Skip to main content

Luton Town 1-0 Reading

 Another cup game against Luton, another 1-0 loss via a cross to the back post.

I should start out by correcting a wrong. On the EPR podcast, I said that Semedo played badly. I think that was probably just my confirmation bias coming through. While he may not have been outstanding, he did his job well enough. I am sorry, Alfa.

All of Luton's outfield players are in this photo, Luton have Bree over on the right. That's the benefit of having an extra man in midfield.

The goal itself came about as a consequence both of mistakes on the field, and a mismatch in the systems. Luton's 4-4-2 diamond meant that when the full-backs pushed up during possession, Reading were outnumbered in midfield 6-5, meaning there was always a man over. That man tended to be Bree hugging the touchline. When the ball goes wide Reading's full-backs are supposed to be able to pack the box, with the winger pressuring the player on the ball, but Onen was frequently too narrow. The youngster could have been a little more passive, holding position rather than looking to get involved in play. Bristow sprinted out to Bree, but couldn't block the cross. Maybe the left back could have been braver.

(Small) Semedo and Olise fall in, Pendlebury has to push out. (Large) Moncur drifts off the back of Olise, while Pendlebury goes toward the edge of the box.

Even then, a cross into the box is a low percentage play. Except when you've let George Moncur drift into the box completely unmarked. We have to go back to before the ball was played out wide to understand why. Olise had been following Moncur around the pitch during the build-up, and that left Joe Morrell free between the lines. Lee shifted the ball to Morrell after Semedo put him under pressure, but rather than continuing to push out Semedo retreated into shape. It was Pendlebury who ended up having to force Morrell into the pass. At that point Moncur starts his run into the box, Olise doesn't want to drop that deep but Pendlebury isn't in position to pick up the man. All that adds up to Moncur volleying home without a Reading player in sight. Olise, who looked a little lazy on a few occasions, has to realise he's just let his man run free. Obviously not his usual remit, but poor from the youngster.

Moncur's strike was a piece of quality that Reading sorely lacked. Onen and Aluko spurned incredible chances, with Melvin-Lambert also disappointed not to convert. Before half-time Reading were sloppy generally, with the senior players failing to retain the ball on multiple occasions. Baldock continues to be a misfit for the striker role, which doesn't help with keeping possession either.

The few senior players that started were replaced with fifteen minutes left, and Reading finished with ten academy grads (plus 18yo Tomás Esteves). On the whole, they all gave good accounts of themselves. 

Dorsett plays a magnificent ball out to the right wing. He only played long on a handful of occasions, but looked assured.

Luke Southwood could do nothing about the goal and was brave on a couple of occasions to deny Hylton. Jeriel Dorsett had surprisingly little to do at the heart of the defence, given that Luton largely looked to overload their right and cross to the far post. When he was needed he made a couple of decent tackles, but it was his passing range that really stood out. Nelson Abbey's injury looks to have benefitted Dorsett, who had seemed to be below him in the pecking order.

Bristow out wide has only Baldock making a run into the box. His crossing isn't perfect, but it's not helped by the lack of a target.

On the left Bristow and Onen had a tough time in the first half. Onen, who usually plays behind the striker or on the right, didn't give his left back enough cover - which in part led to the goal. I thought Bristow played fairly well until he started to tire, and mistakes crept in with ten minutes to play. He wasn't flawless, but a solid foundation for a 19-year-old with 3 senior apperances. In offensive areas, he was hesitant to put balls into the box, but with only Baldock and Olise as targets, it's understandable. 

Onen intercepted the ball well, and set off but allowed Tunnicliffe (left shoulder) to get back in. A slightly worrying lack of both speed and strength. Hopefully, the latter will improve.

Onen is more difficult to critique. Playing out of position down the left, he was often too narrow and didn't support Bristow well enough, even if he recovered well on a few occasions. He didn't really get on the ball in the first half and didn't impress when he did; being dispossessed too easily on the whole. However, he showed good movement and anticipation to follow up on chances, even if he was ultimately unsuccessful.

As the ball goes right to Onen, Pendlebury makes a run into the right channel to open space for Esteves

It was also Onen's move to the right that helped to unlock Esteves. The Porto loanee is always looking to run into the centre of the pitch, and Reading finally found a formula to get the best out of him. Onen holding wide, with Pendlebury vacating the centre to allow Esteves space to run into.

