Reading – Match Report vs. Derby County (03/01/2022)

Reading hosted bottom of the table Derby in the first game of the new year for the two clubs in the 2021/22 Championship season. A bottom of the table clash that featured two of the hot favourites for relegation this season, Derby’s predicament particularly unfair due to their early-season points deduction. Despite their place in the table, Derby have actually put a good recent run together winning 3 out of their last 4 in the Championship. Reading meanwhile were on a measly run, winning just 1 of their last 4 meetings. Reading had a really good early feel to this game, they started in a high octane manner, pressurising Derby at every level. Despite leading 2-0, they were never truly comfortable and allowed Derby back in the game by two headers, the first of which the keeper made a real meal of it. 

Ratings:

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, re-watch
  • D – Below average in this match

Tom Holmes

  • Nationality: English  
  • Age: 21
  • Date of birth: 12/03/2000
  • Current club: Reading 
  • Career: Reading
  • Position: Centre back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Tom Holmes played on the right side of centre back, marshalling and commanding a back four that had a nice mix of youth and experience. The aggressive centre-half did not let Derby’s striker have a moment’s peace. Constantly grappling and wrestling from set-pieces, Holmes is a real aggressor who likes to get touch-tight permanently. The constant grappling with Kazim Richards particularly (late sub for Derby) perhaps highlighted his naivety and his rawness, these were the type of fouls that could easily command a spot-kick for the opponents had the referee seen them. Also, there was instances where he was overly focussed on the man as opposed to the ball, again showing naivety and over-eagerness to be aggressive all the time. 

Holmes showed astute decision-making, dropping off when necessary and being aggressive when necessary to challenge in the air. When he was aggressive and engaging, which was the majority, he forced the error really well, pressurising opponents and not letting them turn. What really did stand out was his understanding of the game. Holmes holds good positions in the box and is the orchestrator of a lot of Reading’s good defensive shape. He utilises the offside trap really well, constantly scanning over his shoulder and stepping up to be level with his defence. He is organised and with some real experience in Reading’s back line he is not afraid to orchestrate the line and defensive responsibilities, showing real maturity. He has leadership qualities at such a young age, which is really promising, encouraging of his teammates when needed. He prefers to go for zonal marking from corners and this worked with real effect (despite the keeper’s howler), he makes himself big when closing down opponents and is quick to charge out to them. 

Physically he has a very good frame about him, strong, deceptively quick over long distances and physical, using his body well to marshall and close down attackers. He is not afraid of putting his body on the line and is a real threat in both boxes, often being the target for Reading’s set-pieces. Holmes played his part in Reading’s second when a free-kick was aimed up towards him and he attacked the ball with force, overpowering the defender to head to Hoilett for a tap-in. Despite being a real physical presence, he does not have the greatest leap in the world. For quite a big guy he was easily outjumped for Derby’s equaliser. Personally, I think this was more about poor body adjustment than anything else. He is a robust player so naturally, his body adjustment is going to be a bit slower than others.  

In terms of technical ability Tom Holmes showed promise, he has a real eye for a long, raking diagonal that nearly always reached the head of Andy Carroll up top for Reading. There were no examples of Holmes coming out with the ball and breaking the lines however and progressive passes through the midfield was not particularly his game. Holmes’ first touch and general control of the ball does need refining, on a couple of occasions, clearances were rushed and the ball got away from him from what should have been a simple control. 

Rating – A2

I personally think the attributes that he has at his disposal such as the awareness, the reading of the game, and the power he has will put him in securing an upwards move soon enough. The tactical attributes that he has shown real maturity and for a 21-year-old is really encouraging for the future. I think an upwards step to a play-off contender would not be distant in the future and would very much expect someone to come calling in the summer, if not the January window. 

Tyrell Ashcroft 

  • Nationality: English 
  • Age: 17
  • Date of birth: 07/07/2004
  • Current club: Reading
  • Career: Reading
  • Position: Right Back 
  • Preferred foot: Right

Tyrell Ashcroft played a bit-part role in this game vs Derby. He played on the right side of defence in the first half in a flat back 4. He preferred to defend narrowly then press opposition wingers as they found themselves on the outside of him. This might sound pretty dangerous, but Ashcroft’s energy and pressing intensity allowed him to cut out crosses and close down wingers with ease. His energy is a real asset, allows him to pass and move, creating options for Reading. 

The young full-back is an energetic defender who likes to get out to his opponents quickly, harrying them into making a decision. His energy and his recovery pace is particularly beneficial when playing RB in a pretty lack-lustre Reading side. He is busy and engaging. These traits make for a really combative RB who likes to impose himself with his speed. Unfortunately, we only saw one half of Ashcroft due to the injury he sustained in tackling at a precarious angle. The recovery speed of Ashcroft allowed for him to get back into favourable positions if he had been beaten, this was due to his quite shy nature in the challenge. From what I could gauge from 45 minutes, he is not the most refined defender and would like to see more from his stand tackling. 

Physically he is slight, quick and puts his body about well. Makes for a really nice attacking option and could get Reading up the pitch quickly, despite not being deployed as an attacking RB against Derby. As he is not the tallest, there is a bit of a risk on the back post when using a flat back 4. In this game vs Derby, he was out jumped fairly easily on the back post, relying on Holmes to clear away, thus vacating some space in the middle. He has very good body adjustment and approaches the press with a nice stance to make adjusting pretty easy, especially in the event of a flick-on or knock around the corner. He is very quick and thus very quick to get out to crosses, blocking the majority of them, but he doesn’t spread himself on all occasions. Derby actually played a little reverse ball behind him in one instance that should have been easily cut out. 

Tactically and defensively he also needs some work, his decision-making needs refining. He has the energy to win the ball-back but will often vacate space due to his real desire to get the ball back at all costs. A by-product of his eagerness is his lack of awareness, linking in with his decision-making Ashcroft will press a lot and leave his men. However, he has a really nice long throw that we saw on a couple of occasions in the first half of the game vs Derby, allowing Reading to get up the pitch. He is quick to get out to players in jockeying the cross but I would like to see him actually put a foot in, he only did this once he had been beaten and his recovery speed allowed him to do so. 

I like Ashcroft and would like to see him feature more for Reading this season. He has fantastic energy and pressing ability, he presses with energy and suits a high octane style. I can imagine a few clubs towards the top end of the Championship will be watching him to see how he develops this season and see if his defensive actions improve over the course of the season. From what I gathered his defensive nous was not there yet, this begs the question of whether he’d be suited to a 5 at the back, with a more pressing style?

Rating – B2

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