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Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Reading

Realistically, what can you learn from a game like Wednesday's? Sheffield Wednesday never ventured out of their defensive shape, save for one attack that saw them score, and in the second half, they almost entirely abandoned their offensive mindset. Meanwhile, Reading were completely dominant, but couldn't find a route past Wildsmith more than once, often not helped by the referee.

Holmes has to do better to block the cross, and Laurent should apply more pressure to Patterson.

I suppose we should first deal with Sheffield Wednesday's only real chance, converted by Paterson in the 12th minute. Ejaria was caught trying to squeeze past Banan and Luongo. Harris picked up the ball and slotted it between Morrison and Holmes, the latter being caught upfield, right into Adam Reach's path. Holmes did recover, only for the Sheffield Wednesday winger to shift the ball slightly to the left and put in a cross anyway. Paterson's header couldn't have been better, nutmegging Moore and ending in the far corner. Rafael had no chance.

Reach sets up the chance by winning a straight footrace with Holmes

Both fullbacks bombing on created space down the sides, but it's clear that Holmes is only a part-time full back. Not quick enough to get back and, when he did manage to get there, failed to put much pressure on Reach. In the middle, Morrison took up his normal position at the front post, while Moore tracked Luongo. Paterson went for the back post and although Laurent followed, he didn't get near him. The midfielder normally goes for the cutback, but should probably have spotted the danger (and did, but just too late).

Really, it's a good counter-attacking goal, made because Reading were trying to crack open Wednesday - maybe going a touch too aggressive too early.

Maybe it highlights a slight error in the lineup. It was obvious Wednesday would be a highly defensive outfit, especially under Pulis. Esteves would then be the obvious choice on the right side - although it would have been harsh on Holmes, and it is true that the Portuguese youngster didn't make much of an impact after his introduction. 

Likewise, Morrison had a poor game when allowed the ball. The experienced head in the defence is a key part on a normal matchday, but nobody would say his strength is in possession. Maybe during the substitutions, instead of removing Holmes completely, he could have shuffled over to centre back to give another comfortable ballplayer. I admit that's almost unthinkable, and it's probably much better in theory than practice, but Morrison is not a defender for a match where your team has 80% possession.

Post sending off Reading could play in the Wednesday half

Again rewinding, against eleven it was another frustrating performance. Not enough movement, too much playing around the back. Richards played through Joao, who shot wide first time, and Olise hit the post from a free-kick but clear-cut chances were nowhere to be found. Sheffield Wednesday's 4-1-4-1 depressingly reminiscent of Bowen's Reading.

(Apologies for the size) but Wednesday's shape pre-sending off and after the break was much more defensively sound than the shape in between.

After the red card, Wednesday were all over the place. Ejaria started becoming more influential and linking with Richards in a way that we haven't seen before. The former put in a great cross for Semedo, whose shot was well saved, and Richards cut inside and had a shot, somehow, cleared off the line by Reach.

The two were crucial to getting level. Ejaria's passed into the corner for Richards, who was fouled. I'm unsure why there's a debate about the free-kick, Harris grabs Richard (on the other side of the replay that was shown so wasn't picked up by the commentators) and then bundles him over. Sure, Richards might make the most of it, but in that situation, I think he's allowed. Then Ejaria puts in a great ball for Joao to show it's not just Olise who can be a danger from set-pieces. Out of the keeper's reach, but almost impossible to miss. Joao made Patterson looked silly and nodded in his 10th league goal of the season (and first Reading (league?) header).

The ability to make five subs, in many ways, saved Sheffield Wednesday. It enabled the change to a 5-3-1, which shut down all the space Reading were able to find in the last fifteen minutes of the first half.  Reading couldn't drag the home side out of their shape, and when they did manage to find gaps it was often followed by a rejected penalty shout.

Olise was again making things happen, and Richards' run was excellent too. It didn't get the result it deserved.

Richards' one-two with Olise, just a couple of minutes into the half, had him almost one-on-one with the keeper. The defender clearly tripped the full-back while trying to recover, but the free-kick was, inexplicably, given Wednesday's way. Richards may have put his arm across the defender but didn't foul him in any way. How different a second half it could have been had Wednesday needed to come out of their shell at such an early stage.

Sone, on the rare occasion he came over to the left-hand side, managed somehow threaded the ball through to Laurent.

Ejaria and Aluko stood over a free-kick later on, with Aluko running to the byline to cut back for Laurent. Again Sheffield Wednesday illegally negate the chance. The shot being saved by Adam Reach who is not, it turns out, allowed to use his hands. Two brilliant chances lost. Although the latter highlighted that maybe we should have put players on their strong foot - Aluko out on the left, with Ejaria on the right, and we'd have more naturally stretched play. Admittedly, we've seen how that doesn't magically work, but with them both cutting inside everything was far too congested.

From various areas of the left hand side, Ejaria is cutting back and looking for Joao. Often the ball is high toward the back post, here Semedo manages to have a good chance on the half volley.

The substitutions were again a little confusing. Removing Olise left the side without anyone who can really pick apart teams. Ejaria is developing a nice cross after cutting back onto his strong foot, and he can work in tight spaces, but he often needs time to pick a killer pass. Those introduced didn't fare much betterAluko was promising but lacked the final ball, Esteves wanted to come inside too much, and Baldock really offered nothing.

Too often Reading played exactly where SW wanted them - front and centre. Only Morrison, Moore, and Harris aren't in this image.

If there's one trend that this match plays into, it's that Reading really struggle to break down packed defences. Of matches where Reading have had over 50% (and in every one of those games they've actually been at 58% or above) they've got an average record - 2 wins (a 9 man Barnsley and Wycombe), 2 draws (10 man Wednesday and Middlesbrough), and 3 defeats (Stoke, Coventry, Preston). As opposed to 6 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat with less possession than their opponent. Worryingly a run of 'easier' games is more likely to bring about the exact wrong situation.

And yet despite everything, Reading still had good chances that weren't scuppered by the referee. A couple of great crosses were well defended. Michael Olise managed to get space on one occasion, and one occasion alone, but nobody managed to get on the end of his ball fired across the six-yard box. Aluko was centimetres away from getting on the end of a deflected pass which he surely would have scored. How the game ended without another goal is a mystery.

I guess we could mention Sheffield Wednesday going forward after half-time. The home side left Harris on his own up front to chase lost causes. It didn't really pay off, especially given their main outlet was then Patterson hurling balls into the box. Their only shot of the second half was from a cleared Patterson throw, as Luongo volleyed wide from 20 yards. Reading defended well, and were punished for the one mistake they did make. Sometimes that's football, but annoyingly it's happening pretty regularly at the minute.

But anyway, had Reading listlessly meandered toward a 1-1 draw there would be an overwhelming sense of despondency, but in the circumstances, we can point to another good performance. Coming off the back of a good win against Bristol City and going into a home game with fans there's still plenty of cause for optimism. Heck, a win would have taken us top! We're still more than in touching distance and that shouldn't be downplayed. 


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