Royals end poor run with good away victory
Saturday 11th January 2014
Reading's barren run of five games without a win came to end at Vicarage Road, as Kaspars Gorkss' early header lifted the Royals to seventh place.
Nigel Adkins made four changes to the team that lost to Brighton in the cup last week, as Jobi McAnuff returned to captain the Royals against his former side, while Jordan Obita lined up in an unfamiliar left-back position. It was a lively start from Reading and McCleary made Almunia work in the opening seconds after a dangerous cross into the Watford area.
We have had a habit of conceding early goals in games recently, but we turned this stat on its head as the Royals went ahead just five minutes into the game. Obita`s pacey and perfect delivery from a corner was met well by Kaspars Gorkss, to give Reading the perfect start at Vicarage Road. It was a culture shock being in front, but it was justified with a very positive start.
Lewis McGugan was the first Watford player to try his luck at goal, but the player known his long-range ability did not oblige with his tag, as his effort went harmlessly wide. Jobi McAnuff doesn`t seem to get a good reception at his former clubs, but came within inches of silencing the home fans, after running inside past two men before his shot skidded just wide of the post.
We were restricting the home side space in our half and closing down very well, which was a massive improvement from the Brighton game last week. The home side did conjure a decent opening eventually though, as smart interchange from Watford led to debutant Merkel having a good sight of goal, but his tame effort from 15 yards was easy for McCarthy to gather.
Reading were playing a lot more direct this game with Pog and Alfie up front, but despite threatening too much in open play, it looked like set pieces would be Reading`s strong point. McAnuff`s free kick was attacked by Pogrebnyak, but the Russians header was way over the crossbar. This was the last notable effort of the half, with Reading probably deserving their lead at the break.
Adkins would have been very pleased with his side`s first half performance, but would have wanted to see more attacking intent and almost got this in the opening minutes, as Williams was teed up on the edge of the area, but the midfielder blazed over. Watford could not have really played much worse than the first half and unsurprisingly improved after the half time interval.
A ball from deep in Watford`s half caught out the duo of Pearce and Gorkss, with Deeney advancing, but the lack of pace on the lofted ball meant the striker`s header didn`t trouble McCarthy. Le Fondre would have wanted to prove a point to Adkins after he gifted him his second straight start and the striker had an effort just wide from the edge of the box, after Pogrebnyak controlled well.
Gorkss was having a very solid game but a poor touch nearly put his side in trouble, as McGugan found space on the right side and despite his overhit cross, Pudil recycled it for Deeney`s improvised effort to be very well tipped over by Alex McCarthy. Watford were starting to up the pressure and substitute Forestieri should have equalised, after being unmarked at the back post from Deeney`s cross.
The pressing from the home side continued and Deeney would have been disappointed to not have drawn the sides level, as Doyley`s pull back was perfect for the forward but blazed his shot over the bar. Watford then almost caught the Royals out with a quick throw, as Forestieri`s dipping effort had to be palmed wide by McCarthy, albeit a save he should make.
Adkins opted to keep his 4-4-2 shape throughout the match and his side were trying to use the width to their advantage to slow the clock down and almost dealt the finishing blow, as McAnuff`s cross was headed over by the impressive Pogrebnyak. Watford then were reduced to ten men, as Merkel was sent off for a dangerously high challenge on Nick Blackman into injury time.
McGugan`s long range free kick was the last effort of the game, as McCarthy pushed it wide, but referee Keith Stroud blew the final whistle before the corner could be taken. A good win to end this bad run and hopefully boost the confidence around the camp - it was a good, battling performance. Well done also to Adkins for his tactics, which were spot on today.
Watford - 3-5-2: Almunia, Doyley, Angella, Ekstrand, Bellerin, McGugan, Merkel, Murray, Pudil, Fabbrini, Deeney.
Subs: Woods, Nosworthy, Hall, Iriney, Faroani, Battochio, Forestieri
Reading - 4-4-2: McCarthy, Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss, Obita, McCleary, Akpan, Williams, McAnuff, Le Fondre, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Federici, Hector, Kelly, Cummings, J.Taylor, Drenthe, Blackman