Reading up to third after solid display at Turf Moor

reading celebrate

Burnley 1-2 Reading

Steve Clarke’s teams are known for their solidity and defensive endeavour, characteristics which were wholeheartedly embodied by his Reading players in their 2-1 win at Turf Moor. Some key changes helped Burnley apply long spells of second half pressure, but the away side managed to ride out nervy moments before making the journey back to Berkshire with 3 points.

The tone of the match was set 9 minutes in, as Reading built up a 2-0 lead. Burnley defender Michael Keane failed to clear the ball under pressure from Hal Robson-Kanu. In one of the sporting weekend’s rare moments of Welsh-English harmony, the Welshman teed up Nick Blackman, who showed composure to slot the ball into the corner.

The visitors got their second through an excellent passing move. Chris Gunter, marauding forward from right-back, drilled in a cross for Lucas Piazon to tap home from close range, giving Reading a 2 goal advantage. Burnley’s back-line was too often slow to close Reading down, even in their own penalty area, and Sean Dyche will be frustrated with the lack of bravery the defence showed.

After the 9 minute onslaught, Reading opted to protect their lead by defending deep, as their opponents struggled to create chances. Burnley forwards Sam Vokes and Rouwen Hennings offered no movement, while central midfielders Scott Arfield and David Jones were far too hesitant in possession.

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Tendayi Darikwa

It took Burnley around half an hour to increase the tempo, and get Tendayi Darikwa into the game. From then on however, the right-back was the best player on the pitch, showing battling qualities and attacking energy. With Boyd displaying little intent to involve himself in the game, Darikwa was the main man on Burnley’s right flank responsible for providing width. On the left, it was winger Michael Kightly, playing in front of a more conservative Ben Mee. However, Kightly was at times guilty of wasteful shooting, as the left winger had one effort blocked and one hit tamely at goalkeeper Jonathan Bond.

Burnley were able to get more crosses into the box in the latter stages of the first half, but the problem was that not enough men were breaking forward to provide a goal threat. Target man Sam Vokes looked too slow to react to balls that came his way, as Burnley’s attacks lacked a decisive edge.

Both teams started the second half slowly, a couple of speculative shots from Reading’s Hal Robson-Kanu being the closest either side came to scoring. That changed, however, when Sean Dyche made a key double substitution on 56 minutes. The Burnley boss put on forward Chris Long for the ineffective Rouwen Hennings, and new signing Joey Barton for Michael Kightly, with Scott Arfield moving out to the left in Kightly’s place.

Those changes altered the dynamics of the match. Barton, who was greeted with a positive reception from Burnley supporters, imposed himself on the game and showed his technical quality with some excellent passes out to the flanks. Scott Arfield, who had looked lifeless for the first 56 minutes, began to close opposition players down with more freedom on the left side, when he had looked less comfortable in a more disciplined, central role. Long showed a willingness to make early runs in behind the Reading defence and stretch play, thus creating more space for Burnley’s midfielders.

Burnley were now camped in the Reading half and they got a goal back through the ever-impressive Darikwa. A left-wing cross from Arfield looped over the head of Vokes, but Reading wide man Lucas Piazon had failed to track Darikwa’s run, leaving the rampaging right-back free for a back-post tap-in.

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Aaron Tshibola

Piazon struggled defensively and his manager was right to put on Aaron Tshibola. The ball-winning midfielder’s introduction, combined with Hal Robson-Kanu’s move to the left wing, coincided with a brief drop in intensity from Burnley. The Clarets continued to dominate possession but with the central areas more congested, they found it a bit harder to find their attacking momentum.

Reading came close to scoring late on, when Nick Blackman look to convert Danny Williams’ lay-off, but the forward’s effort was blocked on the line by Darikwa. In the final 5 minutes of normal time however, the home side were constantly launching balls into the Reading penalty area. Centre-backs Michael Hector and Paul McShane handled the pressure admirably, although the Royals rearguard needed a goal-line block from Oliver Norwood to avoid conceding an equalizer.

Norwood, a Reading player ironically born in Burnley, nearly put his side’s victory beyond all doubt, as the midfielder’s free-kick hit the woodwork. Ultimately, it did not matter, as the visitors held on for their 4th win in 5 league games. Reading have been putting in some excellent counter-attacking performances so far this season and next week, they have an opportunity to go 2 points off the automatic promotion places with a win over in-form Middlesbrough.

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Sean Dyche

Burnley are still level on points with 3rd place Reading, and Sean Dyche will be encouraged by the impact debutant Joey Barton made. However, given the sloppiness with which his side defended in the first 9 minutes, it would be naïve to argue that Burnley were hard done by. Reading were much stronger in both boxes and Steve Clarke’s men deserved 3 points for their stubborn defensive performance.