I found it somewhat unbelievable to take a look at social media after the game to find some fans already calling for the head of Brian McDermott and labelling him the 'wrong choice'. While Brian's not exactly had the rip roaring return we'd hoped for, it's certainly not been awful either in terms of performances or results.
Here's his record in the Championship since his return.
Positive results in 50% of games is hardly shocking in it's own right but it's when you look at the goal difference column that you begin to see the story. We've conceded just eight goals in eight games and to that point, every one of those fixtures has been decided by a single goal or less.
Reading aren't on a steep slope sliding helplessly down the table, we're competing in a tough league and just not getting on the right end of the result. Still, that has to change because no matter how close you've been, once the confidence eats away it can quickly turn into a nosedive.
Away Day Blues
Ultimately no matter how well we've played it's points that win prizes and we just haven't been getting enough of them on the road. You have to go back to September 26th and the 2-1 win at Burnley for our last win on the road and since then we've picked up just two points from a possible 30, a record that's just not good enough.
Quite why the away form has been so shocking is hard to pinpoint but when you look back on games they've usually been decided in two key periods, the first 15 and last 15 minutes the second-half.
Just under 50% of all the goals we've shipped on the road since Rotherham have come in the first 15 minutes of the re-start including the opener from Ryan Fraser. That stat would be even higher if I included cup games as Jamie Paterson's opener at Huddersfield also came in the 57th minute. For whatever reason Reading just can't get themselves out of the blocks quick enough in the second half and it's a problem that's killing us right now.
There's also got to be a question around concentration at the death as well because to lose three games in the final 15 minutes is also painful. Hull (90), MK Dons (78) and Ipswich (89) are games that have seen three deserved away points thrown away that could be making Brian's record look a lot more appealing.
The Need For Tshibola
Part of the problem in trying to close down games has been the lack of an effective central midfield option to come into games late on, a problem that can be traced back to Aaron Tshibola's injury picked up around the Fulham game. Up to that point, Tshibola had come off the bench with Reading in front in the league on three occasions and we'd gone on to hold each of them. Likewise in games he'd started we'd won two and lost two, with one of those defeats coming via an Orlando Sa red card against Derby.
Here's how Tshibola ranks in some key defensive areas compared to his fellow central midfielders according to WhoScored.com
|Games||Tackles||Interceptions||Clearances||Passes||Acc Short Pass||Acc Long Ball|
Tshibola's impact can be clearly seen on the defensive side of things, with the midfielder making nearly double the interceptions of any other player, reinforcing the idea that he could be the 'new Leigertwood'. Likewise he's well ahead of Danny Williams in tackles per 90 and what surprised me was to see that he's got the most efficient short passing game of the trio, even ahead of Olly Norwood. I'd love to be able to see how George Evans has compared with Walsall this season but sadly such detailed statistics aren't available for League One.
Patience Is The Key
There was another manager who took over around Christmas and struggled at Reading. He saw his team win one game in his first eight in all competitions before going on a run where they lost just five of the next 23 - That man's name was of course Brian McDermott back in 2009/10.
Change doesn't often happen overnight with a new manager, especially one that's taken over an injury hit and inconsistent squad that's been in a pretty steady state of decline since the end of October. It's OK to be angry, it's fine to be frustrated and if you don't think Brian's the right man for the job then more power to you. However what we all need to do is try and back the side from here on in. Let's try and make the Madejski a positive environment for the team and manager, make the players want to go out and put in that extra 10% to try and turn those one-goal defeats into gritty one-goal wins. From humble beginnings can great runs grow so keep the faith folks.