March 7, 2021

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Meite gives Paunovic food for thought as Reading FC’s mean streak continues

Reading extended their unbeaten run to seven matches on Saturday as they played out a 0-0 draw at Stoke City.

Chances were few and far between in a largely drab affair at the bet365 Stadium but there were a number of positives to come out of the game from a Royals perspective.

Veljko Paunovic’s side kept their 12th clean sheet of the season and in doing so, ensured they remained in touch with the sides all battling it out for promotion.

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Here are some of the main talking points from the game.

Reading ride their luck

There were very few key events in the game, with goalscoring chances for either side at a premium. The two most controversial moments both came in the Reading penalty box in the first half.

Firstly, Irish midfielder James McClean thought he had won his side a penalty when he brushed past Royals centre-back Tom McIntyre.

However, his protests were to no avail and instead he was shown a yellow card by referee Tim Robinson.

At first glance it looked like a dive and thankfully for Reading, Robinson saw it that way as well but on another day it could have been a different outcome.

The second big moment came just before the half hour mark when the Potters launched a swift counter-attack which ended in an acrobatic finish by Steven Fletcher.

Royals were again let off the hook as the Scotsman’s effort was ruled out for offside. Replays showed there wasn’t much in it, although it was the correct call.

But again, on another day, the linesman could easily have seen it the other way and Royals may well have ended up losing 2-0. Luck was on their side.

The Stoke curse continues

Remarkably, this was the third successive 0-0 draw between the two sides at the bet365 Stadium.

It is certainly not a good hunting ground for Reading who have found it extremely difficult to get anything out of games in the Potteries.

Back in March 2019 under Jose Gomes, Royals played out a 0-0 draw which is most fondly remembered for Callum Harriott’s losing battle with the wind while trying to take a corner. In that game, Reading had one shot on target.

Ovie Ejaria post match

Last season under Mark Bowen in December 2019, it was again a goalless draw. The most notable statistic was neither side had a single shot on target all game.

So it was hardly much of a surprise this game finished the way it did. Royals had one shot on target in the 90 minutes, with Ovie Ejaria firing straight at the goalkeeper late on.

As the old saying goes, can Reading do it on a cold, wet and windy afternoon in Stoke? It seems not.

Meite impact

Arguably, the best Reading player on show was attacker Yakou Meite who came on for the final half hour of the game.

The Ivory Coast international, who has only just come back from injury, gave Reading much more impetus going forward and gave the Stoke defenders plenty to think about.

The home side had come out the brighter in the second half but Meite’s introduction in place of John Swift shifted the balance of play.

Ultimately, he couldn’t haul the side to the victory but he has given his manager plenty to think about ahead of the crucial game on Wednesday night against Brentford.

Rock-solid defence

The final word on the game should go to the Reading defence who were as resolute as ever.

Michael Morrison, flanked by three academy graduates, once again led by example with a committed and fearless display, while Tom McIntyre continues to excel in skipper Liam Moore’s absence.

Tom Holmes made some extremely important interceptions to deny Stoke clear shots at goal and he earned a place in the Championship team of the weekend for his display.

Reading’s backline stayed strong

Omar Richards did not have his best game at left-back but did enough to ensure the hosts had very few clear-cut chances.

As pointed out on Twitter by @TalkReading, Reading have conceded the fewest goals (two) over the past six matches in all of the Football League.

The backline is giving them the perfect platform to have success and it is imperative they continue in a similar vein to ensure Royals keep their place in the top six.

Join us on Wednesday night

Reading are back in Championship action this week when they host promotion rivals Brentford.

Kick-off at Madejski Stadium is 7pm on Wednesday, February 10.

Join us for full coverage of the game throughout the evening with all of the build-up starting in our live blog from 3pm.

Keep an eye out for a live video on our dedicated Reading FC Facebook page as well post match.