Newcastle were left to face the sorry fact that defeat against Reading represented our twelfth league away defeat of the season.
Welcoming Michael Owen back to the starting line up, and Shola Ameobi to the bench, we still looked toothless up front, with the Reading goalkeeper largely untroubled throughout the game. In midfield, we started with Emre in the holding role, with Dyer, Milner and Sibierski charged with the task of providing Owen and Martins with chances.
It nearly paid off in the first minute, when a ball in from the left saw Owen almost getting a touch on the ball, only to be (wrongly) flagged offside. Our number 10 did manage to get the ball in the net later in the half, but again he was offside (this time correctly). Unfortunately, that was to be the highpoint of an otherwise deeply frustrating game.
Goalless at half time, Newcastle failed to match Reading after the break, as the home side increased the tempo in their game. However, we were to prove masters of our own downfall – with Taylor guilty of unnecessarily dwelling on the ball in the middle of the pitch. He was tackled, and Reading were able to get the ball down the left, before swinging in a cross which Dave Kitson latched on to at the back post to score in the league for the first time since the opening day of the season.
Whilst that was Taylor’s only error of the game, alongside him Bramble seemed determined to allow Reading to add to their goal tally, with a selection of mis-hit back passes, and poor decisions fortunate to go unpunished.
Things grew worse as first Sibierski, and then Emre left the pitch to injuries, leaving Newcastle with a three man strike force, and a midfield featuring Dyer, Milner and the Zog. Despite a seemingly potent front six, we were unable to fashion a sufficient number of chances for our two slightly rusty strikers, and one who looks slightly out of form. As it was, our best chance of the second half fell to Milner, whose shot from outside the area just failed to curl inside the far post.
By then though, we’d long since lost our shape, and as the clock ticked down, we couldn’t fashion any decent spell of sustained pressure or break Reading’s incredibly well drilled defence down. The contrast between the two back fours, ultimately, proving to be the difference between the sides.
Other reports: BBC