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Reading 0-0 Burnley

Reading fans have now gone two games without seeing a goal after this weekend's game against Burnley ended in a second consecutive goalless draw. At least this time there was some excitement.

Andre Gray's Shots
In truth Burnley should have been out sight, but Andre Gray had an absolutely shocking game. In the third minute the division top scorer nipped in front of Cooper, but skied it from six yards. Around the hour mark he tumbled (read: dived) over the leg of Al-Habsi to win a penalty. After a fair bit of a kerfuffle, in which Reading showed passion that's been lacking for much of the season, Gray's shot was well saved. Potentially Hal scuffing up the penalty spot wasn't the greatest show of sportsmanship ever, and Al-Habsi may have been off his line before the ball was struck but all of that is consigned to irrelevance. Seconds later the Burnley striker somehow knocked the ball wide from the centre of the goal, five yards out. It is somewhat telling that the only change Sean Dyche made was to replace the former Brentford man.

Reading obviously had their own chances; the best saw Piazon nod over from six yards. A glorious Norwood cross picked out the Chelsea loanee completely unmarked, but he didn't convert. In fact that was pretty much the only thing of note Piazon did all game. 0 chances created, 0 crosses, 0 take-ons, 0 tackles, 1 interception, and that header. Like Gray, not a surprise he was substituted.

Hal Robson-Kanu had a solid first forty-five, but dropped off in the second period. His cross early in the game saw Kermorgant hit the post. He does seem to be finding some form, although he failed with all three of his attempted take-ons, with Stephen Ward managing to dispossess him every time. Maybe he should stick to passing back to Gunter (or maybe not, more on that in a sec). Meanwhile Norwood continues to be a shining light; despite a relatively poor game, his four key passes was the most of anyone on the pitch.

Hector again showed why defensive midfield should be considered his primary position, not really putting a foot wrong. The only minor issue being he seemed to give his overconfidence to Cooper who played himself into trouble a little and, as mentioned, let Gray in front of him for a chance that should have seen us go one nil down. McShane alongside him bailed him out a couple of times too with his experience. Obviously he's still young, and he should cut those mistakes out of his game as he grows - thankfully they didn't cost us this time.

Gunter and Obita's Crossing
The real cause for concern comes at full back on both sides of the pitch. Four crosses in total with none of them finding a Reading shirt is atrocious. It's not new, but it's frustrating. Obita always feels like he's phoning it in, and while Gunter works hard his crossing is poor. When compared to Matthew Lowton it looks even worse. The Burnley right-back attempted five crosses, and found his target with two. An infinitely better return than Reading's duo. It's not just crossing, comparing them to their opposite numbers on Saturday the stats read:

Tackles : 43% - 83%
Aerial Duels : 33% - 75%
Chances Created : 0 - 2

The only place Gunter and Obita come out on top is passing percentage, and that's only because Burnley play a much more direct style, as can be seen below. Historically Reading's full backs have overlapped their wingers, put in dangerous crosses, and run their socks off. Hypothetically that's doable within the seemingly preferred 4-2-3-1 we play. This would allow the AML/AMR to play slightly narrower in a role I believe Football Manager would call the 'Inside Forward'. That means that Kermorgant would be less isolated, and would have three options for knockdowns/flick-ons than the one he currently has. The only downside is it requires a much more disciplined DM to fill in when one goes forward, which doesn't tend to be the case when Norwood and Williams play together. It would shackle two players who require much freer roles. However playing with Hector or Tish is perfect. They sit further back, and play much more as the anchor man. So in this particular game I'd expect far more touches in around the opposition box, but Obita didn't make a pass in the final third. Football requires risk. I don't think it's particularly surprising we can't open up defenses when our full backs seem so scared to lose the ball.

Full backs' passing for both teams

Either way a draw against third in the table is nothing to be sniffed at - especially when it means we've taken four points from them this season. It may have taken an ill-tempered game with some of the poorest refereeing I've seen in a long time (appealing should not equal a foul, and how many fouls does it take Barton to get booked?) but there was some actual passion on show for what felt like the first time in a long time. Now just to find some shooting boots and maybe we can coast our way to the play-offs on the back of a succession of 1-0 victories. After we get through to the fifth round of the FA Cup this weekend, of course.


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