Date:Saturday December 7 2013
7th December 2013 3pm
A packed away end delighted in a smart and tidy afternoons work from Howe's side as we eased to a rare away win at Reading.
Howe rang the changes going 4-5-1, the usual back four with Surman coming into midfield with Arter and Okane, Pugh and Ritchie wide supporting Grabban up top.
The plan from the start was clear, soak up Reading possession and look to counter. And so for the opening stages, Reading set the pace. They had a lot of possession, working the ball around looking to penetrate our normally flakey spine. Except, this time, that spine stood up to the pressure and took it.
Billy Sharp was lively and chased things down, the Saints loanee drawing some stick threatened to score when his effort was blocked on the line.
But as the first half went on we became more comfortable, and somewhat against the run of play we even took the lead.
Daniels floated in a free kick, Elhpick rose highest to head at goal. The keeper parried the ball into the box, bouncing around the when Grabban pounced to smash the ball into the net seemingly taking the net off from close range, he was making no mistake. Cue chaos in the away end.
The visibly became more confident in midfield, instead of us containing we now became proactive and were stringing touches and passes together. The lead was doo doubled to really set the away end alight, as Ritchie marched forward to the edge of the box and hit it. It looked a little tame, will the keeper get it? No! It's in! Perhaps the keeper should have done better, we didn't care.
Arter and Surman really took command, and this frustrated the opposite midfield who at times couldn't get the ball off them. The first half was seen out to massive applause from the traveling support.
Second half, we expected the kitchen sink and all, there was no way we would get away comfortably. Massive Russian centre forward Pogregebyak came on. But instead of sticking to passing and possession, Reading saw the big Russian as a target for hoofball. Our midfield 5 did so well hassling and pushing, that the only alternative became the longer balls into the box. And that where Tommy Elphick really came into his own.
Watching Reading try and break us down was a lot like watching us at home lately. Struggling to get passing together in the middle, everything went wide, and everything was crossed in. Elphick dominated his penalty area, and when he couldn't get it Camp was happy to claim. We were biting our nails of course, but in reality Reading were mostly predictable and one dimensional.
On the break we had some great chances. We'd hit the ball down the channels for Grabban, Ritchie or Pugh to get onto, twist a bit and lay the ball off to Arter, and then play Grabban or Pugh in. Balls were then flashed across the face, and twice we were inches from a third. Fraser came on and missed a good chance with his head as the goal gaped.
It wasn't to be all comfortablebof course, Le Fondre got his usual goal against us, right on the stroke of 90 mins. Drenthe had a shot (ex real Madrid no less) and it was blocked falling to the goal poacher Le Fondre who finished, giving us a tense last few minutes.
However this time, there was to be no late heart break for Bournemouth at Reading, we stood firm and clinched all 3 points.
Camp 8 claimed everything with authority.
Francis 7 did his job, what you expect from him
Elphick 9.5, faultless and superb
Cook 8, tidied up, brought the ball forward, his usual good self.
Daniels 8, assist and a good solid job
Ritchie 9, non stop runs to support Grabban, always kept the ball, scored the crucial second.
Okane 7, buzzed around, tidy touches, supported well
Arter 8, non stop runs again, always offering support, was a pain in the arse for Reading.
Surman 8, best game by a million miles this season.
Pugh 9, One of those days where every twist, turn and flick came off, was superb a calmly keeping possession second half.
Grabban 9, did the lone man job well, ran all day, got his goal, led the line.
Fraser and Pitman had decent cameos.
All in all, a defensive masterclass from front to back. If our centre backs and central midfield do that every week then we'll be laughing. The trick is, do we keep one up front at home? Supporters will expect more than just soaking pressure and breaking.
More of the same please Mr Elphick.
Report by northstandmark
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Date:Saturday December 7 2013
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