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Norwich City 2-2 Reading

Given the weekend's capitulation against Hull a midweek trip to the top of the league could be seen as another potential stumbling block on Reading's road to safety. As it happened, it was another sign of the progress being made under The Best Manager in World Football, José Gomes. As an early aside, the man's never even made it to two years in the main role so I'm going to be gutted when he inevitably leaves.

Even pre-match it was fairly obvious that The Royals weren't going to throw the kitchen sink in search of three points. A back five, complete with Chris Gunter, were protected by three in midfield - Baker, Rinomhota, and Ejaria. Méité and Barrow continue their partnership given that Oliveira was, as Football Manager would say, ineligible.

Midway through the first period, and definitely against the run of play, Barrow raced onto a loose pass. Under Clement not a lot would have come of the situation, but Gomes' Barrow knocked the ball past the defender, and played it low into Méité. The big Ivorian still had a fair amount to do, being on the left corner of the six yard box but with one, beautiful movement he turned and fired high past Krul.

For the next fifty minutes Reading put on an away performance clinic. They wasted time at virtually every opportunity - the sort of game management we've lacked, the defense worked well as a unit, and when they were breached Martinez pulled off some fine saves. Crucially, they managed to drag a fairly decent Norwich side to their level. Pukki in particular had a dreadful day in front of goal, only hitting the target with one of six attempts.

Not only that, but the two up the other end continued to cause a nuisance of themselves. Méité had a glorious chance after more good work from Barrow. On his left foot he pulled the ball across the face. He has to work on that; a very similar miss almost cost us against Blackburn earlier in the year.

It was, however, fairly inevitable that a team famed for late goals this season would eventually break through. And, where the forwards had failed, up step the centre backs. Ben Godfrey played a little one-two on the edge of the area before rifling into the top corner, before Zimmerman headed in from a corner. For a sport often so hard to predict, sometimes matches just follow the script.

It's fairly easy to be critical of both goals. A give and go shouldn't take Rinomhota and Méité out of the game, and really someone should have been out quicker to the danger. Plus in hindsight it's very easy to talk about having a man on the back post for the corner. But these were players who played their heart out for 85 minutes, and succumbed to the champions elect. A side who have scored almost 25% of their goals in the final ten minutes. There's no shame in that.

All of a sudden we seemed in slightly more of a hurry - I don't think it was due to Norwich that the referee signalled a further six minutes. With seconds remaining in added time Norwich almost broke away, only for Yiadom to win an excellent tackle to keep play in their half. Andy Rinomhota eventually picked the ball up with the clock ticking over into the 97th minute, played it out to Garath McCleary, who squareed up his defender on the edge of the box. Stiepermann raced out to stop the danger, leaving Rinomhota entirely unmarked, and McCleary played it through the German's legs back to the future Player of the Season winner.  His strike was basically a mirrored version of Godfrey's; straight into the top corner.

The entirety of Norwich's defending for that passage of play was suspect, but I would argue it's no less than what Reading deserved. Farke's comments post-match were almost laughable; There's more than one way to win a football match. And it serves to show how little Sky Sports pundits seem to know about us. I have no problems with them thinking that we're the most likely to get relegated - most days I think the same thing - but to argue that we don't have the fight means they haven't actually watched any games recently.

Any gameweek in which Rotherham drop points and we take something away has to be celebrated. This weekend they travel to Stoke - where they could definitely pick up some kind of result - so that keeps the pressure on. Realistically we have to keep picking up points at home because, as good as this result was, our away form this year hasn't been good. I think one win will be good enough to see us safe, but it's been such a tumultuous year that I'm not certain of anything.


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