CLARKE’S ROYALS FINALLY CLICKING
First-half goals are enough to sink Owls
STEVE Clarke believes things are starting to click at the Madejski Stadium after Reading consolidated their mid-table position with a comfortable victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
The Royals took control through first-half goals from a Pavel Pogrebnyak header and a superb strike by Nathaniel Chalobah from the edge of the box.
Hal Robson-Kanu missed a second-half penalty but it didn’t matter as the Royals comfortably saw the game out, leaving manager Clarke to claim his side are on the right track after just one defeat in their last eight games.
“I’m pleased with the performance,” said Clarke. “I’m pleased with our cleansheet and pleased with our attacking threat.
“It was a good performance and it finishes off a really good week for us.
“It’s been a good four points from two difficult games. Slowly, step by step, I can see a real improvement.
“Pavel’s strengths are there for everyone to see – he is a willing worker, he holds the ball up for us and if you put quality balls in the box for him he is a proven goalscorer.
“Garath McCleary is an explosive player so you have to try and protect him which is why I took him off, and Hal-Robson Kanu, in those wide positions I ask the players to run really hard.
“Slowly, slowly, you have to take it step by step. The basis for most teams is a solid defence and if you have that you will pick up points.”
Reading deservedly led just before the half-hour mark as Stephen Kelly’s cross was powerfully headed home by the unmarked Pogrebnyak for his third goal of the season.
The Royals doubled their lead five minutes before the interval as the dangerous McCleary surged forward from deep before crossing for Chelsea loanee Chalobah, who swept expertly into the far corner.
Only a minute later Wednesday skipper Glenn Loovens had to clear off his own line, starting an Owls counter-attack that ended with Will Keane forcing a smart save by Adam Federici to his left.
The second-half started frenetically as McCleary had a fierce strike harshly ruled out for offside and the Owls showed signs of a recovery.
However, just before the hour, Reading caught the visitors on the break, causing substitute Jeremy Helan to haul down the impressive Pogrebnyak.
However, Robson-Kanu could only produce a tame spot-kick that Keiren Westwood easily saved to his right.
There after, Wednesday threatened but failed to produce any quality to cheer their outstanding away support of nearly 2,400 raucous fans, allowing Reading to secure a fourth clean sheet in six games.
Wednesday boss Stuart Gray gave a frank assessment of his side’s display – or lack of it.
He said: “The disappointing thing was the manner of the two goals we conceded.
“They’ve put two crosses in the box and they’ve got two goals – and suddenly we have to chase the game.
“I can’t remember us putting a tackle in across the first half and that was really disappointing – you’ve got to have that desire to win the ball back.We didn’t lay a glove on them and that is disappointing.
“I thought second half we were better, they were set up to counterattack and we played well.
“We’ve had to chase the game and we were vulnerable to the counter-attack.
“It’s the same old problems – we’ve got in some good areas but not got that last touch.
“We’ve recently done some business regarding getting players in and we know that we need to strengthen.”
JACQ THE LAD: Reading’s Oliver Norwood tussles with Jacques Maghoma
ROYAL APPROVAL: Reading’s Pavel Pogrebnyak, centre, celebrates opening the scoring