Reading boss Brian McDermott admits he set out to stop Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan

Mikele Leigertwood goes in high on Wes Hoolahan, the Norwich City player Brian McDermott feared most. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images Mikele Leigertwood goes in high on Wes Hoolahan, the Norwich City player Brian McDermott feared most. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Monday, November 12, 2012
10:27 AM

Reading boss Brian McDermott revealed stopping Wes Hoolahan was a crucial factor in his battleplan.

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Norwich’s midfield inspiration has been central to the Canaries’ improved Premier League displays, but the Irishman and Grant Holt were well-marshalled by the Royals’ backline.

“They have a threat up front in Hoolahan and Holt, but generally we dealt with them well. We defended as a team,” said McDermott.

“Sean Morrison is a young player making his way and looks a prospect, he won’t come up against a more physical test.

“We kept a solid shape, Morrison and (Kaspars) Gorkss handled Holt really well. We got up the pitch, stopped Hoolahan getting on the ball, because if you don’t squeeze the pitch he’ll cause you problems. They hardly had a shot on target, so for us with a bit more quality we’d have won.

“I’m not disappointed. We’ve had a few disappointments this season – when we were winning the game against Arsenal and when we were 2-0 up at Swansea – but I can’t be disappointed with a group of guys that have given us absolutely everything. In that dressing room they’re disappointed themselves but they’ve no reason to be.”

Reading’s search for an elusive Premier League win upon returning to the top flight extends to Everton’s pending visit this weekend, but McDermott was pleased to hold a streetwise City outfit.

“You’ve got to give them credit, absolutely,” he said. “That team is solid, the two centre-halves know what they’re doing, the two full-backs didn’t really go too far and they’ve got a threat with Holt up front. They’ve come here and kept a clean sheet, they’ll be pleased with that, they’re well organised.

“Everyone keeps talking about the win, we’ve just got to concentrate on the game. That’s all we can do – just dig in. There are times in life you just have to dig in and come out of the end of it. That’s what we’re trying to do now. It is what it is. Every single one of our players had a real go, as they always do. So you can’t fault the players for effort.

“We maybe need to have an extra touch at times in the final third that makes the difference and that was today, but generally we have been scoring goals. So when you’re playing at home and you draw you want to win, that’s how it is.”

McDermott sensed a nervousness in his side, but the Reading boss hoped the Royals’ first clean sheet of the new league campaign should give the hosts’ renewed belief.

“I just felt we were a little bit nervous in the first half, which is unusual for us, really,” he said.

“Both teams didn’t really create enough but I thought we were in the ascendancy and it was going to be a one-goal game, if there was going to be a goal, really, maybe from a set play.

“But I was pleased that we kept a clean sheet, the first time we’ve done it in the league. That’s six draws from 10 games and that tells you how close we are. Generally we’ve been scoring a lot of goals. It was good to keep a clean sheet but it was unusual for us not to score.”

McDermott is adamant Reading have the ability to emulate Norwich’s achievement and survive on their return to the big time.

“If you’d have asked that question this time last season when we were about 15th in the Championship, I had confidence in the players then and we ended up winning the title,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re going to win the title. We’ve just got to dig out a result and get to the space in front, the next team in front.

“That’s all we can do and we’ll try to do that next week. That’s all you can do – just concentrate solely on living in the moment and playing the game. Our players just want to do so well for the club and the fans, they’ve done that for me over three years and I’ve got nothing but praise for them.

“What gives me confidence? The fact we’ve been scoring goals, the fact I’ve got a great bunch of people, staff and players, that work here. There are many things that give me confidence.”

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