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Reading 3-1 Derby County

Reading made it a four-point weekend. That may be a little better in ice hockey than football, but a satisfactory return nonetheless.

In the first half, there was a clear plan to try to play the ball quickly beyond the Derby defence, in a play reminiscent of how Reading scored at Oakwell just days before. Laurent was closest to making it work on a couple of occasions early on. A pass evaded Olise by millimetres before Meite was shrugged off a ball over the top. It's a low percentage, but high reward play that Reading were not far from making work. 

Five pink shirts are worried more about Ovie than Laurent or Olise. Knight (#38, on the D) runs past Olise to cut off Ejaria, giving Olise that split-second extra to pick his spot.

Obviously, Olise's beautiful strike to round out the first half didn't come from that sort of situation at all. Instead, Ejaria linked with Laurent well, first to move into the box, then to recycle possession. It's an area of the pitch that Ovie has consistently attacked during the season but often hasn't been able to fully capitalise on. He managed to draw multiple pink shirts toward him, but this time found a way to keep the ball - and it only took a simple pass to Laurent. It's obviously a bit easier when that option is available rather than having to force the play as he does occasionally need to do. Laurent then shifted play central to Olise and his technique showed why he won't be in a Reading shirt much longer (I'm not even going to speculate about the celebration). Both of those players had that extra bit of time thanks to Ovie's exploits.

Meite had twice as many touches in the opposition box than any other player (8)

Meite may not have been truly involved in the goals (he doesn't get an assist for Puscas'), but he was a handful after a quiet first half. More than anything it seemed like the plan in the opening stanza hampered his influence. Obviously, if he managed to get in behind with the ball under control, then there's a high chance he gets onto the scoreboard, but it meant he rarely attacked Forsyth 1v1. 

Second half he was relentless, having two big chances just before Derby answered back. The first an out-to-in run where Olise between the lines dragged a centre back out of position and found Meite sprinting beyond the defence. His first touch was excellent, and a decent right-footed shot was well saved by the goalkeeper. He was in again moments later. Ovie, on the halfway line, played a ball in behind to the edge of the Derby box. This time Meite outmuscled Mengi, but theatrically threw himself to the floor when Wisdom came across. To be fair, it was almost a hip check but without the contact to fell Yak. 

I mean, does this one even need to be captioned?

Unfortunately, that left him out of position going the other way and the one thing you don't want to give Tom Lawrence is time and space - from any range. Yiadom came back to negate Kazim-Richards hanging around the back post, but he had no cover from his right-winger, who was still somewhere in the opposition half. It's also a bit sloppy from Olise, who was slow tracking back - and could have filled in for Yak had he been more proactive.

Rafael could do absolutely nothing with that goal, but, perhaps surprisingly, he was called into action on a few occasions. Most notably in the first when, despite controlling the game, Reading gave up a sequence of excellent chances when they were caught on the break. In many ways, quite a similar failing to the goal with Yiadom and Olise on the right side both failing to track Lawrence's run. In that move he got to the edge of the Reading box before playing back to Forsyth, who had too much time to pick a cross as both Yids and Olise had gone inside to cover Holmes pushing out. Kazim-Richards had two big chances, hitting the post with one and forcing Rafael into a good save with the other.

Puscas was on the move as soon as Yakou shot, while the defence is ball watching

Pauno's decision to rest Joao was unsurprising, but still a big call to have to make. Thankfully both his strikers showed it was the right call. Puscas goal came from some great movement following up Meite's shot, to give Reading only their third rebound off the keeper of the season - Morrison and McIntyre the only previous scorers in such situations before Monday. With someone like Meite on the outside, who's willing to shoot from basically anywhere, having someone so willing to look for those second chances could be a real benefit.

As for our usual striker, getting back amongst the goals was always the primary concern. Giving Joao ten minutes to try to find his shooting boots was good management by the gaffer. I think there's a legitimate question whether it was an own goal or not, but it almost doesn't matter. Fingers crossed that bit of luck is all he needed to kickstart his run in. I wouldn't be surprised for him to come straight back in for a match where Reading may sit back, but either decision can be easily justified.

There is a heavy caveat for all Reading'd good play; Derby were not particularly good. It's easy for the defensive unit when they're only up against one striker, as they were for the first half, with no pressure when on the ball. Or for Puscas when the defence gives him that extra bit of space to hold up the ball with. For example, people picked up on Holmes performance, but it was largely straightforward - though what he did, he did well.

Reading had a little bit of a false dawn dispatching teams they should beat before succumbing to a dismal loss at St. Andrews. Over the course of bank holiday weekend, they've picked up their first win in five, and showed they can hang with the play-off contenders. Any sort of point at Watford would be a bonus, but there needs to still be a performance.

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