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Reading 1-3 Sheffield Wednesday

I have spent the last few weeks telling anybody that would listen to how Reading are a changed side. Safe from relegation, and only put there in pre-season predictions by people who haven't actually watched the team since our José Gomes inspired uptick at the backend of last season. Yes, maybe some of the key personnel went back to their respective parent clubs, but we still have all 6ft 4in of Matt Miazga, and promising upstart Joao Virginia - the first step in our transition into a fully Portuguese squad a la Wolves.

With all that said Saturday provided a bit of a reality check. Going into the game I said it would provide a good opportunity to see how far the squad has come since the beginning of last season. Last time The Owls visited Berkshire they made light work of Paul Clement's men, a Reading side that has been almost totally decimated since. Mannone, Gunter, Ilori, Aluko, Meyler, Bacuna, and Baldock all started that day, with none of the three substitutes at the club either in McNulty, Kelly, and Sims. At least we held out for longer than fifteen seconds from the restart this time around.

In the first half-hour, things seemed to be going okay. Getting numbers forward in attack, and winning some dangerous free-kicks. On the whole Swift's dead balls seem to have improved - although he did manage to hit one corner over the head of absolutely everybody. Everything seemed to have clicked when Swift, inside the centre circle, played a ball to the right-wing where Yiadom's touch took him in behind the defender, and into the box. A little shuffle to the left dodged a challenge before a shot deflected off Tom Lees on the line. My first thought was it was off the chest, but having seen the replay I think the away side can count themselves incredibly lucky to have got away without seeing a penalty (and a red card) awarded. Barrow probably should've buried it anyway but didn't seem to react quickly enough.

Things started to unravel soon after. Yiadom found himself caught out in midfield and seemed to be in two minds about whether to track the run of Kadeem Harris or press their fullback with the ball. In the end, he did neither. Palmer lofted the ball over him, and when Moore came over to cover Harris skipped past him with his first touch before slotting it past Virginia. It's par for the course that occasionally Yiadom will be caught out upfield, but I thought that Moore needed to basically clear out Harris and ball straight away. He may have had to take a yellow, but he'd been totally dragged out of position and had nobody there to cover.

Even after that goal, I think we showed ourselves to be threatening. Swift was hacked down by Fletcher and the resulting free-kick had the Scotsman climbing all over Miazga in the box. At half time I think we could call ourselves unlucky to be trailing.

For the equaliser, I must admit that I thought that Barrett had taken far too long and wasted the opportunity. the ball came out to him on the edge from a Wednesday clearance. He sidestepped around one, waited for a second or two, brought the ball back onto his right before dinking the ball to the back post for Meite to head in. Not bad from the academy grad.

The only real sour point is that we, in true Reading 2014-2019 style, bottled it straight away. An incredible headed clearance off the line from Miazga was also lost in the fact that they scored from the resulting corner. Hutchinson, a man born in the Royal County, had a totally free header. Virginia, again, didn't stand a chance. They've had all summer to get to grips with zonal marking but it doesn't appear that we've quite cracked it yet.

In a frantic ten minutes, we could have levelled up again soon afterwards, and Josh Barrett should be sitting at home with a brace of assists. A sweeping ball into the box for Barrow was wonderfully controlled back inside, but he shot high on his wrong foot and that was really the last good chance we had. Worryingly that was with half an hour still to play.

The introduction of Adam and Olise did seem to provide a little impetus. Adam did as promised and was always looking for that forward pass, while the latter darted around every inch of space. I wouldn't be surprised if Olise starts over Loader next weekend. Loader was mostly anonymous, but I'm not sure what role he's really being asked to do. One of the reasons Yiadom pushes so high is to provide width, and therefore let Loader drift inside but he seems to drift inside to nowhere in particular. Olise presumably wouldn't be allowed quite as much of a free role as he was afforded on Saturday, but he still seems more adept at finding those pockets.

The sending off was about the one thing the referee got right. I was surprised that, at the free-kick after the sending off, Swift took it on rather than Charlie Adam. I understand that he's the designated taker, but it seemed set up for the left foot to whip it around the wall.

The introduction of possible signing Lucas Joao killed the game. He's basically the perfect man to have upfront when you're a man down. Not sure how he doesn't get into their team over Steven Fletcher because he sure as hell gets into ours if a deal does, miraculously, happen.

Quick notes on a couple of players who I thought did well. Virginia in goal seemed composed. Couldn't really do anything with any of the goals, had one decent punch out from a corner, and on the whole, I thought his distribution was good. Yes, the lofted ball out to Richards didn't really work, but if that's the only option that he has that's the option he has to take.

Richards, for a man who I thought had squandered his chance last season, looked assured. I'd still like to see a little more attacking intent from him; when he joined attacks he gave Wednesday someone other than just Barrow to worry about down that side. He did a good job on Reach though, who didn't have an influence on the game.

Finally, key man Swift did a decent job too, although it's hard to run the game when none of your teammates move. He had a trio of key passes, and at least one of them really should have been buried - probably that Yiadom chance midway through the first half. He played in a role very reminiscent of the one that Liam Kelly used to play under Stam. I don't really see why we let him go if this is the plan, although there's obviously non-footballing reasons for some of these decisions (and he did play fairly badly last season).

On the basis of this performance - and without trying to be reactionary, but we do have Cardiff, West Brom, and Huddersfield - it's hard to see where the points will come before Charlton on the last day of the month. The positives are there though, the academy graduates will only get better and hopefully, there are a couple more new faces to bed in.


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