfield were forced into a change with Kasey Palmer going off and Harry Bunn coming on in his place. The Terriers dropped deeper and Reading were allowed more time to attack. The closest the Royals came was from a John Swift effort from twenty yards which struck the post. It was a great effort from Reading's in-form man and he was unlucky not to give Reading the lead.

Reading centre-back/ full-back/ winger Paul McShane was next to try his luck from range but his effort sailed just past the Huddersfield post. The Reading chances kept coming with Williams' volley being charged down by Aaron Mooy and Harriott being prevented an effort by a well-timed interception by Chris Schindler.

The Royals were to take the lead only a minute later. Harriott's cross was looped into the box and headed out towards Beerens at the far post. After controlling the ball he fired an effort at goal which deflected off Tommy Smith and over the diving Danny Ward in the Huddersfield goal. It was an unfortunate deflection for the away side but Reading had the lead.

It was nearly 2-0 before half-time after Kachunga lost the ball in midfield, but Williams' scuffed effort could not be met by Harriott after being edged out. The best chance of the half for Huddersfield fell to Mark Hudson but his headed effort went just over. Reading took a 1-0 lead into half time but it could have been more.

If there was ever a fixture deserving the title of "a game of two halves" then this would have been it. Huddersfield were the better team as the second half approached its close despite being a man light and Reading were increasingly on the back foot.

That being said, the Royals started the half fairly brightly with two efforts on goal being blocked. Swift ran at the Huddersfield defence before seeing his shot charged down while Harriott also saw his shot deflected behind for a corner after being picked out by substitute Tennai Watson.

The second half was not without its controversy following the drama of the first half. Chris Gunter, playing at left-back since the substitution of Jordan Obita, was caught in what looked like a one-on-one situation with the speedy Wells near the halfway line. It was deemed a foul by the referee but the distance to the Reading goal clearly worked in the defender's favour and he was only punished with a yellow card to the dismay of the away supporters.

The referee was in danger of losing control of the game as the players from both sides were becoming increasingly agitated when decisions were not going their way. Mark Hudson was next to go in the book for a clear foul on Danny Williams.

Beerens was next to have an attempt on goal and it looked like he would double the lead when he rounded goalkeeper Ward. The winger pushed the ball too far wide, however, and could only hit the side netting. Kermorgant then saw his shot from distance fly wide while substitute Stephen Quinn saw his attempt saved by Ward. Beerens' follow-up was then deflected.

As the game drew closer to full time, Reading were increasingly under pressure. The home side were often camped inside their own half, with Harriott the only attacking outlet. Wells came close to making it 1-1 with just six minutes of the game remaining but his right-footed effort was fired wide. Apart from an acrobatic effort from Kermorgant which was hit high over the bar, all the pressure was coming from Huddersfield in the last minutes of the game.

Firstly Smith ran down the right before crossing the ball across the ground into the Reading box. Thankfully for home fans no one was on the end of it and it went out for a throw. Substitute Michael Hefele then had a great chance but he could only head wide from a central position. Wells probably had the best opportunity when he was allowed to turn but he could only drill the ball over from the edge of the Reading box.

The last chance fell to Huddersfield with the final touch of the game. Kachunga was allowed to head the ball at the Reading goal which was saved by Al-Habsi. The final whistle blew and the game ended 1-0 to the Royals.

To say the final twenty minutes of the game were stressful would have been an understatement but it was another hard-fought win by Reading. When John Swift and Joey van den Berg were substituted the Royals seemed to lose some of their shape and invited more pressure on themselves. It was a reminder that despite their impressive league positioning, there is still much for the team to work on.

That being said, to continue their unbeaten run this early on in the season is a positive and many fans will not have expected the team to be doing this well at this stage. The Royals face Brentford away next and will be looking to push themselves even higher up the Championship table.

