Reading beat Southampton in a top of the table clash, but both teams are still odds on for promotion - here's seven things we learned from last nights game.
1. Both teams are going up
The gap between Southampton and West Ham may be down to just 3 points if the Hammers beat Brighton this weekend but this game showed Southampton are a class above the lumbering West Ham side. One would expect Southampton to continue to cruise to promotion despite this loss.
Reading meanwhile are 9 points clear of West Ham and are all but promoted with the third placed side unlikely to take more than 7 points from their next 4 games. However, the question of which of the top two may win the title is still up in the air. Though Reading are now favourites.
2. Reading missed their usual centre midfield
Hayden Mullins was the equivalent of a billow of smoke. Jay Tabb, was too unfit to do much more than the basics. With the normal centre midfield of Jem Karacan and Mikele Leigertwood out injured, the Reading victory seems even more remarkable. When Jobi McAnuff moved into the middle after Tabb went off, Reading grabbed a hold back on the midfield and punished Southampton. Expect to see McAnuff in the middle for the rest of the season.
3. Adam Lallana could be something special
Nigel Adkins claimed a while ago that Adam Lallana was the “best player in the league”. Lallana’s first half performance in the game and top form all season suggests a brilliant tricky winger who will win over many fans in the Premier League next season. Perhaps a future England international?
4. Reading may need pace at the back to survive in the Premiership
It was plain to see in the Championship Play Off Final last year that Reading’s undoing was the blistering pace of Swansea’s wingers against the zero speed of Andy Griffin and Ian Harte. Reading may have the meanest defence in the Championship but Harte remains and Alex Pearce in particular is incredibly slow. Time will tell as to if Reading’s back line can keep up with the faster pace of the Premier League.
5. Southampton’s full backs provide some of the best delivery in the league
The two Danny’s of Fox and Butterfield were putting quality crosses into the box all game long, threatening the Reading defence and nearly teeing up Rickie Lambert on numerous occasions. Although the ball of the game has got to go Jimmy Kebe’s delightful assist for Jason Robert’s opener.
6. Reading’s run is amazing
43 points out of a possible 48 is the stuff of dreams for Reading Fans. Brian McDermott recently revealed that upon starting his management career he decided he would always do two things. One, go with his gut on team selection and two, always try to win games. Sticking on Adam Le Fondre, a striker, for the midfielder Jay Tabb at 1-1 with Southampton threatening and a draw being enough to solidify their promotion chances was a risky move. Two goals later and it was another masterstroke from McDermott
7. Rickie Lambert is going to be endlessly compared to Grant Holt next season
With Southampton likely to be in the Premiership next season, it seems pretty clear that top goal scoring Lambert will be compared to Norwich’s big, powerful centre forward Grant Holt. Lambert was a threat all game and has been vital to Southampton this season. He will have to be again if they are to survive next year.
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