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


Reading: G McCleary (72 mins).
Norwich: R Bennett (50 mins), E Bennett (52 mins).

No win in six games and beginning to look over your shoulder at the relegation places? Then you need to play Reading at Home, the Premier League’s surest banker of three points. We fell to our 14th defeat from 17th road trips in this long and increasingly desperate season with an ultimately lame surrender of soft second half goals to an out of form side who we had basically matched throughout the first half. By the time Reading’s long suffering band of away supporters board their coaches, cars or trains again we will most likely be arithmetically certain of visiting less alluring venues next season where we will at least be paying substantially less to watch amateurish defending.

Zingarevich apologists were quick to explain McDermott’s sacking and the subsequent appointment of Adkins as being key in planning for next season. This, it has been suggested, is Nigel’s pre-season – despite his soundbites to the contrary – and now the manager has surely earned the right to experiment, for 1 point from his first four games in charge has absolutely made certain of demotion. Experimentation clearly is the name of the game, for how else would you explain such ‘creative’ tactics as playing two right backs and sticking with 4-5-1 ‘til the death when trailing by the odd goal to a struggling side, as we were on Saturday. Trialling new systems or not, it was difficult to understand how exactly poor performers on the day such as Gunter, Karacan and Blackman managed to last 90 minutes of yet another defeat.

Reading were comfortable and competent enough during a first half in which we marginally edged proceedings in glorious spring sunshine. Adkins seems to be making his mark already in his insistence on players building from the back, but you have to wonder whether this is a little like asking Cub Scouts to launch a Search & Rescue mission when you see the likes of Adrian Mariappa screw a straight forward square pass to the left back position out of play. One hopes that Adkins does not make the mistakes which Brendan Rodgers did in expecting limited footballers to play a game which is alien to them. To that end at least, Nigel will have no excuses if the team start next season slowly given the luxury he has of these 8 (supposedly) competitive Premier League games before the summer. But the signs were gently encouraging during that first half where Reading survived an early Norwich onslaught which was inspired no doubt by the deafening sound of cardboard on skin as the home fans enthusiastically and seemingly without irony gave their free-gift clap-banners an absolute pounding. Yes, welcome to the top flight football-supporting experience in the 21st century.

Once the initial Norwich enthusiasm gave way, Reading at least resembled a football team with McCleary out on the left giving the home side plenty to think about. He went close himself before laying a good chance on a plate for Pogrebnyak – a man playing with all the enthusiasm of someone who want to be somewhere, anywhere, else – to someone scoop over the top from point blank range under some pressure. For a good period, the familiar aimless passing was kept to a minimum – even Karacan was limiting his involvement to making easy square passes rather than the usual hopeful chip forward – and the ball was moved around with no little purpose. The aforementioned McCleary was the chief threat, his opposite number on the right flank Blackman had all the pace required but none of the composure; it will be interesting to see how he performs in the Championship next season. Norwich showed belated notice of their intentions at the very end of the half with McCarthy finally forced into action with a smashing save from Kamara’s drive but we were looking good at this stage to record at least our sixth point on our travels this season.

But all this good work was undone at the start of the second half with some characteristically slack defending proving our ultimate undoing. For the umpteenth time this season, we conceded as a result of a corner following another flying save from McCarthy. Norwich were first to the resultant flag-kick, the initial header was parried by the ‘keeper and unforgivably Gunter’s feeble attempt to clear was thrashed into the net by Ryan Bennett. It was another Bennett who doubled the lead a mere 90 seconds later as McCarthy made hard work of a cross and Norwich were once again first to the loose ball, driving home via McCarthy’s legs. The way we defended for this period, Alan, Gordon and Lenny Bennett would all have fancied their chances of scoring against us as a succession of Norwich corners were met by the foreheads of climbing Norwich men with Reading’s defenders gawping at one another. It was very noticeable when that second goal went in that all the Reading players stood with hands on hips like 11 Rising Damp-era Leonard Rossiters, seemingly bereft of leadership on the pitch.

To be fair to Reading, they at least rallied towards the end of the game and belatedly got themselves on the score sheet when McCleary drove forward from the middle of the park and drove a low effort at Bunn who was presumably so affronted by the temerity of a rare test from a Reading player that he bizarrely parried the effort into his own net. Reading won a series of corners of their own as Norwich struggled to hold their nerve having earlier been comfortably in the ascendancy but all we could really manage was an ambitious overhead from that man McCleary and a far post Kelly header wide of the target from a Gunter cross. But once again we’d given ourselves too much to do with our own bungling defending earlier in the game for the usual commitment and resolve at the death to amount to any substantial reward.
Neil Maskell

This Premier League game took place 2672 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.