Run Extended Against Huddersfield

24 September 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading extended their unbeaten run to eight games and moved in to fourth place in the table with a narrow and hard fought victory over league leaders Huddersfield. The first half saw The Royals dominate possession and take the lead with a deflected shot from Beerens shortly before half time. The visitors were reduced to ten men midway through the half when Van La Parra received a second yellow card for dissent, but even before the dismissal, Reading were dominating possession. The second half was a different story as Huddersfield, with nothing to lose, pressed hard for an equaliser. There were anxious moments for Reading particularly in the closing stages as the visitor's pressure began to create some good chances. Ultimately it was resolute defending which allowed Reading to claim three points, but Huddersfield deserve credit for the way they tried to claw their way back into the game.
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Reading Look To Build Run Against Huddersfield

23 September 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Huddersfield Town travel to Reading this weekend hoping to retain or extend their position at the top of the table. Huddersfield have set the early pace in the Championship this season and are two points clear at the top with eight games played. The Terriers last league outing was a 2-1 home win over QPR - but they were beaten at Brighton ten days ago as they picked up their first league defeat of the season. In contrast the Royals were victorious at Brighton midweek in the League Cup to set up a fourth round away tie at Arsenal.

Reading are seven places behind Huddersfield in the table, but are on a run of 7 games unbeaten in all competitions. That run has included five victories as Reading continue to put an average start to the season behind them and the form continues to pick up. The last two victories have come at a price however, with the Royals playing the entire second half of both games with ten men after Garath McCleary and Tyler Blackett picked up first half red cards in our previous two games. Both of those players will be suspended for the visit of Huddersfield. Their absense shouldn't give manager Jaap Stam too much of a headache as he has successfully shuffled his squad around for League Cup success and has plenty of possibilities to pick from. Deniss Rakels and Yakou Meite are still out injured.

Reading certainly look a different team this season with their new breed of possession football. The patience is starting to pay off with results starting to go our way. After some reasonably low attendances so far this season, things could be up in both the league table and fans through the turnstiles this weekend. Fans will be hoping for some home goals though after our last home fixture against Birmingham City ended goalless.

Graphics supplied by KickOff.

Reading To Face Arsenal In League Cup

22 September 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading will travel to Arsenal in the fourth round of the League Cup, following the 2-1 away victory at Brighton in the week. The game will take place at the Emirates Stadium on either 25 or 26 October. Arsenal were 4-0 away winners at Nottingham Forest in the week to book their place in the last 16 of the competition. Reading will be hoping to avoid a repeat of their last meeting with Arsenal in the League Cup four years ago - the Royals raced into a four goal lead at the Madejski Stadium only to go down 5-7 in extra time as the Gunners staged a dramatic comeback. With Reading's solid run of historical defeats against Arsenal it seems a near certainty that the draw will signal an end to Reading's run in the competition - but at least we have "nothing to lose".

Reading Face Tough Trip To Barnsley

16 September 2016
By Alex Bower

"Barnsley are doing very well. They won their game on Tuesday night and looked impressive. They've had a couple of very good results so far this season but that's what we're looking to do as well."
- Reading Manager Jaap Stam

"Jaap has brought a real distinctive way of playing, really patient, trying to dominate the ball so we know we've got to be disciplined and patient in how we approach it. Again, we're just trying to win the game. They're going to pose different challenges and there will be challenges, definitely. It's going to another tough test."
- Barnsley Manager Paul Heckingbottom

Next up for the Royals is a tougher prospect than they would have imagined at the start of the season. Newly promoted side Barnsley currently find themselves third in the Championship having won five of their seven games. As a result, the Tykes will be a difficult test for Reading at Oakwell on Saturday.

Tuesday's game at the Madejski will not live long in the memory as Reading were held to a 0-0 draw against Birmingham. Despite dominating possession, the home side struggled to break through a resolute Blues defence and create any real chances. The injury suffered to Joey van den Berg in the warmup was a blow to the Royals and his continued absence is not ideal.

Barnsley, however, had a game to remember last time out as they recorded a 4-0 away win against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite not making the breakthrough until the 73rd minute, their goals were spread around the squad with Conor Hourihane, Adam Hammill, Saidy Janko and Tom Bradshaw all getting on the scoresheet.

