So my friends, we meet again to chew over another disappointment in this heinous travail of a season. Just when we thought we could see out the most simple of 1-0 victories, Morrison's men spoil the relegation safety party with a scarcely deserved point.
Truth be absolutely told, we should have put this one to bed way, way before Cardiff equalised at the death. On the surface of the stats, despite it seeming like it was one way traffic for large portions of the match, we actually had less possession than the opposition from over the Bridge - 46% - 54%. Quite a surprise, I must admit.
Further surprises arise in the stats for shots, where we registered 8 to Cardiff's 9. Wait, wait, there's even more shocks ahead as we appeared only to have two shots on target to City's four! (I did have to check multiple sources to see if these numbers were successfully crunched, but they all bore the same results, believe me!)
Going on these numbers alone, maybe a draw was a fair result but I certainly did not appear to be the case for most of the loyal Royal's watching, with Bill Oddie in attendance no less. The result certainly seemed more of an indictment of the season as a whole. Just another disappointment after another, a game where we should have been much more clinical in front of goal as for the rest of the performance, it was pretty decent.
The back four were rarely troubled, Hector looked back to his imposing best, Pearce looked, well, like Pearce does on a good day. The full backs were hardly tested either. In midfield, even HRK looked to have one of his better afternoons. Garath McCleary looked to have his mojo well and truly topped up to the brim. Akpan, like Alex Pearce, (I'm biting my tongue here) looked almost happy to be professional footballer. Even the industrious Pavel Pogrebnyak looked to be having a lot of fun on the day too. Only Jamie Mackie appeared to have a bit of an off day but to a man, it was a decent performance at very least. But I leave my best until last...
Take a bow Nathan Ake. What a performance from the Chelsea youngster. We thought we had seen what talent our Premiership neighbours and champions elect do have in reserve (literally) with Chalobah, but Ake was even better.
Despite his lack of experience at any level, let alone the hustle and bustle of the Championship, he took to his task alongside Hope Akpan in the centre of midfield very well indeed. On paper, this midfield pairing could have caused much cause for concern. Neither of whom would have played with each other previously, let alone Hope's tendency to make the easy things look like quantum physics. Ake played as if the sum of his career equated much more than his bit parts.
Playing in his preferred midfield role, his pass rate of 81% was more Norwood-esque this season. As we can see in this graphic, he showed great mobility too.
The composure he showed in almost all areas of the pitch was something to really take in and enjoy. At 20 years of age, with plenty to learn ahead of him, you could see that the boy has so much to offer. Whenever he had the ball, his option was generally the simplest, nothing fancy, just effective and confident. Again, given that he hasn't been with us for long and this being his debut, it was even more surprising and underlines his pedigree. Looks like Gullit, plays like Gullit. Safe to say, if we can only dream of a season long loan for next season we can do a lot, lot worse. Highly unlikely, however. Probably one of the best debut performances I've seen in a long, long while, all things considered.
Another stat to pay attention to is in relation more to the refereeing than our performance. The foul count was 16 - 7. In a simply mystifying display by the referee, Scott Duncan. Often blowing the whistle when two players had simply collided together and then missing a dishing out of blatant (good old fashioned) shoulder charge. Maybe it was just my view of the game, but as we can see by the foul count, we offended over double the amount of Cardiff for what were the absolute minimal of offences at times. Despite the voracious use of the whistle, no yellow cards were administered, but then again the game was hardly a dirty one either.
The more than obvious Easter Egg
Possibly a hint of sour grapes to end with there, but this kind of result did leave a bitter taste. Once again, we have shown a mental fragility, a lack of a captain that understands the situation at hand and act accordingly. Whilst the elements of the performance were much improved compared to earlier in the season, there are still some worryingly simple goal conceding situations that have not been eradicated under Clarke.
If Adkins couldn't mould them and now Clarke has struggled to get the message through, then it simply must be the players themselves that cannot do the basics. The amount of times a simple sweeping ball has been stroked home from the edge of the D shows a lack of being able to read the game (and see it out, in this case.) Being able to defend is one thing, but an overall awareness to take control, responsibility, and use of accrued experience is just unacceptable.
We all know changes are afoot in the summer after season that has hardly been seminal, and plenty of those changes are required for different reasons. For me, I know exactly where I would start; we need a proper Captain with a capital C.
Stats and Graphics courtesy of Squawka.com