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Reading 0-3 Preston

Back-to-back losses after not being behind in the opening eight games of the season is quite the turnaround, but it's hard to know how to feel on a night we created but had some bad moments.

T Mc was never in the right position, always being behind the striker. Even if he doesn't slip, Riis is in a good position. 

Let's get the worst out of the way first - Tom McIntyre had a bit of a nightmare evening. He did slip to give away a penalty, but he was in completely the wrong position to begin with. Rafael bailed him out on that occasion, but couldn't do anything when McIntyre completely misjudged a bouncing ball and lost out to Emil Riis Jakobsen. The Dane sliding the ball through Rafael's legs and into the back of the net.

Undoubtedly it's a bad mistake. It almost killed off the game, and coming so quickly after the first it doubles the blow. But it's also worth bearing in mind that the last time McIntyre played 90 minutes at centre-back was four months ago. Since then he hasn't had to be running toward his own goal, because instead he's been utilised as a defensive option in midfield. Not to minimise the mistake, it was poor, I just hope that with additional game time he'll get the feel of the position back - if he's afforded another chance.

Maybe Richards could have been stronger to shield the ball

And when Reading weren't being bad, they were being unlucky. Regardless of whether Scott Sinclair was onside or not, Joseph Rafferty registered an assist with a tackle. You can be critical of Richards, but I'm not sure how he's meant to predict the 'pass'. Maybe he should be stronger, he almost gets himself across the ball, but Sinclair still manages to push it past the goalkeeper.

In fact, you could also say they had a bad break at 0-0 when Semedo blocked a pass, only for it to fall straight back to Ryan Ledson. His ball in was curling into the path of Brad Potts at the back post, but Esteves got the slightest of touches and didn't give time for Potts to react. The chance still drew a save from Rafael, but it lacked any ferocity - his positioning was the key.

At the other end, Reading were due to a bad game in front of goal, and it finally arrived. Lucas Joao spurned a couple of great chances within moments of each other. A long ball bounced off Jordan Storey, with Olise and Joao combining to snatch the ball. The striker was clean through, about to unleash as he entered the box, but Storey redeemed himself with a perfect challenge. You have to say that, from an offensive point of view, the defender should never even have the chance to put a tackle in.

Esteves with a great ball. Maybe Joao is worried about Semedo, but he breaks through the backline to have a completely free header.

And Joao was probably still thinking about it a minute later when Esteves put a cross right onto his head, unmarked, from eight yards out. Joao hasn't scored a header in blue and white hoops, and I can't think of any better chance he's had. He failed to make the contact needed and the ball went past the far post. The big guy did have to slightly check his run to align with Esteves delivery, but there's no good reason for missing from that far out after he managed to get into the right position.

His wasn't the only header missed. With two minutes left Richards crossed from deep toward the back post. Puscas movement was good, and he managed to get himself a free-header after the Preston defender was caught under the ball, but he too headed wide. A more difficult chance, to be sure, especially given the movement required but another you want to see at least draw a save as the keeper probably would have had it covered unless he found the perfect placement.

Richards is really good.

A quick digression, on a night to forget Richards again shone. As we've seen already this season he's becoming more sure in possession, and that cross for Puscas showed another string to his bow. 

The only other chance was one that Aluko managed to fashion for himself. Flicking it over the heads of two Preston players, before flicking it back. The problem was he needed to bend it around the goalkeeper, but that's hard with the number of defenders and without the ball sitting down for you.

Reading moved to three at the back for the final ten minutes

Reading started the game in their 4-2-3-1, but when chasing altered to the 4-4-2 diamond. That ended up as a 3-4-1-2, with Laurent dropping into central defence and the full-backs pushing high. Particularly when it became apparent that leaving just McIntyre and Morrison back was open to being countered. Baldock behind the strikers had a particularly free role, playing the sort of 'link-up' #10 we've seen before but with more players getting forward in support. In fact, Sammy B had the tied-highest key passes despite only playing 20 minutes. (3)

While I didn't mind Sam Baldock being on the field, I did mind the substitution. Again Olise made way when chasing a game. And it's easy to say that he didn't have the best game again, I think having him out on the wing is hindering his ability to create chances or get involved in the play. I almost would have been tempted to drop him into the double pivot and have someone creating from deep. Again, Reading struggled against Preston shielding passes into midfield and boxing them in. Having someone of Olise's quality there could have navigated Reading through the melee, although at a cost to their defence.

Laurent at CB allowed McIntyre to play his natural game on the ball, which is more adventurous than Moore's. Even before he fully dropped into defence, he was always attempting to cover McIntyre's forays into Preston territory. Paunovic has used this hybrid CB-DM before, but they tend to be players with expansive passing ranges and good vision. Laurent, therefore, is a slight aberration although he does have it in his locker when needed.

Yiadom and Semedo aside, Laurent needs to drop off rather than challenge. It's that movement that opens up the middle.

It's Laurent being in an unnatural position that allows the counter-attack for the final Preston goal. Morrison was challenging for a header inside the opposition half, Laurent is desperate to win the second ball and moves up, but Preston still manage to play the ball in behind. There's no one left to cover the centre even with Rinomhota attempting to track back. You could also question Yiadom and Semedo's willingness to recover. Really, it's the product of trying to throw men forward. Sometimes you get caught.

If this match hadn't come off the back of Coventry I think people would be quick to write this result off. A lucky break, an individual mistake, and being caught on the counter at the end, all while creating chances. The problem is, you can't write off every match and you can't keep making individual mistakes.


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