This weekend, the two teams seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to scoring goals. Despite both conceding nine goals so far this season, Barnsley are the league's top goalscorers on eighteen. Reading, meanwhile, find themselves near the bottom of the league when it comes to goals having scored only seven.

With Jaap Stam's tactics and Reading's recent ability to keep seventy percent possession, it will be interesting to see if Barnsley are able to create as many chances on Saturday. Everyone knows the issues surrounding the Reading strikeforce and subsequently it will also be interesting to see if they can start converting chances frequently.

Both sides will be missing players for Saturday's game. Josh Scowen and Adam Armstrong face fitness tests but James Bree and Ryan Williams remain out for Barnsley. Reading meanwhile will have to cope without van den Berg after injuring his hamstring as well as Yakou Meite and Deniss Rakels who are both out with ankle injuries. John Swift may start but his substitute appearance against Birmingham suggests that he is not quite up to fitness.

In terms of previous matchups, the statistics are in Reading's favour. Barnsley are winless in their last five home league meetings with Reading, having lost four and drawing one. Reading have also only lost one of their last eight league trips to Oakwell, losing 3-0 in August 1996. This season, however, Barnsley are currently one of three Championship sides with a 100% record at home.

Being at home, Barnsley will probably be the favourites but Reading will be a tough team to take on. The Royals remain unbeaten in five games in all competitions, winning three of them. Barnsley are also on a good run, being unbeaten in three and having scored ten goals in the process. It will be a hard fought game, but is the kind of fixture that the Royals need to be winning regardless of their opponent's form and league positioning.

Reading and Barnsley - Head to head record (since August 1994)
Games Between Reading and Barnsley 19
Reading Wins 8
Barnsley Wins 7
Draws 4
Reading Goals 22
Barnsley Goals 21
Average Goals Per Game 2.26

Birmingham Draw: Post-Match Review

14 September 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

While it may have not been the most exciting affair, Reading extended their unbeaten run on Tuesday evening with a 0-0 draw against Birmingham City. It was a positive, albeit underwhelming, display from the home side who continue to adapt to Jaap Stam's style of play. The Royals maintained 71% possession and managed to limit a strong Birmingham side in the process.

Here are some of the things to come out of Tuesday's game.

Williams Looked Lost

With the majority of play going through the defence and the build up often being slow, anyone from the midfield forward often find themselves running round in circles trying to create the necessary space to launch an attack. One player who seemed to be running around aimlessly, however, was Danny Williams.

More often than not the American international was seen in the centre of the pitch as the ball got played around him. When he was not stagnant, he was seen jogging around in circles and was rarely proactive in calling for the ball. Apart from his shot from distance in the first half, he struggled to get into the game and was robbed of the ball on several occasions. With limited options going forward through the centre, the defence often had no choice but to pass it amongst themselves.

Everyone knows what Williams is capable of on a good day and early on in the season he quickly became a key player for the Royals in the absence of Oliver Norwood. On Tuesday evening, however, he was the weakest player for Reading by a distance and fans will be hoping for more from him in the next game.

Corners Remain An Issue

Reading had a grand total of twelve corners in the duration of the game. Despite having a number of capable headers in the squad including Yann Kermorgant and Paul McShane, no one came anywhere near to converting. That is not surprising, however, considering the inconsistency of Garath McCleary's crosses. It got to the point where I was hoping for a short corner (and I hate short corners!).

Set pieces have been a weak spot for the Royals for a while, both offensively and defensively, and are something that they definitely need to work on. While McCleary has shown that he is quite handy when it comes to penalties, his corners do still need some work.

Centre-Backs Being Pushed Out Of Their Comfort Zone

Paul McShane is your typical centre-back. It was therefore quite surprising to see him spending the majority of the game playing as a right-back, with Chris Gunter acting as an extra winger. With so much of the build up now going through the back line, the likes of McShane and Liam Moore are having the ball at their feet for large spells of the game.

