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Luton Town 0-0 Reading

Without trying to put too fine a point on things, Reading were abysmal. When emotions are involved, things can seem much worse than they are, but 'at this stage of the season' results are more important than performances, and to barely trouble Sluga is not good enough. Olise didn't look his normal self, nor did Meite. Puscas didn't really find his rhythm either.

Pressing from the front almost rewarded the away side

As with Cardiff, I think the lack of effort is overstated (mostly). The clearest example of this is Reading's press paying dividends a couple of times in the opening forty-five. In fact, one of The Royals' biggest chances came with Puscas and Ejaria working to dispossess the home side in their own box, but Ovie's poke toward his forward partner ended up being difficult to control and saw Puscas handle before shooting wide anyway. (I think the ref gave it as handball, but the data sites have included it; even if they've included it now, it would have been ruled out because it hit his hand before scoring. I think? Does that happen in the Championship?)

Reading's two shots within the box were from Puscas

Our biggest chance also fell to The Romanian, but I think it was harder than people give credit for. A deflected shot from Rinomhota spun high and fell right onto Puscas head. It was coming at a strange angle, and he just seemed to lose his bearings a little bit. In the end, he probably had enough time to let it drop and strike, but it's a split-second decision. Should he have done better? Maybe. When that's the best chance a side has, though, maybe they need better chances.

At times Reading seemed penned into their own third, and that led to direct passes forward, that rarely found Meite or Puscas. They effectively played as a front two at points, with the other nine behind the ball. When they did work it up the field, a poor touch or pass would inevitably see the move collapse. Olise was a big culprit but, again, I think it looks worse because he uses his left foot for everything, so shifting it with the outside is seen as a bit fancy for English football anyway. Regardless, it's hard to argue he didn't look fully invested.

Another reason why it's harsh to say Reading weren't trying to win the game is just how many times they were then caught on the break pushing men forward in the second half. A more clinical side would have put us to the sword in that second period, but instead, Luton missed final passes to basically unmarked players.

Pushing players forward is not everything though. And here again we see Puscas' attribute of not being Lucas Joao caused a few issues around the edge of the box. Puscas is far more hesitant to have a pop from 18 yards, and that leads to... no shots on target until the 91st minute. You would have thought that Meite would rectify that, but he was completely anonymous. 

I think the easy targets for those that don't think the team are trying hard enough are two players who will (likely) not be at The Madejski next season. Richards and Olise seem to bear the brunt given that their future presumably lies elsewhere. Olise has had a pretty average couple of matches, but it's worth remembering how he provided impetus against Watford or unlocked the game against Derby. That's to say nothing of the rest of the season.

Earlier in the season Ovie would be predominantly attempting to interact with Richards, instead, he's forced to come inside

Richards was one of the shining lights of the opening half of the season but has dipped in people's estimations since coming back from his injury. I think, in reality, Richards has been one of the most consistent performers but Reading have shifted away from having an over-reliance on the left side with Yiadom's reintroduction to the team. That leaves Richards in situations without the same kind of support. And even though Richards may offer width down the left, it doesn't necessarily end up finding him because.. you know, Reading and switching play.

Richards was virtually ignored on the left, while all the play went down the right

In fact, with Meite, Yiadom, and Puscas that relegates Richards to effectively playing as a completely defensive full back. It is interesting that with the three of them on the pitch Paunovic has actually tended toward a system very similar to what Bowen was trying to produce, with Meite coming inside as a second striker and Yiadom being given the entire right-hand side - but that's to the detriment of getting Omar on the ball in dangerous situations.

This is all pointless, I can't wait for the sweet relief of May 9.

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