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100% loose ball duels won: Reading’s unsung hero in last weekend’s win against Fulham

Football League World logo Football League World 20/09/2021 Adam Jones
a football player on a field: Championship - Reading v Millwall © Provided by Football League World Championship - Reading v Millwall

Three key Reading players stood out in their exceptional 2-1 win at Craven Cottage against Fulham on Saturday afternoon.

Ovie Ejaria for his spectacular brace, Josh Laurent for filling in at centre-back after Tom Holmes’ injury and Luke Southwood for his assured performance and world-class save at the end to secure all three points for the Royals.

From Southwood in goal up to Junior Hoilett up top, every Reading player can be proud of their performance in west London after winning against a side who look to be one of the favourites to secure their place back in the Premier League, following their relegation from the top flight last term.

With the creativity of Ejaria, John Swift and Alen Halilovic in midfield, they were able to break through twice against two very capable centre-backs in Tim Ream and Tosin Adarabioyo.

The latter was linked with a move away to the Premier League during the summer, with Wolverhampton Wanderers said to have been previously interested in his services during the latter stages of the transfer window according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.

However, their front line is just as impressive with £12m summer signing Harry Wilson and Serbian international Aleksandar Mitrovic up top as options for Fulham manager Marco Silva.

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Between the duo, they have recorded 14 goal contributions in the Championship this season so far, an impressive total when you consider the fact Welshman Wilson missed three games through suspension.

Josh Laurent rightly received the plaudits for stepping in at centre-back in Holmes’ absence – but his partner Michael Morrison also played his part as an unsung hero.

In this FLW Spotlight piece, we have delved deeper into the 33-year-old’s performance in the capital last weekend.

a person holding a football ball © Provided by Football League World

Fair play to Michael Morrison for making it through 100 minutes. For a man who has looked off the pace so far this season, he was on his game for every single second of the match and against a side like Fulham, he needed to be if the Royals wanted to come away with all three points.

But this has summed up the 33-year-old in his two years at the Select Car Leasing Stadium. He has been reliable, dependable and put his body on the line, exactly why his deal was extended by another year on the expiration of his contract in the summer.

His experience has played a big part in that – and it shows with the central defender not committing a single foul during the game.

Against an array of dangerous players including Harry Wilson, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Bobby Decordova-Reid, this is potentially the most impressive stat considering he was firmly involved in the action with Fulham dominating the game for large parts.

Winning all five of his loose ball duels, compared to his 80% average during the 2021/22 campaign, he was fully on-song on Saturday afternoon and made a remarkable 12 ball recoveries, helping to keep the Cottagers at bay for the most part and only conceding in the 86th minute, allowing the Royals to shut up shop for the rest of the game.

These defensive stats are exactly why the away side were able to frustrate the hosts and nick a two-goal lead in west London, but his passing stats were also fundamental in their victory.

The Berkshire outfit can rely on the likes of John Swift, Ovie Ejaria and Alen Halilovic to retain the ball through their sheer technical ability, but they needed someone who could get it up to them first to prevent the game from becoming attack vs defence.

With his 80% long-passing (and 90% passing accuracy overall), he was able to get the ball upfield AND ensure it stayed there temporarily. It may not seem like such a big deal, but the amount of pressure it alleviated off a defence with a makeshift centre-back was priceless and kept the main man Mitrovic goalless.

To prevent a man from scoring who has bagged himself six goals in eight Championship appearances during this campaign is a special achievement – and to be able to guide Josh Laurent alongside him at the same time is some feat.

So whilst Laurent should be commended for an outstanding display, just know Morrison was an invaluable asset to the Royals too.



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