Norwich the happier after a drab affair at Reading

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Carl Court/AFP/Getty ImagesThat honors ended up shared between Reading and Norwich does neither side much good amid a difficult Prem season.

Norwich City will have left the Madejski Stadium the happier of the two sides after a drab Premier League encounter at Reading.

The Canaries' fourth clean sheet of the campaign -- and their first away from fortress Carrow Road -- will be the lingering legacy of an instantly forgettable 90 minutes in Berkshire. Reading huffed and puffed with their muscular approach centred on the dominant presence of Jason Roberts, but both keepers were largely redundant. John Ruddy batted away Garath McCleary's stinging early drive in the only serious threat of note on either goal.

- Stalemate at the Madejski

Reading's search for a maiden top flight win continues, and you can see why on the evidence of this latest instalment. The Royals have plenty of athletic bite and high-energy pressing from midfield, but lacked any genuine quality to penetrate a Canaries' backline that grows in stature with every passing week.

Chris Hughton's men will perhaps reflect on their own attacking deficiencies after their failure to claim all three points. Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt endured their most frustrating afternoon since those early season struggles. Holt was well-marshalled aerially and Hoolahan too often was crowded out when he did find himself in pockets of space.

But that in itself is a measure of City's accelerated progress after truly woeful displays at Fulham and Chelsea. Reading are not in that class, but a point away from home still felt like scant reward for Norwich. Hughton's side started in confident fashion -- popping the ball about with an authority that hinted at another commanding away day in the same vein as their previous Premier League outing at Aston Villa.

But Roberts and Noel Hunt's combined endeavours enabled Brian McDermott's men to establish a bridgehead in the visitors' territory as the opening period elapsed. Ruddy remained largely a spectator with the Royals too often guilty of a poor final delivery.

Nicky Shorey was a constant threat on numerous set pieces but the halftime whistle provided blessed relief. The entertainment value remained negligible after the interval. Jimmy Kebe injected some badly needed dynamism when Roberts departed, but City looked the more likely to make a belated breakthrough on the counter.

Hughton resisted the temptation to alter the course of this game from the bench. Elliott Bennett and Steve Morison were introduced with barely four minutes of normal time remaining. Unsurprisingly, their impact was minimal. Hughton will counter that Norwich are a point nearer their end game. You could not argue with such a sound defence, but there will be a gnawing sense of what might have been when the dust settles.

With Hoolahan not at his pomp, Norwich lacked creativity and that may be a source of concern for Hughton and his coaching staff. Allied to Holt's quiet shift, Norwich were unable to make the ball stick up front which invited Reading to pin them back with impunity at times.

But in the final analysis, Hughton will be the happier of the two managers prowling the touchline at the Madejeski. Norwich now only have to tinker with a template that is serving them well in the Premier League. Reading’s approach looks in need of more serious revision.


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