Largely, you have to say that they looked somewhat comfortable. When Reading lost the ball, however, it was not overly reassuring to see the centre-backs having to scramble back from the wings to get back into position as they were countered at. It is clear that the centre-backs are playing a more adventurous role this season and are definitely still adjusting.

The Battle For Left-Back Spot Continues

The signing of Tyler Blackett looked ominous for Jordan Obita, but Stam opted with the latter against Birmingham. Whether the manager was influenced by Blackett's error against Ipswich or not is up to interpretation, but Obita definitely staked his claim for the position against Birmingham.

Obita is arguably the more attacking minded of the two and subsequently he made himself an attacking option throughout the game. The only issue from the game is the tactics. Stam pushed Obita and Gunter all the way up the pitch to the point where they were playing as wingers. Obita is strong at taking on defenders and putting the cross in. When he received the ball out wide, however, instead of going on his usual run he opted to cut in nine times out of ten and play the ball back into the middle.

With the pair having different strengths, I would imagine that as the season goes on Stam will continue to alternate. After Tuesday's game, however, it would appear that Obita is not giving up his position without a fight.

Attendances Still A Concern

Weekday evening fixtures will always have a lower attendance than those on the weekend, with the Birmingham fixture only drawing 14,602. The highest attendance of the season so far at the Madejski, however, is still only 16,781 against Brighton. The equivalent fixture last season drew 21,244. Both were on a Saturday, but yet the attendance this year was nearly five thousand fewer.

Whether it is the style of play that the team are playing, the drama surrounding a consistent striker, the woes of recent seasons or all of the above, the Royals are seemingly struggling to get the numbers of old through the turnstiles. Here's hoping that the goals start flowing soon otherwise I hate to think how far numbers may plummet.

"FORWARD" Needs To Stop

If I had £1 for every time someone shouted "FORWARD" on Tuesday evening I would be far better off. It is clear that the new style of possession football is not to the liking of several people in attendance at matches. With many away teams coming to the Madejski Stadium happily sitting back with all their players behind the ball for the majority of the game, space is often at a minimum.

Reading have tried the hoof and hope approach before and that has never worked. Ever. Especially not with a sole striker. When it was adopted against Birmingham, Kermorgant often flicked it on to the invisible man beyond him and the away side got the ball back. If the Royals continued to keep launching the ball forward as demanded, then they would see a lot less of the ball without creating any more opportunities.

Goals are the most exciting part of a football game (as long as your side is the one scoring them) so the frustration about keeping the ball with the back four is somewhat justified. What needs to stop, however, are the people who feel the need to shout at the players that they should play the ball forward just because they say so. I like to think that the players know the game plan and how the sport works and doubt that they will suddenly launch the ball forwards because a fan shouts at them to do so.

So please stop. Please?

Birmingham Draw Extends Unbeaten Run

14 September 2016
By Alex Bower

"We wanted the win. Home or away, we always want to go for the win and today was no different. But it wasn't easy, because you're playing against a tough side. They dropped in deep and had a lot of bodies in midfield- and they made it difficult for us to pass the ball through the spaces."
- Reading Manager Jaap Stam

"We weren't anywhere near the energy levels of the previous games, we didn't show the same quality, particularly when we won the ball back. But they've had one shot that Adam Legzdins has had to save. So to come away from home and concede eight opportunities, on and off goal, and we've had fifteen ourselves, possession hasn't really made an awful lot of difference."
- Birmingham City Manager Gary Rowett

Reading extended their unbeaten run to five games in all competitions with a goalless draw against a resolute Birmingham City side on Tuesday evening. Despite managing to maintain 71% possession, the Royals were unable to create all too many distinct chances and were often limited by the Blues' compact defence.

Jaap Stam made three changes for Tuesday's game. Jordan Obita came in for Tyler Blackett at left-back while Stephen Quinn earned his place in the starting eleven ahead of John Swift. The manager was also forced into making a last minute swap as Joey van den Berg suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up. George Evans was subsequently drafted in in his place.

