Remember last season when if the Royals took the lead, you just knew they'd win? Remember clean sheet watch we ran on the sidebar, or that famous winning run that saw us grind out results and seal the title? Yeah this season isn't quite as fun is it? Despite leading past the hour mark, Reading once again couldn't hold on to a lead and extended their winless run to start the season to nine games. Kaspars Gorkss scored against his former club but the Latvian Captain's goal wasn't enough as Djibril Cisse's second half goal ensured QPR got a point.
Reading Prem Watch:
2006/07 PLD:8 W:4 D:1 L4 PTS 13 - 9th
2007/08 PLD:9 W:3 D:1 L5 PTS 10 - 12th
2012/13 PLD:9 W:0 D:5 L:4 PTS: 5 - 18th
Reading: McCarthy (9); Shorey (6); Morrison (7), Gorkss (7), Gunter (7); McAnuff (6), Leigertwood (7), Tabb (8), McCleary (6); Hunt (6), Roberts (7) Subs: Robson-Kanu (6), Kebe (7), Le Fondre (6)
I don't know what it is about Reading this season because in the first half of games they've looked a very solid and confident Premier League team, in fact if games this season ended at the interval we'd have 14 points right now and pushing for Europe. Sadly the second half table is a nightmare as Reading have now blown leads against Chelsea, Newcastle, Swansea, Fulham and QPR.
Still, after the carnage that was the Arsenal game I don't think I'm distraught with a solid point and credit to the XI that started who put in a good hard working performance, though one that lacked quality in key areas.
Team wise Garath McCleary and Chris Gunter kept their places from midweek replacing Kebe and Cummings, Hunt replaced Pogrebnyak while with Adrian Mariappa injured, Brian elected to keep Morrison and Gorkss together ahead of reigning player of the season Alex Pearce. Weeks ago now we speculated that there was some behind the scenes issue keeping Pearce out and now those fears seem sadly well founded as Brian hinted during an interview this week that it was his contract situation that was playing a part. We'll talk about this a little later in the week but needless to say it's frustrating for all parties.
However take nothing away from Sean Morrison who didn't look out of his depth in the Premier League and defended well, as did his partner Gorkss who gave Reading the lead after just 16 minutes. Morrison twice got on the end of a bouncing ball in the area and the ball then fell to the Latvian who scored against his former side for the second time in 6 weeks. Gorkss didn't really celebrate out of respect but it was a huge relief to the watching Reading fans and little less than the Royals deserved for a good first 15 minutes.
QPR certainly had more quality in their team on paper but they looked disjointed and struggled to play the right pass or just give that extra bit of work rate that you need at this level. Rangers rarely troubled Reading throughout the first half and most of their efforts were long rangers that McCarthy was happy to see drift over the bar.
McCarthy did have to make one key save in the half and it was a stunner, as he somehow got a fingertip on former Real Madrid midfielder Estaban Granero's free-kick that seemed destined for the top corner.
Reading didn't create too much after taking the lead but did have a chance with a Shorey free-kick on the edge of the box that went just past the angle.
Into the second half and Rangers looked a much stronger team, pushing the Royals back into their own half and spending a lot longer on the ball. I don't know what Brian says to the lads at half-time but please change the script because it seems that every week we go out and drop deeper and deeper in the second half and it costs us time and time again. Maybe it's a fitness issue, or maybe the opposition have generally just woken up at half time but it's becoming a problem and Rangers equaliser came as no surprise 20 minutes into the second-half.
Jose Bosingwa had a couple of bites of the cherry to get the ball in on the right hand side and his delivery was placed perfectly across the edge of the six-yard line. Morrison dived to win the header but missed it, leaving Cisse to take a touch and fire low past a helpless McCarthy.
Thankfully QPR didn't really press home their advantage and it soon turned into a bit of an end-to-end contest where either side could have snatched all three points. Kebe had come on for McCleary just before the goal but in another interesting move, McDermott subbed captain McAnuff for Hal Robson-Kanu with 11 minutes to go. Robson-Kanu could have made an instant impact but couldn't direct his header from a goalwards. Jimmy Kebe also made a couple of great solo runs to remind us of the Jimmy of old but both times failed to produce an effort that troubled Cesar in the QPR goal.
QPR had the best chances to win it though and Reading were indebtted to McCarthy for keeping the scores level as he produced a stunning 1-on-1 save from Taarabt that most of the ground had already started celebrating. Then right at the death Cisse hit a stunning long range drive that just about swerved wide of the post.
The full time whistle brought boos from the Rangers fans, with many calling for Harry Redknapp but Reading won't be too distraught at leaving Loftus Road with a point.
Performance wise, Alex McCarthy was Sky's man of the match and deservedly so for another sensational performance. If we do stay up it'll be in no small part down to this young goalkeeper who has to be in consideration for the England squad soon.
The defence was much shuffled but did OK. Morrison and Gorkss both looked solid enough and it'll be interesting to see whether McDermott restores Mariappa when he's fit. Shorey didn't have a great game and should have stopped the cross for the goal but otherwise was OK. Gunter looked pretty good down the right but Shaun Cummings might feel a little hard done by for getting dropped.
Jobi McAnuff was also OK without being amazing, while the same can be said of the man on the other wing Garath McCleary who did little to suggest he's a definate starter ahead of Kebe going forward. Leigertwood and Tabb were both good with Tabb in particular excellent in the midfield. Much like Noel Hunt, I didn't think he'd be playing much of a role this year but he was probably second in my MOTM rankings after a great performance. Ledge was also good but once again gave the ball away too often, nearly fatally after giving the ball away in the final minute that led to Cisse's last minute effort.
Both strikers worked hard with Roberts the better of the two in my eyes. it was a bit of a subdued game for Noel Hunt who once again worked his socks off but struggled to make the sort of impact that he has done through most of his appearances this year. However given he'd scored 3 in his last 3 starts, you can understand a quieter game.
Subs wise and Kebe showed encouraging glimpses of his best form, taking on players and causing problems on the break, If only he played with that much purpose and drive when he started, then we could have the man to turn this season around. Robson-Kanu and Le Fondre both had little time to make a real impact.
So what have we learned?
Well Reading still clearly lack the quality that's going to get them the 'extra' special goals that'll nick wins in games like this. Kebe aside there seems nobody who can just do something on their own and create a chance or score a goal out of nowehere. Likewise the midfield is hard working yet lacks imagination while without any central midfield cover there's nobody to come on and ease the constant physical and mental pressure on our current starting two. With the extra intensity of this league it's almost impossible to go 90 minutes without a lapse or two and maybe that's why we're seeing the team drop deeper after the hour mark as they struggle to match the concentration and energy of the first 60 minutes.Sadly we still very much look like a good Championship team rather than a Premier League team.
Is it time to panic? No still not yet but I don't think there's any Reading fan out there that isn't worried now.
Any point gained away from home is a good point and when it stops your relegation rival getting two points, even better. However that's another winnable game that's slipped away and it only increases the pressure on games such as Norwich on Saturday. Our margin for error is growing smaller game by game and this run can't go on for much longer.
Oh well, after the dire nature of the defeat on Tuesday night this was better but there's still some way to go before we can feel safe. Let's hope this was the first step in the right direction rather than the peak of our powers.
But how did you see it? Please let us know in the comments section below.