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Reading 3-0 Coventry

A break of 17 days was no issue for a Reading side that cruised past Coventry to get revenge month off to a good start.

Reading did, however, have to ride a rocky opening fifteen minutes, with Tom Holmes having a particularly tough time. Initially, the makeshift right-back played a poor pass across the 18-yard box that was easily intercepted by Callum O'Hare. Thankfully Rafael got down well to the attacker's first-time shot, and Tom McIntyre got a foot in to clear.

Ostigard gets across the front of Holmes, but Morrison (circled) has also pushed too high. Had he held a more legitimate line he may have been in the perfect position to head clear.

Then Holmes failed to track Leo Ostigard's run as the defender put a header just wide from a corner. Coventry took the set-piece short, and Reading's defence didn't properly organise as they stepped up. Morrison probably tried to push them a step too high, and Ostigard got between Morrison and Holmes with a good run. Just like at St Andrew's, Coventry's corner routines were cleverly designed to combat the way Reading pack the box.

The final straw must have been the twenty-year-old's rash challenge, earning a yellow, followed by subsequent let off. He went to grab the onrushing McCallum, and the way the wing-back went down a few steps late probably saved him from that second yellow. All in all a horrible day at the office, and no surprise that Veljko looked for a change at half time. In general, I think the narrative around Holmes/Esteves is lopsided largely because one is an academy grad, and one came with high expectation, and this was just a step too far even for the homegrown label to overshadow. 

John Swift manages to find time on the ball, and that's the trigger for runners beyond the defence

John Swift in his second game back picked up a goal and an assist, and showed the extra dimension he adds to the team. Paunovic had seemed hesitant to allow his attacking midfielder to drop deeper, but it has been Swift's main function since returning from injury. Laurent and Rinomhota naturally move around in the screen, often moving into defence when the ball is at the back to offer passing options to the centre backs, and that's when Swift can look to move into the vacated space to start attacks. One of the key things is that when he picked up the ball deep, facing forward, that was a trigger for runs from midfield.

Which is exactly where his assist came from. Joao may have had to come back in line with the defence, but he knew that Swift was looking to play the ball over the top; You can see Rinomhota looking to run in behind too. Obviously, The Big Man still had a lot to do, but you knew he would finish as soon as he controlled the ball. His strength to hold off former-Royal Dominic Hyam was never in doubt, and it was obvious he would have no problem slotting past the keeper.

There's a sizeable gap to attack for the half-space, or Olise has isolated the left wing-back if the ball is played quickly.

The other benefit of Swift looking for the ball deeper is that Ovie and Olise can cut inside off the wing into space. The latter's positioning was much better, always looking to keep width. That created the option for runs into the half-space - something Esteves could exploit in future, though his function was mainly defensive - and given that much of Reading's build-up was down the left-hand side there was often a sizeable gap between CB and LB when the ball switched sides. Not only that but when Reading got the ball to Olise's wing, he was often one-on-one with McCallum - who he had the beating of. I've often theorized that Olise's offensive spacing was one of the reasons Veljko didn't consistently play him, and maybe the teenager has got the message. (Or maybe I'm totally wrong and it's completely different)

Swift is slightly slow to come across to cover Hamer, who can easily turn out and run. The winger should cover the far side DM, with Swift looking for the near side.

Swift did look a step off the pace at times defensively, often being the porous element of the side's high block. It was his job to cover the near side DM but was slow in switching between the two - allowing Guastavo Hamer, in particular, enough time to open space for Coventry. He had to foul on a couple of occasions after the Brazilian got the better of him. 

Joao isn't even in the passing lane, the defender should be able to easily bend it around him. Instead he hits the ball straight at Joao. Then Swift's run opens the space for Rino on the edge.

Even Joao showed on a couple of occasions the idea that the best offence is a good defence. It was his presence in a passing lane that led to the second goal, as Coventry's RCB attempted to pass through the striker. Joao ended up cutting the ball back to Ovie, whose total air shot meant the ball ran to Andy Rinomhota to coolly finish from the edge of the box. One of the underappreciated pieces is John Swift's run toward the back post opening up space for the goalscorer. I doubt that was his reasoning - more likely he was looking for the ball across the box, or a rebound off the keeper, but good things happen when players make runs.

Ejaria may not have registered a goal involvement, but he had a few moments of beauty. None more so than beating four Coventry players, before hitting the post. Sure, he should have squared to Joao, but it's almost nice to see Ovie be overly selfish. It's often his play at the other end that goes unnoticed. It's invaluable how many times his interplay with Richards relieves pressure defensively, and potentially one of the major worries for when the left-back leaves.

The best thing about this win is that Reading finally have a cushion. They're not all must-win games (although that would be nice too). A draw against Preston or Bournemouth would still see us on the right track, but equally the swagger is back. The idea that The Royals are a team who deserve to be where we are - and we know it.


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