Despite a troublesome first half, Reading edged ever closer to the play-offs with a 2-1 win over Rotherham. Tom Adeyemi gave the away side the lead in the opening twenty minutes after Ali Al-Habsi’s initial save landed at his feet.
The Royals struggled to make any real breakthrough until the second-half, when substitute Lewis Grabban finished with a sweetly hit volley. Reading completed the turnaround with John Swift tapping in from close range.
Here are some of the talking points from the game.
A Tale Of Two Halves
If there was ever a game to epitomise the saying “a tale of two halves”, this would be it. It has already been confirmed that Rotherham will be playing in League One next season, but in the opening spell it was Reading who looked like the team in trouble.
Other than Danny Williams, it looked as if the Reading players had not turned up. The play was lethargic and sadly the Royals were sinking to Rotherham’s level. The endless time-wasting from Rotherham keeper Richard O’Donnell certainly was not helping matters but Reading only had themselves to blame for their performance.
The second-half in comparison was a completely different story. Liam Kelly was brought on at half-time in place of Yakou Meite and was the spark that Reading needed. With Rotherham dropping further back as the game went on, the Royals found themselves edging ever closer to finding the equaliser. Thankfully for the home side, goals from Grabban and Swift were enough to spare their blushes.
What A Difference A Goal Makes
Lewis Grabban has not had the best of starts to his Reading career. Fans had high hopes for the striker when he joined on loan from AFC Bournemouth back in January. Sadly he has not lived up to expectation so far; That was until Monday’s game.
The striker finally scored his first goal for the club at the weekend – converting a penalty against Aston Villa. It is a well known theory that getting your first goal can often do you the world of good. If his goal against Rotherham is anything to go by, then Grabban is a completely different player to the one we have seen this year.
When Grabban was brought on as a winger, the immediate signs were not promising. However, fast forward to just after the hour mark and any fears subsided. After being picked out at the edge of the area, the striker finished with a powerful volley to level the score. Reading fans will be hoping that this is only the start of his goalscoring run as he could be a very handy player to have firing if the Royals make the play-offs.
The Future Of Danny Williams
There was one standout player for the Royals, particularly during the first-half, and that was Danny Williams. While the rest of his teammates looked slow and hesitant, the central midfielder was constantly harassing the opposition and running the ball out of the Reading half.
It was the kind of performance that Reading fans have seen many times before from the American and one that they will certainly hope he continues to replicate until the end of the season. The main concern will be his contract status. The midfielder is one of the highest earners at the club and his contract runs out at the end of the season. Despite having talks with the club, Williams will inevitably be waiting to see which division the Royals are playing in next season before committing his future.
While there are some concerns with the consistency of his performances at times, games like Saturday’s remind everyone what he is capable of and what he brings to the squad.
What Does Stam See In Beerens?
One player who continues to frustrate me is Roy Beerens. Yes he is capable of scoring exceptional goals, but his overall play and demeanour continue to be a concern.
The winger is a favourite with Jaap Stam but it is difficult from a fan perspective to see what he brings to the team – he does not like to defend, is easily forced off the ball, has recently been lacking an end product and spends a lot of his time floating around without actually offering an outlet.
When he first signed for the club, Beerens was a player that I thought could be a star player for Reading. Instead, he has been the source of much frustration.
Play-Offs Here We Come?
Reading pushed themselves up to third with their win against Rotherham and subsequently ever closer to a guaranteed place in the play-offs.
In his post-match interview, Jaap Stam commented on the booing from fans at half-time which he felt was directed towards his players. In the same interview he also mentioned how well the team were doing this year in comparison to previous years and subsequently how they did not deserve such a reaction.
Firstly it has to be said (in my opinion) the booing was directed towards the referee and the Rotherham players due to the time-wasting antics and tackles on Danny Williams. Stam does, however, have a point. The Reading team of this year are performing at a vastly higher standard than previous years and subsequently no fan will have been expecting to be so high up the table this year.
Stam has built a team that looks like it will continue to challenge for promotion and Reading fans will continue to enjoy the ride he has taken them on this season.