If the build-up to Tuesday’s game was anything to go by, it was a biggun. Reading FC were taking on fellow promotion hopefuls Newcastle United, both arriving at the Madejski Stadium with the aim of securing three points.
Despite shots from both sides rebounding off the goalposts, the score was to end 0-0 and the points shared.
Here are some things to come out of the game.
Possession Play On Point
From the off it was clear what the Newcastle tactics were- sit back and try and hit Reading on the counter. On several occasions in the first half, it nearly worked.
As the game went on, however, Reading were dominating play in terms of possession. The most impressive aspect was that, despite playing against one of the top two teams in the division, the Royals remained composed right up until the final whistle. At full-time Reading had maintained 70% possession.
While shooting opportunities were at a minimum, it was encouraging to see Reading performing so well. Paul McShane and Joey van den Berg put in performance to remember (for all the right reasons) and Garath McCleary will feel disappointed to have not snatched the win at the death.
At times the possession style of football can be boring to watch (to the point where it feels time is moving slower than normal) but that was not the case on Tuesday.
Thanks For The Atmosphere
Much has been said in recent times about the attendances at the Madejski Stadium in support of a team chasing promotion. Largely they have been disappointing but that was not the case against Newcastle.
The fans heard Jaap Stam’s comments about needing their support loud and clear and turned up in their droves. The large turnout from Newcastle fans was definitely a help, with a call and respond rapport often being built between the rival fanbases.
It has to be said that the atmosphere created by the home fans was noticeably better than usual. As if recognising the importance of the game, the supporters got behind their team throughout and it was great to hear.
Against such a large club like Newcastle, the 23,000 attendance was always inevitable even on a weekday evening. It is now important to make sure that similar crowds turnout to games against Leeds, Blackburn, Rotherham and Wigan.
Life Without Liam
It was not a good day if you were a Reading player named Liam.
Liam Kelly has emerged this season as a very promising player for the Royals. It was a disappointing performance from the midfielder, however, as he increasingly gave away possession.
Many will have assumed that his half-time substitution was due to his performance but he has apparently picked up a hamstring injury.
The most concerning moment of the game was when Liam Moore dropped to the ground with what also appeared to be a hamstring injury.
The “Player of the Month” for February has been vital for the Royals in the centre of defence throughout the season. With McShane only recently returning to the squad himself and Tiago Ilori still out, it is less than ideal ahead of what will be a very important run of games.
What To Do About Grabban
One player who seems to be getting a lot of stick on social media is Lewis Grabban. The Bournemouth man has not set the world alight since his arrival in January and it has not gone unnoticed amongst the fans.
The issue with the striker is that he is not playing consistently and when he is he is often being asked to play in all kinds of weird and wonderful places. As a central midfielder or a winger, he has struggled to make an impact. Up front by himself he has also come up short.
Everyone knows about the partnership that Grabban and Yann Kermorgant developed while playing for the Cherries. The reality of the situation at Reading, however, is that nine times out of ten Jaap will play a formation that has room for only one striker.
Against Newcastle I was surprised to see Grabban playing on the wing ahead of natural wingers such as Adrian Popa, Roy Beerens or Yakou Meite. I will be even more surprised if he features there in the next game.