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Swansea 0-0 Reading

When your goalkeeper is most people's player of the match, you know that you've been under the cosh. Given how makeshift the side is, we looked surprisingly resolute.

Rafael was the standout for many and he did make one great save from Ayew but on the whole, his work was relatively routine. However, it's the routine that he's been struggling with, and Reading need their keeper to do the easy work given how the defence restricts attacks to difficult chances.  Had there been more pace on any of the headers, they would have been tougher saves, but you can't argue with a clean sheet. I still think that Southwood should be given a chance in the FA Cup, with the possibility of a run in the league. One game doesn't eradicate his poor form. 

Rino blocked Guehi's run, but wasn't close enough to challenge his shot.

The best chance of the match fell to Guehi from a corner, but he blazed over the bar. On the whole Reading's zonal marking worked just fine, but on that occasion Bidwell's run meant Holmes couldn't get a proper header. The ball fell to Guehi, who missed the target. The immediate feeling was Rinomhota, who was tasked with blocking the defender's run, should be closer to battle for the second ball, but that doesn't seem to be the way the blockers work. And any subsequent on target shot would have to get through the wall of zonal markers, which would be a task by itself - and probably one of the reasons Guehi had to go high to begin with (or maybe he's just a defender in the wrong box). 

Laurent has tabs on Ayew, but gets drawn into play instead of watching his run

Swansea's chances came almost exclusively from crossing positions. Ayew's movement caused problems again and again, with his runs not being tracked. For his two best chances Laurent failed to follow Ayew, instead ending up in no man's land. But equally the Ghanaian is just an excellent player at this level, whose movement would cause issues for anyone. We just got lucky that he didn't manage to capitalise this time around.

The away side were almost completely focused on killing the game and sat very deep. On the few occasions Reading had opportunities going forward there were too many mistakes. Semedo didn't read a Baldock flick, Olise could have shifted the ball quicker on the break, Ejaria being tentative to attack space, or Esteves wanting to attack the same space Olise was in. It was always going to be hard for Baldock to get into the game starting within his own half. On a couple of occasions he had the opportunity to move the ball, but didn't do it quick enough.

Esteves' run is straight into traffic, he really needs a player wide (I've helpfully put Olise out there) to give him space to run into.

Talking of Esteves, he had a solid enough game. Most of the threat seemed to be coming down the opposite side, which alleviated some of the pressure. He was still caught in possession on a couple of occasions, he seems to end up running into several bodies - and if he can learn to find a pass in those situations he could unlock opportunities for others. At the same time he was utilised on the break from corners, and did have a couple of carries. His tendency to want to run centrally still causes issues in a team where everyone wants to be central.

Semedo's run drew one player away from Olise, and the ball to Ejaria meant that Swansea #7 retreated to cover the space. All meaning that Olise had ample time to put the ball in.

It was the other fullback, Thomas McIntyre, that was Reading's best attacking threat. For the second match in a row he went close from set pieces. Reading worked a free-kick midway in Swansea territory to give Olise plenty of space to put the ball on the penalty spot for the academy grad. Not quite the same result as the volley from Luton, but a great chance. Toward the end an Olise corner was headed goalward by TMc, but Woodman made a good save. Neither were placed well enough to properly cause issues, but they at least tested the Swansea keeper.

Obviously the continued recovery of key players is important going forward. As the side came into the game with ten minutes left, Swift was involved all over the pitch. His defensive work is particularly promising, given that the prevailing wisdom is that Semedo is in for extra defence in... some way. Richards playing his first minutes in three weeks were spent as a left winger, which gave extra solidity defensively, while not burdening him on his return. When those two are back in the starting line up, this side will improve its offensive output tenfold.

A draw away at a side above us in the table is pretty much the most we could hope for in the situation. Much like QPR, much like Luton, we now need to keep putting points on the board against Huddersfield.


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