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Reading 2-2 Stoke City

Stoke should have won.

Bearing in mind that Reading do not often come back from losing positions salvaging a point against a team recently relegated, regardless of their initial run of form, can only be seen as positive. Especially when their midfield is so strong, and ours so susceptible to being overrun.

It's with the midfield that it's probably best to start. Bacuna given the captain's armband looked assured, and Rinomhota is going from strength to strength. It was the latter's bursting run into the box and cross that set up McNulty for his first Reading goal. The cross may have taken a deflection, but he really did deserve the luck. Swift again looked out of place, he seemed to drift around in the game without doing an awful lot. He had an almost spectacular turn on the edge of the Stoke box, and a nice shot just wide but both felt like they were in the first fifteen minutes. I'm not sure he understands the role that Clement is asking him to play.

In fact the whole left side really struggled. Gunter too was caught out of position more than I think I've ever seen happen while he's been in a Reading shirt. What he may lack in his offensive play he, usually, makes up for in his own half but that wasn't the case today. A large amount of Stoke's chances came via exposing that weakness. The second goal is a great finish, but Gunter completely goes to sleep and allows Ince to pull off a sublime piece of skill with absolutely no pressure on him.

I think part of my issue with watching Reading play currently is that Clement is not setting them up in such a way as to get the crowd on side. When the opposition get the ball the defence and midfield sit in, and don't press. I cannot believe that it's not a tactical decision when nobody harries the ball carrier. It almost goes against your natural instincts to sit off the ball when you're trying to win it back, it must be deliberate. That then makes the crowd frustrated and it all turns sour from there.

That said the front three have a freer role, and chase after everything in the opposition half like their life depends on it, the problem with that is that it's far too easy to play it round them when only a quarter of your team are pestering.

The positive comes up front, as normal. For a team that has lacked goalscorers in the recent future it's now nice to have two clinical big men in the squad. Bodvarsson's injury came at a bad time, but Meite has more than filled those boots. His strength on the ball made Barrow's goal. He caused problems from the moment he came on, and if it wasn't for a supposed knock I'm sure he would have started.

McCleary too seems back to his fearsome best. Last season I would not have been surprised, nor disappointed, to see him leave the club but for the first time in almost two years he seems fully fit and raring to go. He's changed games recently and, although quiet by his standards this season, he's keeping the other wingers out of the side for a reason.

I'm still worried about the festive period, but sometimes a last minute goal makes the world seem a little bit better.


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