“Sometimes you get a clean sheet and a point, you take it and you move on.” – Reading Manager Brian McDermott
“It was a hard battle today but it was a good performance from us. We controlled long spells of the game but couldn’t quite get that goal.” – Wolves Manager Kenny Jackett
With Reading seemingly relying upon their home form to make a late push up the Championship table, their fixture at the Madejski on Saturday against Wolverhampton Wanderers was an important one. Reading fans have been treated in recent times at home to a number of goals but on this occasion they were left wanting.
The Royals extended their concerning run to five Championship games without a victory, with their latest 0-0 draw earning them a point but not doing much in way of confidence. Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi and Captain Paul McShane were both vital in preventing a largely lacklustre Wolves making a breakthrough, but neither team really deserved the victory.
Reading manager Brian McDermott made a couple of changes prior to kick off, with Anton Ferdinand unlucky to lose his starting place at centre-back in favour of Paul McShane. Garath McCleary also started out wide, replacing Stephen Quinn.
Reading were the first to create a chance as Garath McCleary picked out Hal Robson-Kanu in the centre, but his effort was easily blocked by Wolves defenders. Former Reading player James Henry was in a threatening mood for Wolves, however, firstly being halted by Al-Habsi when he broke through the Reading defence and then narrowly missing with his twenty-yard shot.
A couple of half chances fell Reading’s way before half-time, with Yann Kermorgant’s shot being deflected wide and Jake Cooper’s drive flying over following a corner. It was Wolves and Henry again who had the best opportunity to end the half, but his free-kick was impressively saved by Al-Habsi in the Reading goal.
In the second half, Chris Gunter did his best to throw the game away for Reading. Following a looped ball forwards by Wolves, Gunter messed up a headed backpass to Al-Habsi who had run out of goal to collect. Instead the ball fell to Henry once more but his slightly delayed effort gave the Reading goalkeeper enough time to get back and make another great save. Defensively Reading were struggling and were lucky to not be behind.
With Ola John once again making an appearance from the bench, Reading could have gone on to win the game themselves. John broke down the left before picking out Matej Vydra in the centre. Passing the ball out to the edge of the box, Norwood followed up with a twenty yard curled effort which only narrowly missed Carl Ikeme’s far post.
As the game approached the end, both sides had chances to score. Bjorn Sigurdarson had the first great opportunity when he broke through the centre of the Reading defence- only to be stopped by a last ditch Paul McShane slide tackle.
The surprise move of the game was the introduction of new signing Deniss Rakels for Reading, despite McDermott saying he needed to improve his fitness before featuring. The striker played a part in both of Reading’s late chances and the early signs are promising for the player.
After a ball in from Norwood, Rakels initially missed a header before either falling over or diving in an attempt to win a penalty. In a very similar piece of play, another ball in from Norwood was instead headed down by Rakels to Kermorgant who controlled and hit the ball on the volley over the bar. Both sides created chances, with Henry arguably having the best, but it can be said that neither side really deserved the victory.
Looking back on the game, no player stood out more than Ali Al-Habsi. The Reading goalkeeper can be prone to making mistakes but his vital stops throughout the game earned the home side a point. This performance extends his impressive period of form which is currently keeping youngster Jonathan Bond out of the starting line-up.
Other than the performance of the keeper, Reading players struggled to make an impact all over the pitch. Robson-Kanu, who has had a decent run in recent games, was tamed throughout by the impressive Dominic Iorfa. Garath McCleary, who often offers a threat out wide, kept drifting in field and offered little going forward. Matej Vydra, who should be high on confidence following his goal-scoring run in the FA Cup, didn’t seem that keen on shooting on any occasion and preferred to pass the ball back to the player who initially picked him out, losing the ball in the process.
One player who seemed to fall apart as the game went on was Chris Gunter. With such a large focus being placed on his contract, perhaps the defender is struggling under pressure. Following his failed backpass, on more than one occasion Gunter just stopped in his tracks for no apparent reason. This game will not have helped his cause in getting a new contract but there is still time to prove himself.
Someone who I am personally looking forward to seeing over the next few games, however, is Deniss Rakels. His transfer was one met with some bemusement as he was a signing supposedly made by the owners and was someone that I had never heard of. This being said, if the first few minutes he played in a Reading shirt are anything to go by then he could be an asset. The striker seems quick and had a few decent touches. His fall in front of goal seemed to be a bit of a strange one, especially if he wasn’t pushed, but early signs are promising.
All in all, this game won’t stay in the memory for long and Reading will no doubt be keen to improve. With Burnley up next, the tough tests keep coming for McDermott and Reading will be hoping for a positive result to take into their FA Cup game. As the Reading manager highlighted himself after this game, the Royals have a high quality squad on paper who are under-performing. There is something missing, they just need to find out what that is.