Reading 1-1 Derby County: Things We Learned

Reading left it late to make a comeback against Derby County as Saturday’s game finished 1-1. The Rams took the lead in the second half when ex-Reading man Matej Vydra cleverly netted but a dramatic George Evans goal at the death meant that the points were shared.

Here are some of the things that came out of the game.

Plan B

It is pretty clear even this early in the season what Jaap Stam’s game plan is. Possession is key, as is passing the ball back and forth between the back five. During the first half the tactic worked relatively well since Derby offered the bare minimum going forward.

The issue arose when Derby scored. While Reading looked fairly comfortable in possession, they did not create many memorable opportunities. When they went a goal down, many will have probably expected the tactic to change in order to try and get the equaliser. It took an extra twenty minutes for Stam to try something different with Mendes coming on for Gunter and to play two up top.

There has been much discussion about the team not having a plan B with Reading’s setup suited to holding on to winning scorelines rather than chasing games. At least now we have seen a semblance of an alternate idea but a variety of options are still required for when the game does not go to plan.

Liam Moore & Al-Habsi Continue To Impress

Other than John Swift, there are no players who have impressed so far this season more than Liam Moore and Ali Al-Habsi. Since signing for the Royals, Moore has become a rock in the heart of defence. Once more against Derby he put in a performance to remember with the highlight being a crucial last minute slide tackle in the box.

Equally important for Reading is keeper Al-Habsi. When it looked like Vydra was going to score his second of the game, Al-Habsi pulled off a spectacular save from point-blank range to keep Reading in the game. Ultimately it was a save that earned Reading a point and therefore was vitally important.

No Love Lost With Vydra And Blackman

Once upon a time Nick Blackman was scoring goals for fun at Reading. Admittedly it was for the first time in his Reading career, but it was a purple patch that almost single-handedly pushed Reading up the table. Then he put in a transfer request and joined a Derby County side which would also later buy Matej Vydra despite a lacklustre season with the Royals on loan. The moment that Vydra was taken off to be replaced by Blackman pretty much summarised the home fans’ thoughts on their performances at the club and their departures.

Both the departure of Vydra and the arrival of Blackman were met by a chorus of boos from the home support- Vydra’s no doubt due to the fact that he scored against his old club and Blackman because of his transfer mid last season. While Alex Pearce was applauded after the final whistle, it appears that Blackman in particular was the pantomime villain of the piece.

More Game Time For Mendes?

Much has been said in recent games about Yann Kermorgant and his performances. His work rate is exceptional and he is important when it comes to holding the ball up. The issue is that he is often drawn back into defence to help out and is struggling to create many chances in front of goal (in part due to the quality of delivery from the wings).

Perhaps it is time for a slight change of tactic spurred on by Stam’s substitutions late in the game against Derby. When Mendes was brought on to play up front alongside Kermorgant he looked strong and provided an extra option going forward. It is clear that Kermorgant does not cope well without a strike partner so perhaps it is Mendes’ time to come into the starting eleven.

Where Has The Pace Gone?

With possession based football the name of the game with Reading these days, build up is often slow. The issue is that while the Royals are keeping the ball, they are moving it too slowly to create any real threat and player movement is limited to say the least.

Reading are lucky enough to have players like Garath McCleary, Roy Beerens, Jordan Obita and Chris Gunter who are all capable of running at defences down the wing with pace. You therefore begin to wonder why they are in the team when the game is played at such a tempo that they are ineffective.

I am sure that opposition defences are more than happy to face a team who plays in such a way as it is becoming somewhat predictable and easy to defend against when you have the majority of the team sitting deep. Even the likes of McCleary are beginning to look disinterested so it could be time to change it up a bit soon.

Eighth Before The International Break

I doubt any Reading fan will have expected to be as high as eighth at this point of the season. While Stam’s style of play is at times compared to watching paint dry, it has often been effective and the team are doing better than many will have expected in a new manager’s first season.

Obviously there is plenty of the season still to go and it seems that teams in the Championship are beginning to cotton on to Reading’s style of play. If the Royals can finish somewhere around where they are now at the end of the season, however, I am sure there would be no complaints.

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