Another home match, another day of disappointment. The latest match at the Madejski saw Reading slump to 18th in the table following their second consecutive 3-0 loss, this time to the currently in-form Nottingham Forest. The result means that Reading have now lost three home matches on the trot. One particularly damning statistic is that Reading have now failed to score in seven of the last nine home games. In those same seven games, Reading have conceded eight goals.
With pressure increasing on the squad even before the kick-off against Forest, the signs coming into the game were not promising. Simon Cox in particular was seemingly coming under some criticism for his lack of goals of late and was quoted as saying that he and Pavel Pogrebnyak have struggled to build up a partnership since the departure of Glenn Murray. With Cox and Pogrebnyak being the best chance Reading have up front to get a goal, it was not something that Reading fans wanted to hear.
“We need some people to step up to the mark and start scoring goals.”– Steve Clarke
The starting lineup was, however, a promising one. Gunter returned from injury, to give a man of the match performance for the Royals, and other members of the squad who were rested against Huddersfield mid-week were brought back in. Clarke did his bit by putting out a squad that on paper would be strong enough to compete with Forest. Reading did that and more for the first half, with two chances for Cox not being dispatched and an effort from Garath McCleary being cleared off the line. Had one of these chances found the back of the net, perhaps the end result would have gone Reading’s way.
las, they did not and instead Reading were on the wrong side of two beautifully struck goals. Ben Osborn and Gary Gardner were behind the two long-range efforts which highlighted a quality that Reading seem to currently lack. Whether it is down to the current level of confidence around camp or shooting ability, apart from Chalobah on the odd occasion, Reading do not seem to have that player who is willing to run at a defence and at least test the keeper from distance. Reading fans know what players like McCleary are capable of, but it is simply something that has not come to fruition in recent games. Far too often Reading players seem to get the ball into a half decent position, only to slow the play down, pass the ball back into the defence and boot it down the pitch if pressured. If Reading should learn one thing from the Forest players it is to be braver in front of goal. Overall, it could be said that the Forest team didn’t win because they were better as such. Instead they have members of their squad who were simply happy and confident enough to take it on themselves and have a go.
With a much improved atmosphere (despite the stewarding debacle) and a promising starting lineup, the list of options to blame for Reading’s poor form is getting ever shorter. Having now lost four of the last five matches, Steve Clarke will have to find an answer to the long running problem of why Reading can’t seem to score and fast. While Reading seem to be struggling to find the net, one young loanee does not seem to be having such issues. Many fans are currently calling for Dominic Samuel to be recalled from his loan spell with Coventry City, where he has currently scored four goals in six appearances. While recalling him so early on is probably not the best idea for his progression, the current form of the Reading forwards makes it an option well worth considering. What is clear is that with the quarter-final match away to Brentford coming up in just a matter of days, the Reading performance in front of goal is an almighty concern.