On the topic of Pendlebury, he was effective in the midfield screen. He showed both sides of his game, doing the defensive work while also overlapping down the right flank. He was largely tasked with following Elliot Lee, and given how little impact Lee had he was largely successful. He also managed to rein himself in compared to his youth appearances - where he has 20 yellow cards in 53 appearances. The only area of obvious improvement would be his crossing when he gets into those advanced positions. With Pendlebury and Tetek Reading have two ready-made options to come in for Laurent or Rinomhota should it be required.

Shame about the finish, but the run from NML and pass from Tetek was perfect

The replacements didn't have much time to make an impact, and it's clear that there's still development needed, but Nahum Melvin-Lambert had a couple of moments. One where he managed to spin the defender on halfway as a ball bounced over them, but the defender managed to get back in to tackle. Then his movement for the chance at the end showed promise, rolling the defender to find space, and the finish was so close to being perfect. I still have some questions over his general hold up play, but that will hopefully only improve - and playing him at senior level should speed up that adjustment. It was Tetek's challenge on Hylton (that looked like a foul) and pass that set up the chance initially. 

Mamadi Camara looks a tidy player too, even if it's far too early to make any judgments. He won a free-kick after some nice control using his chest and late on stole the ball from Clark before shifting to Pendlebury to cross. Conor Lawless meanwhile didn't have much of a chance to make an impact as the game largely passed him by.

In a year with increased levels of fixture congestion, going out of the cup early is not an issue. In fact, it may be a blessing if it frees up some of the youngsters to go out on loan. The only real disappointment is that Reading should have got something out of the game.


Popular posts from this blog

Scout Report: Brentford

It almost feels superfluous to write about a Brentford team who have already been covered so extensively. Famed for their player recruitment the core of their side is a young, attack-minded group of players who seemingly love to play together. They tend to play 4-3-3, with Watkins as the main striker, and Benrahma and Mbeumo attempting to find space to either side of him. The midfield three is given stability by Christian Norgaard in the holding role, while Dasilva and Jensen are free to push on. Even goalkeeper David Raya Martin is crucial to the team's attacking intent. His quick distribution reminiscent of Marcus Hahnemann bowling out to Bobby Convey to set the winger away. That said defensively the Spaniard can occasionally be caught out, infamously allowing Ryan Tafazolli to pass the ball from the halfway line into the Brentford net. That's not the only mistake he's made this year - a missed punch condemned Brentford to a loss at Kenilworth Road, and similarly lead to

Reading FC Season Review | 2020/2021

When your season starts with your manager having to watch your opening match from the hotel because he's not been hired in time to beat the quarantine, anything above getting relegated should probably be classed as a success. And Reading exceeded surely even the most optimistic of pre-season predictions. Veljko Paunovic Veljko Paunovic almost exclusively utilised a core group of players in a 4-2-3-1, only changing things when enforced. One of the consequences of that is that Reading had more players play over 3,000 minutes than any other side (roughly three-quarters of the season). That consistency is often seen as a good thing, but in a condensed season, it surely contributed to the injury woes. It can't have helped that the manager also used the second-fewest number of players over the course of the season. His substitutions were often categorised as late (Reading's subs played just 16 minutes on average, only Norwich's played fewer) or non-existent (Reading were 19t

Starting the Year Renew

Ah, 2023. A new year. A time to take stock of what you have, and look forward to the twelve months ahead. The first thing on Paul Ince's plate is to renew Andy Carroll and Amadou Mbengue's contracts - something he's been very vocal about wanting to do. Mbengue is a difficult one. Yes, he is undoubtedly an exciting prospect but this is a club with six other senior centre backs. He'd be useful cover elsewhere, namely at right back, but Kelvin Abrefa has also showed some promise in that position in his, albeit small, cameos so far. Ince has already said his preferred back three is Yiadom, Holmes, and Sarr. Mbengue could be first-choice backup on the right side of that three, but given Yiadom is captain and played more minutes than anyone outside of Ince and Hendrick, realistically he won't get much of a look in. Likewise TMc is probably ahead of him for Sarr's spot. Shifting Moore and Dann in the summer still leaves him in the same position - and that's before