Reading seem very much confined to relegation, as they lost their seventh consecutive league game to Southampton 2-0 at the Madejski Stadium.
Royals boss Nigel Adkins decided to make a notable five changes to the side that was thrashed by Arsenal last week, which meant a start for Adam Le Fondre, the returning Adam Federici and the often-absent Chris Gunter. It was a decent start from Adkins’ side in his first home as Reading boss, with the team applying good pressure on the Saints from the off, much to the joy of the home fans.
Defender Sean Morrison had the first sight of goal in the all important fixture, but his header did not trouble Artur Boruc in the Saints goal. Pochettino’s side struggled to get going in the opening exchanges, with Reading’s pressure continuing on the Southampton backline. This pressure led to the best chance of the goal for Adam le Fondre, but the forward could not convert on the volley from ten yards, after the Saints defence failed to clear.
The passing football that Adkins has been keen to emphasis among the squad was starting to appear and good work on the right allowed Guthrie to swing in a cross for Mariappa to attack, but his tame header was palmed away by Boruc. Adkins’ side started to lose their way and the away side started to come into the game and eventually broke the deadlock at the Madejski, arguably undeserved.
Good build-up play from Southampton gave Gaston Ramirez the chance to chip a ball through for the inform Jay Rodriguez, who managed to squeeze his effort under Adam Federici and into the goal. Some have said it could be a foul, but the lad had every right to go for the ball. Reading had lost their way and considered themselves lucky it wasn’t two for the former Burnley man, as he smashed an effort against the bar minutes later.
Mistakes were starting to get into Reading’s play and Mariappa gifted the ball to the lively Rodriguez, whose burst of acceleration took Morrison out of the game, but Federici was alive to the danger and saved his low effort. The half time whistle went with the Royals rattled, but the Madejski crowd remained faithful, as the majority appreciated their first half efforts to no avail.
Into the second period, it was a fairly slow start from both sides, but Rodriguez almost turned supplier for Lambert, but the forward couldn’t latch onto his dangerous ball across the face of goal. Southampton were getting increasingly comfortable as the game progressed, keeping possession well and pressing the Royals high up the pitch, as we expected. It was evident the Royals were struggling to break down an organised Saints outfit.
The pressure and control of the game eventually paid dividends, as substitute Adam Lallana scored a second to drown any hopes the Royals had. A clever one-two between him and Rodriguez gave the midfielder a great chance to slot home past Federici, which he duly did. A response wasn’t really seen from Adkins side, who looked as if they had accepted defeat and relegation to the Championship.
Reading thought they were back in the game minutes later, as Le Fondre’s header gave Artur Boruc a problem and in real game time, it appeared the keeper carried the ball over the line, but the linesman thought otherwise. With Reading working to get back into the game, the visitors were a threat on the break and Guly da Prado really should have added gloss to the scoreline, but fired over from ten yards in injury time.
Vital Reading verdict: The difference between the two sides was evident, proving how when money is spent and spent correctly, you can heap the benefits. Credit has to go to Southampton for the way they played and controlled the majority of the game, but we do make it too easy sometimes. Either way, I saw glimpses that will make me look forward to Championship football next season under Adkins.
Reading – 4-5-1: Federici, Gunter, Mariappa, Morrison, Kelly, Karacan, Akpan, Guthrie, McAnuff, Robson-Kanu, Le Fondre
Subs: McCarthy, Harte, Pearce, Leigertwood, McCleary, Pogrebnyak, Hunt
Southampton – 4-3-3: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Schneiderlin, Davis, Cork, Rodriguez, Ramirez, Lambert
Subs: Davis, Fonte, Fox, Ward-Prowse, Lallana, Do Prado, Puncheon
Brought straight back in by Adkins and didn’t do a huge amount wrong, although you could pose a few question marks about the first goal and his bravery in winning the ball. A crucial stop minutes after the goal.
Didn’t do too bad considering he has been proven out for a while, but still looks Championship-quality. Good urgency to overlap, but got dragged inside too much in the second period.
Probably his worst game in a Reading shirt. Almost gifted Rodriguez a goal late in the first half and was shaky throughout.
Too much of a liability at times and gets out foxed my movement constantly. I can understand the decision to drop Pearce, but Morrison is way too out of his depth in this division.
From the start it was clear he wasn’t particularly comfortable in the left-back slot. Struggled when Rodriguez was swapped over to his side. Can see a new left back in the summer if Adkins isn’t keen to play his left-backs over an out of position right back.
Still doesn’t bring enough to the team. Works hard as ever, but not composed on the ball enough.
The former Crawley midfielder put himself about and was having a good game before being subbed at half time due to injury.
Proved what we have been missing at times, made use of our width with some great cross-field balls. Drifted out of the game in the second half, but still unlucky to be subbed.
The outstanding performance from Shaw was one of the main reasons the inform winger was quiet in this game. Moved into the middle in the final stages of the game, but was ineffective.
One of his better performances in recent games, but his defensive tracking was a notable improvement. However, this did nullify his attacking threat at times.
Le Fondre 5
Was surprised to see him named on his own up front, but as you would expect, he struggled to have a huge affect on the game. Was exploited best when Guthrie found space in front of their midfield. Should have scored.