Reading stay win-less and Newcastle stay mid table as the Royals took the lead twice in the game only to be pulled back by two goals from Demba Ba.
Both teams lined up in a classic English 4-4-2 system; Cabaye, Coloccini and Krul all missed the game through injury so Bigirimana, Williamson and Harper featured. Brian McDermott decided to leave Danny Guthrie on the bench against his former team.
The formations mirrored each other and cancelled out the teams during the first half. Both left backs and right midfielders got forward early on but the only real chance came from a McAnuff cross into Pogrebnyak, however the striker was unable to beat Steve Harper. Long balls and crosses were clearly a part of the home teams game plan as 19 crosses were attempted in the first half alone, however only 5 of these found its target. Reading had trouble with their short passing too; only 65% of passes were completed. When Reading are in possession they move higher up the pitch into the opponents half, this can be shown by the fact that all bar one of Newcastle attempted tackles were at least ten yards inside Newcastle’s half.
When Newcastle were in possession they appeared calmer but with less intent, moving the ball around with short passes looking for Ben Arfa or the left wing to attack, if needed they would bring the ball back to the halfway line and start again. Newcastle’s pass completion was 12% higher than Readings at half time at 77% however Reading kept them away from goal by attempting to win the ball high up the pitch (6/11 attempted tackles and 4/6 interceptions came from within Newcastle’s half).
The game started to come to life after half time. The sides and formations stayed the same until Steven Taylor was removed on the 56th minute for James Tavernier, this coincided with the games first goal; Jimmy Kebe moved inside from a position on the right hand side, received the ball from McAnuff and was able to shoot low past Harper. Within a minute however, Ba had leveled after he volleyed a long ball from Tiote past McCarthy. The tempo of the game changed then on for the better. Tavernier fitted in at right back for Newcastle whilst Perch moved to Taylor’s position at centre back.
Reading continued to play in same manner and managed to complete 7 of another 19 crosses in the second half. These crosses did manage to find Reading players and four of which were key passes, one provided the third goal for Noel Hunt to head in and make it 2-1 in the 62nd minute.
Cisse and Bigirimana were taken off for Shola Ameobi and Ferguson respectively, and Reading responded by taking off Kebe for the more defensively sound McCleary. This meant that Gutierrez moved into central midfield to provide more experience while Ferguson provided the pace to take on the Reading defence. Ameobi was brought on to win headers and knock downs for Ba, who took a position further up the pitch.
Reading improved offensively on the right hand side as the less experienced Tavernier could not deal with McAnuff and Ben Arfa’s laziness at defending was shown once again. However the teams passing managed became worse and only 62% of passes were completed in the second half. The amount of take ons did improve though, as Perch and Tavernier were not able to fit in to their positions quickly enough.
Shane Ferguson proved to be a useful outlet for Newcastle when they did attack, and found Demba Ba with a precise cross who put the ball away to make it 2-2 with a goal that shouldn’t have stood.
The addition of Jason Roberts for Pavel Pogrebnyak didn’t change Readings approach; they completed 12 crosses from 18 attempts and kept rampaging down their left hand side at a fast tempo.
In conclusion Reading probably deserved to win the game but were wasteful with many opportunities (5 shots on target out of 16 attempts), while Newcastle didn’t offer much going forward. Newcastle were however the more efficient winning the majority of tackles, possession and aerial duels and had a superior take on conversion and pass completion percentage and earning another point whilst not playing at their best.