Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League


Reading: Gorkss (16 mins).
QPR: Cisse (66 mins).

In a week where the first signs of economic green shoots were shown by encouraging growth figures it is probably somewhat apt that QPR and Reading find themselves entrenched in recession at the bottom of the Premier League. Saturday's results saw Norwich, Aston Villa and Wigan all keep clean sheets and record victories, the latter pair away from home. The gap to the bottom 3 was now 5 points and failure to win this fixture would leave both sides needing to defy recent history in order to escape danger; no side has failed to record a victory in their opening 10 Premier League outings and survived since Derby County in 2000/01. Worryingly for Reading, the last two sides to fail to record victories in those first 10 top flight fixtures - and to ultimately be relegated - were newly promoted sides (Norwich in 2004/05, Sheffield United in 2006/07).

The way in which Reading have hemorrhaged goals in recent weeks has made the Eurozone crisis look like a naughty schoolboy's pocket money ban. The decision to select the same back four which shipped 7 in midweek to Arsenal was another astonishing decision by a manager who continues to overlook Alex Pearce at the back and who seemingly has fallen out with one of our few midfield players for whom ball retention can be considered a real strength. Luckily, the manager chose to recall the inspired Alex McCarthy over the out of favour Federici and again the promising young english 'keeper made the saves to secure us a point in this 'mustn't lose' fixture. It was Reading who made the early running in this game with Roberts particularly working the channels and stretching QPR's expensively assembled but equally fragile defence. In the opening stages as we dominated possession, we still allowed far too much room to first Taarabt, Cisse and then Hoilett to try their luck from distance on the break. We will get continually punished for this by sides playing with more confidence than winless QPR.

More positively speaking however, Reading have shown in recent weeks that they can score goals at this level. Two against both Newcastle and Swansea, three against Fulham, five against Arsenal. We need to continue to stick to our strengths of playing with good pace and width down the flanks and fully exploiting any set pieces we can win. Our corners particularly caused QPR problems all game, Shorey's whipping delivery and Morrison's height and power led to the big ex-Swindon man having two header at goal from the same flag kick, the second of which crashed back off the bar and ended up at the feet of his centre-half colleague Gorkss who turned and hit a deflected half volley through the plams of Cesar. A lead for Reading and we sought to exploit QPR's discomfort, another Shorey corner was met by Morrison's head, Cisse failed to clear and McCleary's wild shot was deflected wide for yet another corner which Morrison met with a crashing header just about held by Cesar. Referee Oliver generously blew for a freekick against our combative defender but it was clear that Reading were causing chaos in the QPR box.

Reading became increasingly more uncomfortable on the break, however. Cisse mishit a generous half chance after Diakite created an opening thanks to soft Reading defending down our left flank, Taarabt then got an effort away after Tabb's untidiness in the middle of the park and the demonstrative Morrocan skipped through desperate challenges moments later only to fail with his effort. Reading showed once again how uncomfortable they are when teams run at them when Morrison blatantly tripped Mackie on the edge of the box. Granero's freekick was curling into the top corner until McCarthy touched the ball onto the crossbar, the rebound being fired over. It was a superb save and the kind which we are becoming accustomed too, the youngster will certainly get plenty of practice playing behind this defence and the pedestrian centre-midfield partnership of Tabb and Leigertwood. More evidence of our desperate defending was shown minutes later when McCleary's desperate shove on Hoilett was punished with a freekick which was cleared. We led at half time, but having been ahead in half our 8 winless league games prior to now there was minimal confidence amongst the travelling support that we could hold out for such a big win.

And hold on we couldn't. Reading were clumsy with their challenges in and around the penalty area as QPR's costly misfits put the pressure on us. Tabb's honest endeavour was obvious throughout the game, but he hardly played during our Championship triumph and he barely looks up to the standard required at this level. He gave away an early freekick with a clumsy challenge which Granero curled into the side netting and in the closing stages and with Reading looking to hold out for a point his backpass put McCarthy under undue pressure and in injury time his wild attempt at a challenge on the byline was so nearly punished when Cisse's cross was bundled towards goal by Zamora, the ball plopping kindly into McCarthy's grateful hands. Tabb isn't alone in struggling to meet the standards required; Morrison - for all his threat in the opposition box - was very fortunate not to concede a penalty around the hour mark when he quite clearly pulled Mackie to the ground when Bosingwa crossed to the near post as Reading were caught narrow. Morrison it was who was caught short for the inevitable equaliser midway through the ball, inexplicably attempting to head the ball and landing falt on his back as Diakete and Bosingwa worked the ball into our box, allowing Cisse to spin an toe end McCarthy from close range.

Only a close range finish could realisitically beat McCarthy all afternoon; a Taarabt piledriver from range was parried by McCarthy's firm wrists and in the final ten minutes his reactions denied Taarabt again after Rangers found themselves two-on-one against Gunter after a rare wasteful Shorey delivery was cleared. Reading were not without threat at the other end as the disappointing Hunt blocked a goalbound Roberts effort, subsitute HRK headed over another excellent Shorey corner delivery which Rangers could not defend and Kebe using his familiar pace as a fresh substitute demonstrated his equally familiar poor end product by crashing a shot against Nelsen with a chance created from his own endeavour. Even then the danger in the end-to-end closing stages was not over as from that block Cisse picked up the loose ball and ran at Tabb and Gorkss who were so ineffective with their defensive efforts that they allowed the mohicaned striker a second bite which he thrashed towards the despairing McCarthy....and fractionally wide of the near post, which instantly drew referee Oliver's final whistle.

Games against Norwich at home and visits to Wigan and Villa make up the remainder of this month, with a less appetising home fixture against a strong Everton side interrupting this run of more realistic looking opportunities to pick up some victories. On the basis of our leaden-footed central midfield ahead of an error-prone back four, you wonder how those wins will be ground out, but equally you cannot deny the threat we pose from set pieces ourselves. It doesn't take a mathematical genius or even an abacus to suss out that we are in deep trouble already but now is the time to post some growth figures of our own.
Neil Maskell

This Premier League game took place 2797 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.