Reading’s aggressive approach did at least dispel any illusions Alexander Merkel may have had regarding the sort of football games he’s going to be involved in. Nominally an attacking player he sat deep in the midfield in this one, Iriney’s decent run-out at Ashton Gate obviously not pushing him back up the pecking order. The German took a while to settle, twice giving the ball away in circumstances that suggested he’d have preferred rather more thinking time. As the game went on, particularly as we got onto the front foot on the second half, he became increasingly influential… comfortable in possession, happy to receive the ball in tight corners and find space, find the pass and as he stepped forwards Reading, looking leggy after their first-half efforts, began to creak. Slight of frame, he nonetheless demonstrated early and with some gusto that he likes a tackle… already on a yellow, his silly, reckless challenge on Nick Blackman late on was always going to see him departing early – a straight red, it turned out. Irritating. As was the smattering of applause he received. Quite what was to applaud about a needless high tackle in the centre circle was beyond me.
I confess, I’ve found all of this a little difficult. In truth, I have a natural resistance to change that’s perfectly willing to defy sense if needs be: no matter how absurd it might seem, there’s part of me that’d prefer the comfortable, flawed, everyday familiarity of Carl Dickinson to the altogether more continental, polished and exotic Daniel Pudil. There’s part of me that hasn’t really got the hang of Manuel Almunia, no matter how fine and handsome and musketeery he might be; part of me that’s desperately eager to damn Fernando Forestieri for being a cheating little fraudster rather than gasp at his magic tricks. There’s part of me that simply doesn’t believe in Neuton, that tries to picture him and then gets lost in the same impenetrable brow-furrowing fog occupied by things like quantum physics, Jupiter’s moons and Sarah Palin. And if we really get to the heart of the matter, there’s an awful lot of me that just wanted Ray Lewington to be the manager forever and hasn’t entirely let go of the idea, even now.
Woolford struck the post with a left-footed strike shortly after the restart, while Troy Deeney, back in the Watford fold after serving a prison term, came on as a substitute for Fernando Forestieri after 55 minutes.BC