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Reading 2-1 Luton

Losing to Brentford and Norwich is alright as long as we win the games we should, and thankfully we put three points on the board against Luton.

Reading have relied on set pieces and catching teams in transition this season, with both in evidence at The Madejski. McIntyre's volley to open up the scoring was exquisite. The Luton defender was caught on his heels, presumably expecting the makeshift left-back to run toward the penalty spot, which meant Tom could get in front and place it into the corner. Aluko deserves credit for the pinpoint corner, which adds an assist to his goal last time out.

McIntyre had a pretty decent game all told, even though he should have given away a blatant penalty when he absolutely clattered Moncur. He consistently put balls over the top for Baldock to chase when he had no other option, which kept the striker in the game, and was confident on the ball when he had time. Much like Holmes when he first came in, he's tentative with his runs, but that's to be expected from a converted centre-back.

Semedo's run was perfectly found by Baldock. Pauno seems to want his CAM to run past the striker, and this was a perfect example.

Semedo's goal relied on catching Luton in midfield. The team had put every Luton player under pressure, and finally, it paid off as Collins attempted to flick it through to Pelly Ruddock. The striker underhit the pass, with Rinomhota able to pick up the ball in his own half. Seven touches later and the ball was in the back of the net. Rino and Aluko opened up space for Semedo. The goalscorer's pass to Baldock allowed him to cut inside the Luton defender and play it between the centre-backs for Semedo. The first time finish saw the makeshift CAM pick up his first Reading goal. 

Semedo failed to track Pelly's run when playing the left side CDM.

If Semedo could add goalscoring to his play, he'd be a legitimate option behind the striker, but without it, he offers so little else that it's hard to justify. Even in the thirty seconds he was required to play in his true defensive midfield role, his lack of awareness almost cost the side. In a move uncannily similar to Brentford's opener, Pelly Ruddock ran through space created by players crowding the right. Semedo made the exact same error, failing to track the run. Thankfully Ruddock fired the ball across goal, rather than shooting.

Another week, another error in the Reading goal. Rafael has the worst save percentage of any goalkeeper playing over 360 minutes this season, and while the stats have him on three errors leading directly to goals (the most of any player in the Championship) the true total is higher. Rafael's mistake thankfully wasn't costly, but in another world, it could have been. Morrison slipped as he went to play the ball downfield from kick-off, and it's so easy to see that allowing Luton to level up. Luke Southwood is due an opportunity, and that should be against Luton in the FA Cup under the proviso that a good performance will see him get minutes in the league.

Swift drew three and shifted it to Aluko, being fouled in the process

The best moment of the match was seeing John Swift finally back and looking encouraging. He was in the right place defensively, and on the occasion he was caught out, he worked back well to help win the ball back. And his offensive quality has never been in doubt. He manages to open space for others and keep possession under pressure. In fact, the contrast between Semedo was evident when he twice passed the ball away under no pressure in the minute before being withdrawn.

The second half 4-1-4-1

Three goals somewhat belies the fact that it was a pretty dull game. Luton failed to have a shot in the first half, Reading didn't have one in the second as they shut up shop. Between half time and John Swift's introduction Reading switched to a 4-1-4-1 to somewhat match up the away side. They were fairly happy to allow possession to Luton's defensive unit while trying to stop ball progression. Luton were able to move forward with regularity but had to settle for set pieces to truly create.

After John Swift's introduction, Reading went back to their 4-2-3-1. In defence Baldock dropped in.

Post-Swift we switched to a similar system to when playing Norwich. Back to the 4-2-3-1, with the striker dropping in to form, effectively, a 4-2-4-0 defensively. That negated their 4-4-2 diamond and made it hard for them to play out from the back, even with the fullbacks pushing on. If not for a Rafael there would surely be another clean sheet on the board.

Luton are not the pushovers they were last season, but it's important to be beating lower-midtable sides. There isn't much more that could be asked for a team missing so many key players. To get it done fairly comfortably is a testament to both the personnel coming in, and Veljko himself. 


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