Royals back on track with away win
New York Stadium
Saturday 22nd October 2016
Will we ever win a game simply or comfortably? Obviously not. It is a win nonetheless though, thanks to skipper Paul McShane's late winner.
The Royals travelled to Yorkshire to take on a Rotherham side who had lost six on the bounce in the league and sacked manager Alan Stubbs as a result. The wiley and experienced Kenny Jackett took the helm in an attempt to revive their chances of staying in the division. We didn't exactly go into the game in the best form either, having not won in our last four games.
Jaap shuffled his cards slightly going into this one. Academy graduate Liam Kelly made his Championship debut in the place of George Evans, who I personally thought was one of our better players the other night. Bar this change, it was as you were, with the squad looking slightly thin, naming just four defenders on the bench, one of whom came on to be the match winner!
The hosts certainly started the game the better and were on the front foot from the off, as Al-Habsi was forced into early to palm away Newell's effort after cutting in from the left. Greg Halford, remember him? He doesn't carry many qualities, in fact only one - his long throws. These were causing some nuisance for the Royals who were noticeably lacking in height.
Due to Roterham's physical approach, young Liam Kelly was sacrificed early by Jaap Stam, just 27 minutes in, as he was replaced in a tactical move, as skipper Paul McShane came into partner Moore, with Joey pushing into midfield. Some may say it was harsh on the young lad, especially with it being his first start, but I get why Stam did it - why wait longer if it isn't working?
Reading slowly grew into the half and came close when Swifty took aim from 25 yards, but his dipping shot dropped just wide of Lee Camp's post. The half time stats saw the away side have 80% of the ball, yet ZERO shots on target! Not the most pleasant stat, but let's be honest, only one stat matters in football! Jackett's rejuvenated side started the second period in similar vein to the first.
Another Halford long throw caused absolute chaos in the box and led to an almighty goalmouth scramble, which the referee luckily bailed us out on by giving us a foul, not exactly sure what for though! Al-Habsi then made a contender for save of the season, as Wood's point blanc header was somehow kept out by the Omani keeper - unbelievable save and a crucial one.
Just minutes later in what was our first meaningful attack of the half, we won a penalty out of nowhere. Van der Berg played a neat one-two with Swift and the Dutchman was brought down in the area and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Danny Williams missed on Tuesday but it was down to the usually reliable McCleary this time - Camp saved down the middle!
Instead of letting this miss get to them and crumble, we showed some metal for a change and took the game to the hosts for the next half an hour. Yann Kermorgant nearly profited after a good move, but he couldn't convert Gunter's low cross. The Royals continued to batter the Millers' goal, with some poor finishing and some heroic defending keeping the game a stalemate.
The deadlock was finally broken thanks to super sub and captain, Paul McShane!. Roy Beerens cut in from the left and fired a shot at goal which Camp parried, but only to the ginger Messi, who took a majestic touch on his thigh before firing home at the back post. It takes his tally for the season to two, both decent finishes, is he the answer to our striker problem?!
We managed to see the game out comfortably, but my goodness, we don't do things the simple way do we?! It's a priceless win, which takes us to eighth place in the table - not bad considering we have only won one in five. This was always going to be tough considering the circumstances, despite their position. I'm sure Jackett will give them half a chance, but we march on!
Rotherham - 4-4-2: Camp; Fisher, Fry, Wood, Mattock; Taylor, Halford, Frecklington, Newell; D Ward, Blackstock.
Subs: Vaulks, Forde, Forster-Caskey, Price, Ball, Belaid, Brown.
Reading - 4-3-3: Al-Habsi; Gunter, Moore, Van der Berg, Obita; Kelly, Williams, Swift; McCleary, Kermorgant, Beerens.
Subs: Moore, McShane, Gravenberch, Blackett, Watson, Evans, Samuel.