Tim Dellor's Royals Watching: Reading need injured players to return quickly
A lot can happen in ten minutes of added on time at the end of a game. When the fourth official raised his board to indicate that was how long Reading would need to cling on to their 1-0 lead in South Wales last weekend, it filled fans with fear. Reading’s players looked wrecked, Cardiff had just hit the inside of the woodwork and things were starting to look a bit desperate.
The late goals conceded at Stoke, Coventry and at home to QPR are still raw. It was a traumatic first half dozen games of the season, mainly because Reading were unable to see out games without conceding. The habit has led to extreme drama, tension and excitement lately, but it is not great for the long term health of fans.
At Cardiff, Reading managed to hang on. That is now two consecutive Saturday’s when Reading have not conceded. This weekend Reading do not have a game, so make that three. Any statistic or factoid that helps Reading’s defenders confidence should be pounced upon.
Never has an international break come at a better time for Veljko Paunovic’s injury blighted team. There are now a dozen players receiving treatment, and the squad is down to the bare bones. On Saturday, Reading really only had one outfield sub on the bench. Scott Dann must have felt like an OAP at a wild 18th birthday party. Jamari Clarke, the other sub used on the day, was celebrating his 18th birthday down in Cardiff. Like all his young mates, he will be terrific once he passes his 21st birthday, but not yet.
Such a long injury list, combined with the transfer embargo in place over the summer, is starting to take its toll. Four wins in the last five games and a much improved defensive record suggests everything is hunky dory, but in truth they are right on the edge of disaster.
Every Reading fan will have their fingers crossed the physios at the Bearwood Training Centre can work some healing magic and get a few of the big guns back for the Barnsley game on Saturday, October 16. How they would like to see Lucas Joao, or Tom McIntyre or Andy Rinohmota fit again.
Lots has been made of the number of injuries, but the issue has been as much about the length of time each player has been side-lined. Rinohmota last played at the end of August. McIntyre was mid-August. Joao last played in the second game of the season. That is just a random three players who if fit would play. Michael Morrison, Tom Holmes, Dejan Tetek, Alen Halilovic, Yakou Meite, Felipe Araruna…the list goes on.
For the fit players, this week is all about getting feet up and resting. The management staff need to be examining just why so many players are picking up long term injuries. Surely it cannot just be bad luck or coincidental?
Next week they will be back training ahead of the upcoming run of games. On the plus side, three of Reading’s next four games are at home, so that should increase the chance of a decent points haul.