Tuesday's game against Wigan probably deserves to go down as one of the classic dire performances in recent years. It wasn't just poor - it was horrific. Even most of the Nigel Adkins don't compare to this one. As a quick example, take the defeat at home to Huddersfield earlier this season. Despite never really looking like winning the game, we did at least dominate possession, even nicking a goal back through Simon Cox. As an added bonus, youngster Aaron Kuhl gave a distinguished performance in the centre of midfield.
As for the Wigan match, tackling was sloppy throughout, the passing was dreadful, and the final stages of the match saw Reading struggle to gain a foothold in the middle third of the pitch. To make things worse, all of this was against a side that looked very much like a team in the relegation places of the Championship. At least when we lost at home to Barnsley last season, they gave a performance that didn't reflect their position. Wigan were ordinary at the Madejski, but that was more than enough to see them take all three points.
Steve Clarke made two changes to the side that beat Derby at the weekend. Jamie Mackie was, unsurprisingly, replaced by the now fit Garath McCleary. Meanwhile, Michael Hector was replaced by Nathaniel Chalobah at centre back, meaning the return of Oliver Norwood to the midfield.
As is customary for Reading horror shows, we actually started the game quite well. The best chance of the opening stages was an Alex Pearce header from a corner being blocked on the line. However, the home side failed to create any really good opportunities. I had mused before the game that, considering last week's defeat to Leeds, the first goal in this game could be crucial.
And so it proved to be, with Adam Federici doing his utmost to make sure that the Latics would have a lead to protect. Receiving a perfectly good backpass, the Big Aussie made a hash of his footwork, almost letting in Leon Clarke. Having grappled with the Wigan forward for control of the ball in his own area, the visiting side won a corner. From the resulting set piece, Jason Pearce (a recent signing from Leeds United as it happens) bundled the ball over the line to send the travelling fans into raptures.
Even at this point Reading didn't look that awful. The Wigan goal had been very much against the run of play and, a moment of madness from Adam Federici aside, the Royals looked the more likely to take the lead. Hal Robson-Kanu looked the most dangerous of Reading's forwards, linking up well in the final third and getting some shots off, although none troubled Ali Al-Habsi.
In the 23rd minute, an Oliver Norwood corner was headed out to Garath McCleary on the edge of the box. The Jamaican smashed a first time volley at goal, but his effort was deflected wide by Chelsea loanee Nathaniel Chalobah. Little else of note happened in the rest of an uninspiring 45 minutes, bar Al-Habsi tipping a McCleary effort from a tight angle round the post.
It was in the latter 45 minutes of the match that Reading's poor performance became an abysmal one. Before the half time mark, the home side had done things that would come to feel like luxuries later on. Passes had been strung together, tackles had been made, and chances had been created.
This next point is far from an excuse for how the match played out from then on, but needs mentioning nonetheless. The time-wasting from the away side was terrible, and resulted in at least two or three bookings by my count. Despite acknowledging it with the mentioned yellow cards, referee Simon Hooper did little to stamp out what Wigan were doing. the home faithful were particularly incensed towards the end of the match over his booking of Alex Pearce. The Reading centre-back committed the highly illegal act of sliding in with his feet to tackle the ball off an opponent... without getting anywhere near said opponent.
But anyway, on with the story. An Oliver Norwood corner brought Reading one of their few second half chances soon after the break, with the Northern Irishman feeding Chalobah, who headed just wide. From then on in, barely any opportunities were created - this match report could quite easily end in the 50th minute.
In the 66th minute, Steve Clarke decided to shake things up with the introduction of Yakubu and Nick Blackman to the attack in place of Simon Cox and Hal Robson-Kanu. Both changes in my eyes were rather odd ones to make. Hal Robson-Kanu can count himself unlucky to have been taken off, having probably been one of Reading's better players to that point. On the other hand, the withdrawal of Simon Cox left Reading with the partnership of Pogreb'n'Yak up front. As was predicted, pairing two target men up front gave the home side all the attacking mobility of an oil rig.
The only other chance worth mentioning in the game came through Nick Blackman. A pass from Oliver Norwood sent the substitute through in the inside left channel, with Blackman showing clever feet before being closed down by the Wigan defence.
All the time-wasting, combined with injuries to various Wigan players, had racked up throughout the match. That resulted in an incredible 11 minutes being added on to the original 90. As someone behind me in Y26 aptly pointed out, Reading wouldn't have scored if the referee had given them another 60 minutes, let alone 11.
Tuesday's results mean that Reading slipped one place to 17th in the Championship, with Cardiff's draw edging them up the table. The game against Wigan being a rearranged match due to the surprise cup run meant that it was a game in hand. With that in mind, the loss was a missed opportunity more than anything else. Three points would have sent the Royals up to 12th in the table, ahead of Leeds United.
As such, despite being a horrific performance, this result is hardly a disaster. Reading remain in the mix that is the middle of the Championship table, with a thrilling cup tie at Bradford to look forward to. However, too many more results like this in the league gives us a real problem. These three dropped points might prove to be crucial come the end of the season.