Date: 3rd November 2013 at 4:05pm
Written by:

An abysmal defensive display from Reading meant they were well and truly taken apart by bottom-of-the-table Sheffield Wednesday, losing 5-2 at Hillsborough yesterday.

Nigel Adkins made just one change to the line-up that drew with Millwall last week, as Le Fondre was dropped for Hal Robsob-Kanu, with the Welsh international playing a slightly deeper role than the striker. It was a slow start from both sides in Sheffield, but Reading were being the more clinical in the attacking half, forcing Kirkland into two comfortable early saves.

Despite good progress in their attacking half, the defending was a completely different matter for the Royals. Wednesday opened the scoring just shy of the 20th minute, as a long ball over the top wasn`t dealt with well enough by the Reading backline and a cut back from the byline gave striker Matty Fryatt the chance to slam in the opener into an empty net.

A response would have been wanted from Nigel Adkins, but rather than getting a good one, he got a bad one, as the away side went further behind. Stephen Kelly was faced with former Royals winger Michail Antonio, who flicked the ball over the struggling defender, before he gave the winger the space to fire home a superb effort from 20-yards against his former side.

It was all falling apart for Reading, who had maintained a decent defensive record away from home before this fixture. Fryatt found another pocket of space between the full back and central defender soon after, but his cross couldn`t find his strike partner Wickham. Robson-Kanu had a good chance to get the Royals back into after he was set through, but his toe-poked effort trickled just wide.

Reading would respond with a goal though, ten minutes before the half time break. Chris Baird found Gunter in space on the right wing, and the defender cut inside and crossed for Pavel Pogrebnyak to rise highest above Roger Johnson and have his header deflected off the post and into the net. The visitors were back in the game after a shambolic start.

Adkins would have been satisfied to get a goal back and would have expected to lift his side in the dressing room at half time with only a one-goal deficit, but there was to be a further setback before the break. Baird carelessly gave the ball away in midfield and Wickham was set through, with his original effort being saved by McCarthy, but the keeper could only parry into his own defender Sean Morrison, with the ball trickling over the line in comical fashion.

At half time, despite his side being two goals down, Adkins would still fancy his side to have got something from the game if they improved their defensive problems, but that didn`t happen! Danny Guthrie had an early effort from long range, after some good build up play on the left from Obita and HRK, but the midfielder`s effort whistled just wide.

You could argue the games turning point would come minutes after this, as Reading`s best chance of the game was squandered. Chris Gunter made a rampaging run down the right side and worked his way to the byline, but his cut back was fired well over by his compatriot Hal Robson-Kanu from ten yards. It could have made the game 3-2, but instead, the home side went further infront.

Antonio was having a field day against Stephen Kelly and it was getting even better for the winger, as he was left one-on-one with the Irishman and as they say, the rest is history! His cross was low and firm, which the Royals defence failed to clear and it fell for Connor Wickham to smash home a fourth off the crossbar, on his league debut for Wednesday.

Us fans were growing understandably frustrated, especially with the diabolical and abject defending on show from Adkins` side. Were Wednesday done there? Of course not, as the defending was getting worse by the minute. Reading were caught high up the pitch and Matty Fryatt was slipped through by Wickham, and Fryatt made no mistake in putting the ball past McCarthy.

There was no response from a shell-shocked Reading side, who were even struggling to string two passes together in the Owls` half. Many will remember when we beat Sheffield Wednesday 6-0 in 2007 and it appears Dave Jones` side were out for revenge. Wickham should have made it six after a slack back pass was picked upon by the forward, but McCarthy stood firm to deny him a second.

Reading fans did have one more thing to shout about before our long trip back to Berkshire, as Adam Le Fondre converted a penalty late on in the game. Pogrebnyak, who really didn`t deserve to be on the losing side, drove into the box and was brought down by a Wednesday defender. The final whistle was blown, much to the joy of us fans!

It was probably the worst defensive display I have ever seen from Reading in my time of watching them, it was disgraceful and embarrassing. It`s not like we played bad in the attacking half, we just weren`t helped by the awful defending in the other end of the pitch. A response will be needed against QPR next week, otherwise Adkins could face a fan backlash.

Somehow we managed to remain in fifth place, but a gap seems to be forming with the teams above us. We need to remain in the play-off race at the very least, but with defending like that, you would assume a season of struggle. You can say a ‘bad day at the office’ all you want, but we have said that quite a lot recently. There is no need to panic, but questions need to be asked.

Sheffield Wednesday – 4-4-2: Kirkland; Buxton, Zayatte, Roger Johnson, Reda Johnson; Antonio, McPhail, Olifinjana, Helan; Fryatt, Whickham
Subs: Martinez, Llera, Coke, Palmer, Jermaine Johnson, Nuthiu

Reading – 4-2-3-1: McCarthy, Kelly, Gunter, Pearce, Morrison (C), Baird, Guthrie, McCleary, Obita, Robson-Kanu, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Federici, Gorkss, Cummings, Akpan, McAnuff, Blackman, Le Fondre