Nigel Adkins marked his first home game in charge by making five changes from last week's 4-1 defeat to Arsenal. Adam Federici, Chris Gunter, Sean Morrisn, Hope Akpan and Adam Le Fondre all came in, with Alex Pearce, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Mikele Leigertwood dropping to the bench and Stuart Taylor and Nicky Shorey out of the squad all-together.
While Reading had lost their last six, Southampton had been in decent form, with wins over Liverpool and Manchester City fresh in the minds but it was the Royals who started the better side in the spring sunshine. Morrison could have scored with a free header at the back post to keep the home fans noisy in what was a good atmosphere at the Madejski.
Then came five minutes that just about summed up why we're going down.
First a game of ping-pong in the area saw the ball fall to the recalled Le Fondre, only for our usually deadly marksman to fire high over Artur Boruc in the Saints goal. Just minutes later Hal Robson-Kanu danced his way into the box and looked to be tripped by Jos Hooiveld, only for Mike Jones to wave away the penalty appeals of the Reading players. The fact Southampton's players had all but stopped told the story but hey, whats another refereeing decision going against us after all of the others this season?
Still Reading could have opened the scoring shortly afterwards, but Adrian Mariappa saw his header well tipped round the post by Boruc.
From this point on, you just felt it wasn't going to be our day and sure enough Southampton had the lead on 34 minutes when a neat one-two between Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez saw the former Burnley striker nip in between Morrison and Federici to squeeze the ball past the 'keeper and give Southampton the lead. There may have been an offside in the build-up and Nigel Adkins wasn't happy with the way Rodriguez went in on Federici, but we're talking fine margins here.
Bar a brief five minutes of resistance to start the second half, that was about it as good as it got for Reading, who were absolutely passed off the park by a fluent and dominant Southampton side.
The killer blow came 18 minutes from time when substitute Adam Lallana fired past Federici after getting on the end of a long-ball but truth be told, the game was already as good as dead.
Southampton could and should have had a couple more while the closest Reading came to a goal was when Boruc decided to try and carry the ball over his own goal line, only to netball pass the ball out of trouble just in time.
I didn't hear too many boos at the full-time whistle, just more of an errie silence from a home crowd who knew the season was all but over.
Player ratings can be found here if you're up for more miserable reading.
In terms of Southampton and I can only give credit to a side which were up there with any side that's come to the Madejski this season. They've invested wisely but then you can't help but think they should be playing good football when they spent over £30m this summer. That might sound like sour grapes but lets not pretend this is a fairytale built from nothing, this is modern football where money talks. Southampton's fans were rightly in good voice and would have enjoyed getting some revenge for last season and fair play to them. If they continue to invest there's no reason they can't be pushing for a top half finish next year and beyond.
What can we take away from this game from a Reading point of view? Meh... not a lot.
The first 30 minutes or so showed what Reading were capable of, but sadly the remaining 60 showed just how far we've fallen behind a team that failed to beat us twice last season. The fact that Southampton could bring on Lallana while we threw on Noel Hunt said all need to know about the two teams' transfer policies and while I'll save the full inquest until after relegation is mathmatically confirmed, the phrases 'we didn't spend enough' and 'we didn't bring in enough quality' will feature rather heavily.
It'll be a long road to get Reading to play the same type of football as Southampton but if you're after positives then consider that it was the man in the Reading dugout who set Southmpton on to that path, and that was only three years ago now.
Finally if we link back to the games I mentioned in the header, it's worth remembering how Reading have always managed to bounce back and rebuild. Right now I'm about as miserable and pessimistic as anyone but if Nigel Adkins gets the right support from Anton Zingarevich, good times could follow. West Brom were relegated twice in four seasons before finally getting it right and here's hoping that Reading can follow that same path.
Of course it could all go tits up and we could be sat here bemoaning a club that twice buggered up it's chance to become an established Premier League side but meh, that sort of depressing thinking won't help at a time like this.
So lets just see what the final six games of the season holds. It may be all but over but with the pressure off, maybe we'll see the shoots of recovery.