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Reading 1-0 Wycombe

There are a couple of ways to read the match. Reading registered fewer shots than at any other point so far this season - and there were already concerns about the frequency of our attempts. On the flip side, we were again clinical, Lucas Joao coming to the rescue to take the only chance we needed.

And what some podcast hosts may be missing is that there is clear room for improvement. One of our main playmakers is out injured, and Tom Holmes has been filling in at right-back. Tomás Esteves and Alfa Semedo have both looked promising in their cameos, and the Ovie Ejaria express appears to be kicking into life.

With a good touch Meite is clean through on goal, or can play through Joao - but his first touch takes him straight into the Wycombe defender.

The Royals also got themselves into good positions but didn't always capitalise to the fullest extent. Yakou Meite should have scored from a rather exquisite Ejaria cross at the end of the first half, and Liam Moore ballooned a free header wide from a worked set-piece. Then there are those that didn't even register a shot - touches from Meite and Semedo squandered good positions, and the numerous slips or wayward passes in the build-up is atypical of this group of players.

Let's not even get into Meite and Ejaria taking each other out. Though it does say something about the latter's play over the past week or so. More willing to make runs off the ball, usually in an attempt to get in behind. Seemingly a little more willing to shoot, although he hasn't switched on his radar as of yet, and should have an assist but for Meite's incredible miss.

Size of circle = xG, red = off target, green = on target. Circles small, lots of red = good.

It's the solid defence that makes allowances for a slightly lifeless attacking display. Rafael barely made a save of note. Even his dive to keep out Onyedinma in stoppage time was fairly routine. Only three of Wycombe's ten shots came from within the penalty area - the closest being a difficult chance level with the penalty spot.

Reading only commit the front four to a counter early in the game. Should we be holding back quite so much against a side with only one league goal?

A lot of that was down to Reading's hesitance to throw men forward. It was noticeable that at times it was only the front four attempting to take on most of the Wycombe team. Rinomhota did venture forward from time to time, as did Richards and Holmes, but none consistently. Partly because Wycombe did a good job of shutting down the left side and Holmes is - as previously mentioned - hardly a natural RB. 

Esteves plays an exquisite pass to Semedo in the half-space, but his turn can't capitlalise

That changed with the introduction of Esteves, who was immediately more positive. The youngster seems direct, composed, and skilful. Almost the perfect replica of Omar Richards down the other side. The only question mark is whether he can stay wider so as not to interfere with Meite's narrower role.

As for the goal, according to WS that was Moore's first assist since 17/18, and the long ball is clearly something that has been worked on, the captain admitting to as much in his post-match interview. That said all of the credit really belongs to Joao - his first touch is the true creator of the chance. Every week it feels like I say Reading need to create more, and every week they keep getting away with it. Just need to consistently outperform the stats for 40 more matches and we'll be on our way to the Premier League - or whatever has replaced it by 2021.

So, an uninspiring performance on the whole, but with promising signs of what's still to come.

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