Gary Rowett made a few surprising changes of his own following Birmingham's victory against Fulham last time out. Clayton Donaldson and Jacques Maghoma were replaced by Lukas Jutkiewicz and David Cotterill. Rowett was also forced into making a last minute change when Tomasz Kuszczak was unable to take part in the warm-up. As a result, Adam Legzdins was brought into the starting eleven.

As the game got underway, the first scoring opportunity fell to Birmingham. A foul from Paul McShane on Che Adams gave the Blues a free kick to the left of the area. Cotterill's low, drilled cross caused some problems to the Reading defence and Lukas Jutkiewicz's shot required a great save from Ali Al-Habsi to prevent the goal.

While the first chance fell Birmingham's way, Reading began to dominate the ball. A distinct pattern began to form as the half went on, with Reading keeping possession and trying to find a breakthrough while Birmingham countered at speed whenever they won the ball back. At times it seemed that for every opportunity on goal either side had, Reading required ten times the number of passes to get a less effective end result.

The best shooting opportunity of the half for Reading fell to Danny Williams, who tested the goalkeeper with a nicely struck shot from twenty-five yards out. Legzdins was equal to it, however, and saved low to his right.

Birmingham, meanwhile, ended the half with some decent chances of their own. Adams' break looked to threaten the Reading defence but his low shot was stopped by Al-Habsi. Spector found himself on the end of a corner but could only glance wide, while Al-Habsi was on hand to prevent a Jutkiewicz effort from creeping in.

The second half largely continued where the first had finished. Reading were once again left to control possession and Birmingham took any opportunities that came their way. McCleary in particular was having some luck down the right wing, but often struggled with the final ball. The first chance of the half fell to the winger as he fired over.

Al-Habsi was on hand again as he kept out a deflected Maikel Kieftenbeld effort while Jutkiewicz was halted once more, this time by the offside flag. As the half went on, Reading's main source of hope was corners which just kept coming. Unfortunately, the delivery was often predictable and poor. Liam Moore came closest to converting one of McCleary's crosses but largely Reading struggled to use them effectively.

Prior to the game, it was clear that both sides had strong benches and subsequently substitutes were going to be important. Birmingham brought on Donaldson, Maghoma and Diego Fabbrini while Reading opted with Swift, Callum Harriott and Joseph Mendes.

It could be said, however, that the Reading changes were made too late in the game and they were not given enough time to make an impact. Birmingham were difficult to break down and it was going to take more than ten minutes to do so. Despite some threatening runs from Harriott in particular, neither side was able to make the breakthrough and the game ended 0-0.

It was definitely not one of the most exciting games at the Madejski, but there were plenty of positives to be taken from the game. Stam has said that his tactics are here to stay and with every game that goes by it seems that the players are increasingly adapting to the new style. By no means is it the most thrilling at times, but Reading were able to limit a strong Birmingham team who have started this season brightly.

A brief side note has to be made about the full backs. Obita was probably my man of the match due to both his offensive and defensive play. My concern, however, is how he is clearly being limited in the new system. Despite being asked to play as a second winger for the majority of the game, the left-back often chose to cut inside rather than run the ball down the line.

Anyone who has seen Reading play in the past, know that Obita is more than capable of running at defences and crossing in. For whatever reason, the plan was clearly to pass back inside to the centre of a cramped midfield. The idea will have been to maintain possession, but it was increasingly becoming predictable.

One player who also needs to be mentioned is Danny Williams. Following the departure of Oliver Norwood, it looked early on this season as if Williams was stepping up to be Reading's main man in the centre of midfield. The American international has often been hit and miss in the past, but this season he got off to a good start.

That was until Tuesday evening, however, when he was by far the weakest player for the Royals. Apart from his long range effort in the first half, Williams struggled to really get into the game and was often at fault for conceding possession. While Reading were passing the ball back and forth amongst the defence, out wide and back again, Williams was often found running around in circles in the middle while not offering an outlet. It was a frustrating performance from a player who we know can do better.

