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Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

The fact that this is a little late should tell you all you need to know about where my head is at with the the team right now.

Rino stops a more dangerous pass into the middle of the pitch, instead Tom Holmes ends up passing long to Yiadom (which does almost come off, but is a much more difficult ball.)

Reading have often struggled to play out from the back against more than one striker, and that's where Laurent and Rinomhota need to improve. Either, they need to be able to turn on the ball - which is admittedly tough with pressure - or remove themselves from the passing lanes. All that ever happens is that they bounce the ball back to one of the CBs. It's impossible for the defence to pass through the lines.

Reading in the second half - higher starting position, wider forwards, a little more direct.

Early in the second half, Reading just decided to bypass the midfield completely and instead go long into Joao. Unfortunately, his injury put paid to that tactic. It was especially effective given Cardiff were still positioning themselves fairly high and stretching themselves thin. To counteract that the away side started to sit deeper, and thus allowed Laurent and Rino to get onto the ball, facing forward. Neither is John Swift, but they're much more effective when not facing their own goal. Combined with Laurent, in particular, being happier to carry the ball, and voilá!

Ovie is swarmed by Orange shirts, but Reading can't work the ball to the free man (Olise, who ends up unmarked on the edge of the box). This sort of thing happened over and over again.

When Cardiff began sitting deep, it highlighted one of Reading's key shortcomings in that they have no way to draw opposition teams out of their shape. Ever since week 1 of the season, Reading can score goals in transition and from set-pieces. Otherwise they're up against it. Cardiff could swarm around attacking players in the knowledge that Reading didn't have the ability to find the men they left open.

I think that some of the criticisms levelled at the squad (for this performance, we'll get to Luton in another post) are unfair. There is often more to a football match than desire, or simply wanting to win more than your opponent. It's true that many had a largely disappointing first half, but it's also difficult to separate how much of that is 'wanting it' and how much is down to fatigue.

The one upside was the performance of Tom Holmes. It is ludicrous to me that anybody could look at the last two matches and think that lacking Michael Morrison is the issue, but here we are. Correlation does not equal causation. In fact, there's not even a correlation. "I think Michal Morrison should provide those intangibles just like he did in *checks notes* listless defeats against Middlesbrough and Wycombe." 

And what difference people think Morrison would have made going forward... I don't know. Anyway, Holmes was excellent. His stretch to get to a cross first and stop a huge opportunity, in second-half stoppage time no less, is basically enough to give him Reading's man of the match in my eyes.

There's little point in dissecting the goals. Reading were chasing the game, and had thrown on Swift - which came back to bite The Royals (but was clearly not the wrong decision given the need to win the match). Sheyi Ojo - a target for Reading in the summer - breezed past the midfielder and was given license to run to the edge of the box. There was little Moore or Holmes could do, given they were occupied with The Other Moore and Murphy. The Liverpool loanee's shot from the edge of the box was parried back into danger by Rafael and Richards felled The Other Moore looking to clear. Penalty. Goal.

BBCRB had spent the entire match being progressively more annoyed at Reading dinking crosses into the box (for once, a very fair criticism), and maybe they managed to get a message down to Baldock when he was on the bench because he executed his cross from the byline to perfection. Fired straight onto Meite's head, giving the defenders no chance to get across, and giving all Reading fans thirty seconds of mindless belief.

That belief was obviously short-lived, and the game at Kennilworth Road truly signalled the end of this season. Oh God, I can't wait for it to be over.

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