Match report: Brian McDermott remains resolute but still awaits first Reading victory after goalless draw against Norwich
Reading 0 Norwich 0
Reading succumbed to second-season syndrome, in 2008, on their initial venture in the Premier League but, this time around, there is already that foul stench of first-season failure in the nostrils. After 10 matches and fast approaching one-third of the campaign, they have yet to register a win.
Perhaps a victory of sorts could be claimed at the Madejski Stadium, against a similarly poor Norwich, today – Reading kept their first clean sheet in 13 fixtures. And with a certain irony, too, with Adam Federici between the sticks in the league for the first time since being dropped in August following a series of errors.
Still, that is little to cling to. And the fact that only three teams – Derby, Everton and Blackburn - have escaped the top-flight drop after failing to win in their opening 10 games does not offer Reading much comfort, either. Much more of this turgid fare and their catch-up chase could be a forlorn one by the New Year.
"I've got to be pleased with the clean sheet and that's six draws in ten so that shows how close we are," Brian McDermott, Reading manager, said. "We're not far away. Everyone goes on about that first win but we've just got to dig in."
After 18 goals in the previous two matches at the Madejski, including Reading's astonishing 7-5 Capital One Cup defeat against Arsenal, the first-half barely featured a shot on target. Garath McCleary did test John Ruddy, the Norwich goalkeeper, with a fierce 20-yard effort and that was about it.
"Four-nil and you mucked it up" Norwich fans chanted, in reference to the capitulation against Arsenal, but their team offered little, either, apart from a series of laboured counter-attacks. "It's like a mid-table Championship game," a home fan lamented at the break.
It barely got better in the second period, but at least the Reading players appeared to want the ball. Jobi McAnuff drove just over and Jimmy Kebe, a substitute, drifted an intended centre on to the top of Ruddy's crossbar. Norwich just sat back and absorbed it all, apparently happy for the stalemate.
Scrappier and scrappier the game became, the persistent whistle of referee Chris Foy the only constant. At least Foy's final blast signalled the end, a merciful release, and at least Norwich, after comfortably dodging first-season failure, are making a decent fist of avoiding second-season syndrome on the back of four-matches unbeaten. "It was a good point," Chris Hughton, their manager, said. "We're in a better place than we were a few weeks ago."
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