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Reading 2-2 Huddersfield Town

It is frankly unbelievable that Reading managed to lose a match where they were so in control. Huddersfield didn't have a shot for the best part of forty-five minutes, and it's no real surprise that they only came back into the game after Paunovic's substitutions. It's likely that they're still managing Swift's minutes, there's no point injuring him in a game like this, and Olise was clearly struggling but to replace them with Tetek and Moore shows a depressingly defensive outlook. Sone or Camara was right there, Veljko.

Reading's midfield quartet ended up too deep, and too narrow.

It moved Reading to a 5-4-1, but with a quartet solely made up of central players who were clearly not completely comfortable in the role they were being asked to perform. Huddersfield had far too much time and space inside the Reading half, with all four midfielders largely looking to camp out in front of the defence.

Rinomhota hands across the Huddersfield player, but that leaves a 4-on-3. Semedo picks up the man Rinomhota lets drift, but that leaves the goalscorer free to find the space. Also, note how many players are expecting the cross to the far post.

Huddersfield's equaliser, with seconds remaining, could be traced back to that change in formation. The three centre backs all expecting the cross, and the team as a whole criminally allowing an overload on the left-hand side. Rinomhota hands across his man to the three out on that side (specifically to Richards, who then presses the man in possession against the touchline) but there are not enough players to cover all four opposition players, and that leads to the goalscorer's free run into the area. Semedo was a little lax with who he was picking up, but the damage was mainly done by Rino.

If Southwood's error for the first goal was at least understandable, the second is poor. It's close to him, it's not struck hard, and yet it still manages to go between his legs and in. Obviously, it's his first game, it's harsh to judge him, but it does raise some questions. The clubs he was on loan at seem to have a positive perception of him, and for that to be the case he must save shots like that - so we'll put this one down to league debut jitters for now.

Likewise, his distribution was often nervy in the opening throes of the match. He was never caught in possession but was close on a couple of occasions. That seemed to rectify itself in the second half. At one point he did a nice little ball roll against the Huddersfield press and then played a simple pass. Again, hard to understand how much is down to first game nerves and how much is a fundamental flaw but what seems clear is that he's comfortable with the ball at his feet.

Meite got into these positions a couple of times early in the second half, and didn't have a way to get around the defence

At the other end of the pitch, Yakou Meite had a decent enough game. His goal, and a fantastic goal at that, put a sheen on his performance. I think we largely saw a performance that didn't rely on him to build up, though he did hold the ball up and bring others into play well enough when required. There were just a couple of moments where his close control was a little suspect. Then two moments in quick succession where he had the defenders retreating, but didn't manage to make it past them. I wonder if negating his ability to push the ball past a defender and chase it will hamper him playing centrally.

One of the issues he had was the Huddersfield defence playing noticeably deeper in the second half, probably in large part because they could barely get the ball. That made his runs in behind more difficult and meant that he didn't have as much space to play in, with Huddersfield rarely caught in transition. It's telling that Meite's last shot of the game was his goal, he may have worked hard but he didn't create too much.

Reading's right side, with Esteves and Rinomhota, was surprisingly functional. Their movement in particular was effective in opening space down the flank. Not much point in diving into something that we'll never see again, but this loan has worked fairly well for Tomás. He's clearly becoming more confident, and this was probably his best match going both ways. His defensive frailties have always been slightly overstated, and he again made more tackles than any of his teammates bar Semedo. He also had a shot, a key pass, and a couple of dribbles - more than respectable output.

If teams try to stay in shape and don't pressure Swift, then he can pick passes to hurt them. and Huddersfield's relatively high line left a lot of space for players to run into.

Yet again we saw the way a team with John Swift could play. He consistently played out to the flanks and stretched play in a manner that Reading have failed to do consistently this season. Those types of passes were largely seen in the first half before Huddersfield shut down. Similarly to Olise, he was instrumental in both goals, though he'll receive no credit in the statistics. His free-kick led to Semedo being brought down in the box for the first goal, and it was his diagonal out to Esteves that ended up leading to the corner for goal #2.

The man who did pad his stats is the youngster who we will likely not see in a Reading shirt again, Michael Olise. It is easy to say that he should have been on penalties for the whole season, but it must be said that Joao looked accomplished in his first couple; though the fact that Olise clearly has more than one option is obviously a positive. Meite may have done most of the heavy lifting with the second, but it was still a superb ball in.

Overall, a disheartening final match. Familiar deficiencies against packed defences reared their head, and that gut punch at the end just added insult to injury. Had the match ended a minute earlier then we could have at least gone into summer with a spring in the step. Instead, it seems to have raised some key questions that Veljko will have to look to answer quickly after the offseason.


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