Reading picked up a point at the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday as Brendan Rodgers’ side drew 0-0 at Swansea. Keeper Adam Federici was the hero as he saved a first-half penalty from Mark Gower, while Noel Hunt and Matthew Mills came the closest to grabbing the points for the Royals. Reading have now only picked up two points from a possible nine, failing to score along the way.
They won`t want to admit it, but Royals supporters must be happy with the point earned away at Swansea tonight. Were it not for two world-class saves from Reading keeper Adam Federici, Paulo Sousa`s side would have won comfortably here. Mark Gower saw his first-half penalty turned around the post and, along with Stephen Dobbie and Kerry Morgan, ought to have inflicted another worrying defeat for the Royals.
An intimidating Liberty Stadium did not provide the most welcoming of theatres for a visiting team predominantly made up of youngsters.However, Royals manager Brendan Rodgers went with youth over experience by leaving Noel Hunt, James Harper, Jay Tabb and Shane Long all on the bench. Scott Davies provided the ballast behind a three-pronged attack comprising of Hal Robson-Kanu, James Henry and Simon Church, while Jem Karacam and Kalifa Cisse negotiated the midfield switchgear together.
But, with Swansea`s Leon Britton shielding the back four in similar style to the intelligent deployment of Newcastle`s Alan Smith at the weekend, Reading`s tame efforts to populate the opposing territory with orange shirts was utterly stifled, particularly in the first half. At times, Swans playmaker Andrea Orlandi doubled up with Britton to effectively form a six-man rearguard. As a result, the inept Church was unable to turn his man on the rare occasions Davies, Henry or Robson-Kanu tried to feed him.
The first of many talking points arrived on 24 minutes when,after initially ignoring heartfelt appeals for Kalifa Cisse’s illegal stray arm in the box, referee Simon Hooper awarded the hosts a penalty that Mark Gower failed to convert. Federici appeared to defy physics by applying a sufficiently strong hand to push the goal-bound spot-kick behind for a corner.
The Royals keeper’s reflexes were stretched just six minutes later when Dobbie forced him into an exquisite save from ambitious range that had the Reading fans behind that goal upstanding and toasting the Australian`s name once again.
Dobbie, Gower and Dyer continued to cause Reading problems. Were it not for the vigilance of Alex Pearce and Mills, Swansea may have made more of their probing into the channels.
At the other end, Reading did not cease to be ineffective. The green shoots of change started to emerge, however, with the half-time introduction of Irishman Noel Hunt. His confidence was infectious as he appeared to encourage Robson-Kanu and Henry to run at the Swans defence with more freedom, while the brutish attitude he exhibited going forward clearly had a positive influence as Robson-Kanu, in particular, looked less afraid to shoot when he had the chance.
Following a first half run-around for Reading`s youth, the changes Rodgers made in the second period looked more likely to pay dividends, with both Harper and Tabb coming on to supplement the good work already in place by Hunt. This is not to say, however, that Reading approached anything near domination.Quite the opposite, in fact. Dobbie and company relentlessly traded cute exchanges, one-twos and flicks that, together, represented a mutual awareness of one another’s positioning that Reading could not match.
Indeed, amid a series of chaotic scrambles resulting in near-miss ‘pot-shotting’, Liam Rosenior prevented the hosts from taking a 65-minute lead when he cleared Gower’s bullet of a header off the line. This was just moments after Hunt narrowly failed to convert Henry’s delightful cross at the other end with a glancing header that may have grazed the far post. Soon after, Dobbie was at it again for Swansea, firstly dodging the attention of Mills in order to test Federici once more – his 70th-minute close-range strike drawing strong appeals for a tip round the post -before dispatching a header wide of the mark from six yards after Morgan located the centre-forward superbly from the left. With Orlandi attempting from distance and Gower narrowly failing to negotiate a 20-yard effort into the bottom corner, Reading’s best chance of the match fell to Mills when the debutant saw a powerful point-blank header blocked on the line.
There was still time for Hunt to come close again when he leaped superbly to meet Robson-Kanu’s cross, but home keeper de Vries was found to be in vigilant form. Swans substitute Gorka Pintado should have won the game deep into injury time when Morgan deceived the Royals rearguard by squaring back to him from the by-line, but once again the hosts’ finishing prevented them from taking three points.
With the game acquiring more of an ‘end-to-end’ profile as it came to a close, the passing in midfield had become more zippy and the challenges had taken on an increasingly sinister feel. Robson-Kanu responded to being shoved off the ball by Dyer, which incurred the wrath of almost the entire Swansea team as a dramatic episode snowballed in the dug-out area late on. Both sides had chances to win and the shared frustration was evident as passage of the ball was subject to a scrappy conclusion. For Reading, the introduction of Hunt was crucial: they were only ever in the game from that point onwards. But Federici may think differently, given his match-saving performance.
Adam Federici 8
Save from Gower’s spot kick was the higlight of a fantastic performance
Often caught out of position, defended poorly at times and wasn’t very effective going forward either
Looked shaky at times on his league debut but will get better and saw a late header cleared off the line
All action defender improved on his display against Newcastle on Saturday
Kept Nathan Dyer very quiet
Pushed into midfield and did his job as a defensive midfielder well
Full of running linking the midfield well, unlucky to be taken off
Some nice touches before surprisingly being taken off at the break
Robson Kanu 6
Strong on the ball and ran with the ball well in the second half
First start of the season and looked a bit lightweight at times, but did deliver a couple of wonderful balls into the box, one that nearly saw Hunt score with a far post header
Very ineffective again upfront, and not much better when pushed back into an attacking midfield role
Hunt 7 (For Davies (46 mins)
Very lively second half display, surely done enough to start against Sheff Utd?
Harper 5 (For Karacan 58mins)
Almost gifted Swansea a goal with an awful pass on the edge of his own box
Missed a great chance at the end but did a decent job as we closed the game down and played for a point in the closing stages