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Huddersfield 1-2 Reading

Reading took seven points from nine as they continue to sidestep potential banana skins.

Laurent tries to steal the ball in midfield. He fails and leaves a hole for Bacuna to drive into, which itself opens space for Mbenza on the right.

Before the game had even settled the home side had put themselves 1-0 up. Josh Laurent tried to nick the ball in midfield but failed. Ejaria chased back to try to fill the space, Rinomhota came across, and Richards narrowed for the same reason. Normally Ovie would have tracked the run wide, but it's an unusual way for Laurent to be caught out and he went toward the immediate danger. All that meant Bacuna could shift the ball to Mbenza on the wing, who had plenty of time to put in the cross. Holmes has shown himself to be good in the air, as shown by a header at the end of the half that the goalkeeper somehow saved, but has been caught underneath the ball on occasion. Campbell got the jump on him this time and headed the ball home.

Tactically Reading did a few things differently at The John Smith's Stadium.

Reading's positioning opens space for Swift on the left, but the opportunity is spurned

Laurent, who so often has been the man to progress the ball from deep, instead looked to run beyond Joao. On more than one occasion he played a couple of short passes with McIntyre, to then burst all the way beyond the Huddersfield defence. In fact, the whole midfield was more fluid than usual, with players seemingly able to pop up anywhere. One of the best examples of this came in the first few minutes, with Laurent and Aluko deep, Joao picking up the ball between the lines, Rinomhota on the right, and Ejaria making a central run to open space for Swift on the left. We didn't see too much of that clever running but it was a promising sign.

It's difficult to tell whether Laurent's new role was down to Swift's introduction to the starting line up, or who we were playing. Swift played a different role to Semedo, dropping deep and always looking for the ball, taking the pressure off the deeper duo to be creative. That was the trigger for one of the screen to make a run further forward, usually Laurent. Swifty's best moments came in first-half stoppage time. First, a beautiful outside-of-the-boot through ball finding Laurent's run. Then his free-kick perfectly finding Holmes, and drawing a good save from the goalie.

Before the goal, but a good example of TMc taking the space afforded to him before trying to play over the top.

TMc continually put balls over the top for midfield runners, and one eventually bore fruit as it found Lucas Joao instead. The striker easily dealt with Edmonds-Green and passed the ball just inside the far post. No other Reading centre-back could play that ball, not least because he's the only one with a left foot (Gibson aside). He's just much more aggressive with his play. If there's space in front of him, he drives into it; if there's a ball over the top, he plays it. It could also be opposition dependent, but he was also looking to do largely the same things from left-back in his previous outings.

Holmes looks to stop O'Brien having time on the ball, but Aluko's positioning allows the ball wide to Toffolo - opening up half the pitch. The winger should have been less aggressive and sat in position.

Tom Holmes had an interesting job defensively. Lewis O'Brien was Huddersfield's 'wide' man on that side but stayed very narrow, in the half-space between Holmes and Morrison. Paunovic's solution to that was to close the space entirely and have Holmes track O'Brien central. The issue in the first half was that Aluko's pressing was too easily played around, and opened up huge amounts of space for Toffolo to attack into. After half-time Sone was a little less frantic, instead opting to sit on the right side, plugging the gap.

Very scientific offside line - but Holmes dropped too deep at RB.

It was Holmes who dropped a little deep and allowed Mbenza to split the centrebacks for Huddersfield's best chance to level. McIntyre tried to play offside, but his academy partner was clearly deeper than the striker. Possibly Holmes' own CB tendencies coming to the fore at the wrong time. The right-back was trying to cover Morrison but Morro didn't need covering until he created space behind him. Holmes is often seen as the safe choice at RB, but he was caught out twice on Saturday.

Laurent's positioning means Joao is handed over to Pipa, who then has to choose between marking Joao tightly, or following Richards' run.

Obviously, a large part of Reading's win was another injury returnee - Lucas Joao. His first goal was all about strength and a tidy finish, while his second was about his spatial awareness and ability on the ball. Richards' run on the outside gave Joao the space to turn, as Pipa didn't know whether to stick to Joao (which would have been the correct decision) or cover off Richards. He used his trademark fake shot to keep the separation, shifting the ball slightly more central as the defender shaped to block, before beating the goalkeeper from twenty yards. It wasn't right in the corner, maybe the goalkeeper should have been a step or two further off his line to allow him to get across, but from a Reading perspective, he did what he needed to do. Not that it was needed, but it's a clear reminder of how Joao can win the side points by himself.

After Saturday's FA Cup match the side now come up against a run of sides that bested them in the first half of 2020/21. This is a time to right wrongs, and keep the pressure on those above, not be pressured by the sides below.


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