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Five Things: Brighton – The FA Cup

Only a short trip around and off the M25, visiting Brighton’s newish AMEX stadium is always a treat. Add the FA Cup and it being our first away date of 2014, no wonder over 2,000 Loyal Royals braved the weather. Albeit depressing, here’s five talking points from another woeful defeat to mull over.

Was Nigel really thinking about leaving?
Was Nigel really thinking about leaving?
Charlie Crowhurst

1. The catalyst of the Cup.

For a club Reading’s age, our FA Cup record is deplorable. However in recent years; chasing England’s oldest bit of silverware induces RFC’s fortunes to soar, along with their league form. Last season included. Meaningful or not, winning after three league defeats in four would’ve surely boosted team morale? Although undeserving to win, without the annual distraction, Nigel Adkins task of turning a corner now looks that bit more ominous…

2. Defence like Swiss cheese? More like a Polo mint!

Calling Reading’s defence leaky was one thing. Accurately, Brighton ploughed through the middle nearing the penalty-box practically unchallenged. This “lay-off” tactic serves more like an escort as nobody tackles. Irrespective of opposition, it’s become habitual with near-suicidal repercussions. Whether it appeared pronounced sat in the AMEX’s away end combined with Brighton’s style; the Seagulls’ 18 shots, the woodwork, Adam Federici’s acrobatics and frantic scrambles made a 1-0 defeat, via deflection, VERY flattering. Catching fellow Loyal Royals looking away in horror said it all. Injuries aside, our defence’s ineptitude continues and it’s scarily worsening.

3. Nick Blackman v Adam Le Fondre.

Following ALF’s post-Forest comments, an FA Cup start gave opportunity to labour the point about selection over his rivals. Yet another 90 minutes, didn’t bare goals. Marc’s player ratings also back Adkins’ recent prudence in Blackman. Albeit played wide, the former Blade put himself about, tracked back, and often led runs forward. Although exposed alone upfront, ALF was comparatively anonymous. When RFC’s two best chances eventually fell his way, he choked. BBC stats controversially poll Reading with no shots on target. Regardless, it still represented our bluntness upfront. However much isolation frustrated Le Fondre, previous strikers would’ve instead dropped back to ignite something. So why didn’t he? Product over performances, the debate continues.

4. RFC’s style of play: All wide and short of ideas.

Whilst the Seagulls easily drilled through the middle of the pitch, the Royals’ contrastingly avoided it altogether. With RFC’s strongest players out wide, attacks unsurprisingly searched those channels. But upon reaching Brighton’s goal-line; rather than drive inwards or linkup with forwards, play frustratingly flitted between the wings or around penalty-box peripheries. A fruitlessly relentless cycle ensued. Infuriatingly Reading’s tactics seemed devoid of initiative for long shots, box movement, link play and simple spontaneity. Substitutions, rather than inspire change, signalled Adkins’ desperation and perpetuated problems. No wonder ALF floundered?!

5. The effect of uncertainty.

Recently all facets RFC court mystery and discussion. Anything from; player selection, January transfers, owners’ whereabouts, boardroom power and then even another possible takeover leave question marks hanging all over the Madejski. If that wasn’t enough, we headed to Brighton with rumours tipping Nigel Adkins’ departure for the West Brom job.

Cumulatively it’s a volatile cocktail, creating a footballing situation that’s almost unique. If fans are uneasy, those within the club are surely pondering what their futures hold? Uncertainty surrounding any workplace inevitably shows, perhaps explaining our recent nosedive on-pitch.

January transfers aside, the season looks pivoted on a toxic spectre. We’re deep in its quagmire.