Next up for Reading on Saturday is a Barnsley side who are currently the league's top scorers. The newly promoted side will have on paper been an easily winnable game for the Royals, but their current form suggests otherwise. Reading will no doubt look to dominate possession once again and will be looking to do what Derby, QPR and Rotherham couldn't and defeat Barnsley at home.

Royals Dominate Possession But Fail To Score

13 September 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading extended their unbeaten run to four games with a home draw against a Birmingham side fresh from consecutive victories over Norwich and Fulham. Before the game many Royals might have settled for a point, but after dominating the game (71% possession) perhaps they felt their team should have taken all three.

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Royals Look To Extend Winning Run

13 September 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

"We go into the game with back-to-back wins. If we can make it a third win in a row that would be amazing. But we have to put a lot of work in."
- Reading Midfielder Danny Williams

"They have an obviously very Dutch mentality in the way they move the ball and try to play. Some of their possession stats in their early games are testament to that. I think one was around 70 per cent, so they really want to dominate the ball- and we are going to have to be mindful of that."
- Birmingham City Manager Gary Rowett

"Birmingham have got a quality team as well. They have got good players and they have got pace up front. They sometimes play direct as well, but if you give them space they also try to play possession football as well."
- Reading Manager Jaap Stam

Reading will be looking to extend their winning run in all competitions to four games as they take on Birmingham City on Tuesday evening in the Championship.

The Royals currently find themselves in eleventh position in the league following a hard fought win against Ipswich Town. Reading took the lead in the dying seconds of the first half through a Garath McCleary penalty. Ipswich went on to win a penalty of their own in the second which was dispatched by Brett Pitman. While it looked like both sides would secure a point, a last minute Danny Williams penalty snatched all three points for the Berkshire side.

Birmingham, meanwhile, are currently fourth in the league despite only having one more point than the Royals. Last time out, the Blues were able to secure a 1-0 away win against Fulham with a Clayton Donaldson penalty being the difference. It has been a positive start to the campaign for Gary Rowett and his side and they will be keen to extend their winning run to three games in a row.

If past omens are anything to go by, then Birmingham fans will be confident of a victory at the Madejski. Reading have lost all of the last four league meetings with the Blues and have shipped eleven goals in the process. Birmingham have also managed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last two league visits to the Madejski.

In terms of lineup, the major boost to the Jaap Stam and the Royals will be the return of John Swift following his hamstring injury. The midfielder is increasingly becoming a key man for Reading and as a result will be back in contention for a starting position. Reading's striker concerns continue with Yakou Meite and Deniss Rakels both still sidelined with ankle injuries.

Rowett's Birmingham, meanwhile, have no new injury concerns going into Tuesday's game. Jack Storer serves the last game of his suspension and Rhoys Wiggins' debut is still on hold as he is not up to fitness.

After the booing that the Reading team was subjected to by a handful of their own fans against Ipswich, and the subsequent comments from Stam about the new style of play, it will be interesting to see the reaction on Tuesday evening. Birmingham will be a tough opponent for the Royals and patience will be subsequently key.

That being said as the games go on, the Reading side will be growing in confidence and belief in the system they are playing. It is still early in the season and, despite statistics favouring the away side, the win is there for the taking for either side.

Reading - Form

Reading - Form

Reading - Form

Reading - Form

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Win Snatched With Late Penalty

09 September 2016
By Hob Nob Anyone?

A stoppage time penalty from Danny Williams pushed the Royals temporarily into third spot in the Championship. It was a fitting climax to game full of controversy in which referee Simpson awarded three penalties. Ipswich had worked hard to stifle Reading's attempts to pass their way through midfield from the back but McCleary gave Reading the lead from the spot on the stroke of half time. Four minutes in to second half Ipswich were level through Pitman also from the penalty spot. Until the award of the third penalty the game hung in the balance as Ipswich came back strongly in the second half. It must have been devastating for Ipswich who must have thought they had done enough to take point.
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