Reading moved back to third in the Championship table with a 2-1 win over Cardiff City on Saturday. John Swift initially opened the scoring after being picked out by a spectacular flick from Garath McCleary.
Liam Moore went on to give away his second penalty in two games as he fouled ex-Reading player Sean Morrison. Joe Ralls tucked the ball into the corner past a sprawling Ali Al-Habsi, who could not prevent the goal on this occasion.
In the second half, it was a Yann Kermorgant free-kick that would give Reading a 2-1 lead and seal the victory for the home side.
Here are some things that we learned from the game.
Formations: Curiouser and Curiouser
In recent times, Jaap Stam cannot be accused of being predictable. Against Fulham he set up his team with two wingers as strikers. Against Cardiff, Reading set up with no natural left-back in the starting eleven and top scorer Garath McCleary filling in as the right wing-back.
As the game went on, the players seemed to be featuring in all kinds of positions and formation seemed to go out the window. Players like Liam Kelly, Garath McCleary, Liam Moore, Yann Kermorgant and Roy Beerens all featured in a variety of positions throughout the game with varying effectiveness.
After the game it was revealed that there were a number of injury concerns amongst the Reading defense. Tiago Ilori is facing a spell of four to six weeks on the sidelines after doing some ligament damage in the game against Fulham. Jordan Obita and Tyler Blackett both started on the bench after taking knocks while Joey van den Berg was taken off after picking up a hamstring injury.
With such injuries effecting the defence in particular, weird and wonderful setups may be something we will get used to.
Putting Games To Bed
Based on the first half performance, Reading were by far the better of the two teams. The Royals were dominating possession and seemed to be dictating the majority of play. The issue was, that the home side were not moving the ball with any real pace and were not creating a lot of shooting opportunities for themselves. As a result, the score was level at half-time.
Looking back at the second-half, despite taking the lead, the win was hard-fought. Reading have a habit of becoming increasingly defensive as the final whistle approaches with their usual possession based style fading into the ether. While it is great seeing the team fighting together to win games, from a spectator standpoint it would be nice to have a stress-free end to a game sometime soon.
Liam Kelly Continues To Shine
One of many good things to emerge from Jaap Stam’s reign is the emergence of Liam Kelly. The academy graduate has grabbed the opportunity of playing in the first team with both hands.
Against Cardiff, it was another memorable performance from the young midfielder. Right up until the final whistle he was chasing down the opposition, whether that was in defence or attack. His work rate is exemplary and he has the technical ability to go with it. While it is still early in his career, his recent performances will have no doubt turned a few heads.
Pitch Problems Persist
One concern that has been voiced this week is the state of the Madejski Stadium pitch. It is common knowledge that the stadium is also used for London Irish rugby fixtures and every year it has a negative impact on the condition of the pitch.
This year, however, it seems to be a greater concern due to the style of football Jaap Stam wants the team to play. A threadbare pitch does not lend itself well to a possession based style and subsequently is a problem for the home side. So far, Reading have been able to deal with it and are still winning games. Over time, however, it will only get worse and could become a real concern for the Royals.
Points Tally Equalled
As time goes on, Reading fans become almost expectant when it comes to making the play-offs. Jaap Stam has worked wonders during only a short time at the club and that is represented by the current number of points the team have already earned.
The Royals are currently on 52 points, meaning that they have already equalled their points tally from last season with eighteen games still to play. It is clear that there is belief amongst the team and the supporters and if that can be maintained for the rest of the season, anything is possible.