Reading’s strategy was to play direct balls into the channels behind, primarily, our left back (Macauley Gillesphey) and for the first half hour it worked very well. They had two swift lads up front and this tactic isolated Gillesphey and Satka, who was the left side centre back. Reading’s set pieces were very decent too; they rarely put it straight into the box. Instead they tried to work short routines or get it back to the edge of the box. We didn’t deal with this well at all.
They scored within the first minute after gaining ground on the left and then firing a low diagonal across the box. We neither cleared nor closed down (Bigirimana susceptible here) and it was an easy finish beyond Alnwick. We didn’t learn and our left side looked fragile. Admittedly, there was a reasonably strong wind against us; that helped their tactic. They got their second in the same way and, again, they managed to force their way past some soft challenges before their lad lashed it in.
We were really poor for the first half hour. Ben Arfa never got on it. Satka was all over the place and Armstrong was visibly frustrated up front on his own. Vučkić and Ameobi were anonymous too.
But then we got to grips with the Reading strategy and they didn’t have much else. Their best player was the number ten and he was tiny. Once he was closed down the balls over the top stopped and we were able to dominate the play, they had nobody else who looked comfortable on the ball so our bigger, sharper players were able to win the ball back fairly easily. We were playing 4-2-3-1 with Barlaser and Bigirimana holding. The former hasn’t played much at this level and I thought he looked nervous throughout. Continue reading