Reading began their 2016/17 Championship season with a well-earned 1-0 win against Preston North End on Saturday. The goal came in the first half courtesy of a well worked corner routine, with John Swift applying the neat finish into the top corner. In reality the scoreline could have been even greater for Reading, with a number of chances falling their way, but a win is still a win.
Here are some of the things to come out of the first of many games for Reading this season.
Eamonn Dolan Commemorated In Style
Saturday’s fixture was dedicated to Eamonn Dolan and it was clear from the off how important he was to the club and the supporters. The club planned out a number of ways to commemorate him including the official opening of the Eamonn Dolan Stand, a section of the match programme dedicated to him, a collection around the ground in support of Action Bladder Cancer UK, a pre-match video compilation about his life and career on the big screen, a guard of honour formed by the current academy players and a minute’s applause before kick-off.
In reality there were two sets of applause from both home and away fans, with the montage being met by an extended standing ovation and a further minute with the players. It was an emotional day for everyone involved with the club but his family and everyone who knew him could not have asked for a better memorial of a Reading FC legend. The win was just the cherry on top of the cake.
The Thais Are Getting Involved
Behind the scenes, the Thais have been very busy-Facilitating the signing of eight new players and counting so far this season. After getting a fair bit of stick over the last season, largely for the sacking of Brian McDermott, the owners are seemingly doing all they can to set up as strong a Reading team as possible for the season.
On Saturday, Tiger Thanakarnjanasuth went one step further by watching the second half of the game with the fans in Y26. While he may have got more than he bargained for with the antics going on behind him between the security and some Preston and Reading fans, it is nice to see an owner taking an interest in the fans. It is not the first time Tiger has taken such a hands on approach, having held an informal meeting last month with a selection of supporters.
Fans appreciate when they hear what is going on from the people at the top of the Reading hierarchy, so small gestures like this go a long way. Fans will have also appreciated the one-to-one conversations they had with him regarding three potential new signings- a centre-back, wing-back and a striker.
Joey van den Berg May Yet Be Trusted At Centre-Back
To put it bluntly, I was worried when the teams were announced and Joey van den Berg was playing at centre-back. After seeing him play there during training at the open day I was somewhat optimistic that he could be useful there. The game against AFC Bournemouth, however, changed my mind after he seemed to be somewhat of a liability with the temperament to potentially get himself frequently sent off.
His performance against Preston, however, showed that perhaps he could be trusted in defence. Apart from two early tackles and his poor pass to Evans which nearly resulted in a Preston goal, it was an assured performance from van den Berg. He was strong, composed and not afraid to run with the ball out of defence.
The concern with the Dutchman will be when Reading play against the bigger teams in the division. Van den Berg is not afraid to go in for the tackle and against speedy strikers this could be his undoing. With the owners admitting that they are still in the market for a centre-back, it would suggest that van den Berg is only filling in for the time being. His first display there, however, was promising.
Beerens & Swift Will Be Key
It is still only early in the season, but one of the most promising partnerships already is Roy Beerens and John Swift. Both are already demonstrating the individual talent they possess and are seemingly working well together on the pitch.
Beerens had the beating of his marker on several occasions against Preston and put in a number of useful crosses throughout the game. He has the skill and pace to be a threat for Reading and subsequently will have an important role to play this season.
Swift, meanwhile, has already shown what he has to offer with his well taken goal. The midfielder was moved to the centre of midfield and provided Reading with a creative edge going forward that they have been lacking. With Swift, Williams and Evans in the centre of midfield, it would appear that Norwood is not being missed just yet.
Strikers Still A Concern
Despite winning the game, the margin will have been a concern. Too often in recent years, fans have seen Reading playing well but going onto lose games late on because they could not convert enough chances. Against Preston, the Royals had fifteen shots on goal with only five on target.
Reading played with only one striker and used Deniss Rakels in that role. In the past, playing with one striker has not worked well for the Royals and on this occasion, Rakels often found it difficult to get hold of the ball.
That being said, the striker did have several good shooting opportunities fall his way but went on to either scuff them or shoot straight at the keeper. It is still only game one of the season, but it seems that Rakels is not up to speed yet despite a positive pre-season. Yann Kermorgant came on as a substitute after recently returning to training but Joseph Mendes and Dominic Samuel both remain out through injury.
It is a position that continues to worry fans, with owners admitting that they are still trying to sign another before the window shuts. The Royals could have won the game comfortably by at least a three or four goal margin, but poor finishing let them down. Hopefully standards will improve as the season goes on, with better teams possessing the ability to punish them for such lapses.