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Nottingham Forest 1-1 Reading

A point gained? Two points dropped? It's difficult to say, but I shade toward Paunovic's assessment that the side should have got more. Reading controlled the game, and only wasteful finishing kept them from adding to their goal tally.

The away side were only really caught out on one occasion, a long ball into the right channel. Ameobi beat Richards to the ball and shrugged off the defender. A mismatch in a fight Richards didn't need to take, allowing Ameobi to then attack the area. His ball across the six-yard box was turned into his own net by Tom Holmes to open the scoring. Moore initially looked to monitor Murray's positioning, before deciding to close down Ameobi - but failing to intercept the cross.

McIntyre is late into position watching the cutback, would have probably got over to Ameobi had he been there. Holmes fails to block out Murray, and plays the ball into his own net with his left foot.

If we were nitpicking, McIntyre felt like he was slightly late coming back and, although he would have been monitoring the cutback initially, could have had an impact coming across to close down Ameobi after he had got past Richards. Then Holmes just needed to block out Murray, rather than attempting to play the ball. That may have been exactly what he was trying to do, but it's an odd goal in the sense that the striker had already missed the ball by the time Holmes chalked up his OG.

I've heard people put the goal down to the fact Reading's diamond meant less protection for the full backs, and that may be part of it, but in all likelihood, it wouldn't have made much difference. Laurent actually takes a defensive position on the left-wing covering the right back early in the move, but because he's never involved, it's all a bit irrelevant. The best thing that Laurent (or Olise who was also coming across) could have done was put more pressure on the pass into the channel to begin with.

Laurent attempts to cover the left from a central starting position, ends up tracking the ball carrier all the way to Reading's box.

It's also slightly incorrect to say that the full backs get no cover. Either side of the diamond, Laurent and Semedo, do go wider defensively to provide a similar job to wingers in the 4-2-3-1, but given their starting position, they're asked to do a lot more work. Fifteen minutes in Reading lost the ball high, with Laurent in the middle of the pitch, but he sprinted first over to the right back, and then back with the run. On that occasion, he didn't actually get close enough to stop the cross (sometimes you can be asked to do too much) but it's an indication of his role.

It's noticeable, too, that those same players tend to sit into the full back area when Yiadom or Richards push forward. They may still be relatively advanced, but they definitely come out to the wing and sit for the pass backwards - also giving them a deeper starting position to cover if necessary.

Reading needed an impact, and Meite came up big. The Royals have always looked better with somebody running in behind, stretching play vertically and Meite is the perfect fit. On this occasion, the defender actually stuck with him fairly well but if Yak gets anywhere near goal you know he's going to shoot and was helped out by the man in goal. Joao's play in the middle of the park to hold onto the ball before playing a pinpoint pass shouldn't be overlooked either.

It almost goes without saying that Brice Samba had a bit of a nightmare. By the way he flapped at Meite's shot you would have thought the ball did something outrageous. Admittedly, it may have swerved a little, but that's why goalkeepers are taught to get their body behind it. Earlier in the half, he looked shaky under pressure from a deep Olise cross that was flicked high by Laurent. The keeper tried to outmuscle Puscas but ended up compromising his own positioning. It was a surprise that The Royals didn't try to manufacture the same sort of position more frequently.

Joao, who had a mixed game overall, went some way to redeeming himself with the assist for the goal. He again showed his hold up play and his dribbling created chances. Especially one move midway through the first half where he dissected two red shirts, before stepping around another on his run into the box but shot straight at Samba. It would be easy to say he chose the wrong option earlier in the move, but he put himself into a good position. Whether he always makes the right decision is probably up for debate.

How many other Reading players on the pitch at The City Ground would be both in the right position and able to control the ball under pressure, as he did, before shifting it right and left and finding Meite's run? Maybe only Olise. The goals may have dried up slightly, but two assists - on two big goals - in three matches is a good return. Considering the talent around him is improving if Joao doesn't score for the rest of the season, but morphs into facilitator for Meite and Puscas, then that will certainly be enough.

For many, though, it will be his glaring miss in the first half, from a corner routine reminiscent of Reading's opening goal of the year against Derby, that will live long in the memory. Rather than the corner going direct to Joao, McIntyre met the pass at the front post and touched it back for the striker to lash home. Except he got it completely wrong, as he sliced the shot wide of the post. Whether true or not it all builds into the idea that Joao is a frustrated striker out of form.

Puscas' game could be described in much the same way. His hold-up was decent but lacked a goalscoring touch. His big chance was from open play when Laurent prodded past Forest's defence, but the Romanian got underneath the ball and blasted over the bar. It seemed that Puscas' role was a little more static, with Joao given more license to go looking for the ball. Puscas the 9 to Joao's 10.

I guess one of the benefits of having three fit strikers is that it increases the likelihood you'll have at least one not having an off day.

One of the noticeable improvements having Holmes at centre back is the range of passing Reading can now expect from their central defensive partnership. Moore consistently managed to drive passes out to Yiadom to open up the right-hand side, while Holmes can play into midfield and bypass defending players well. The youngster didn't ever look for the crossfield pass, but perhaps that was due to the size mismatch between Ameobi and Richards.

The good part about the weekend is that even a point was enough to increase the gap to seventh. That's all that matters now - but getting points on the board ahead of tricky upcoming fixtures wouldn't go amiss either.


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