Exciting times at the Tilehurst End - we're trying out a new feature.
The slot for bite-sized, alternative analysis of a Reading fixture was previously taken by the beloved '5 Things', which had made a regular appearance ever since we pinched the idea from our friends at the Lion of Vienna Suite.
As is true of all good things however, the feature must come to an end. A quick Google of '5 Things we learned' is enough to show that literally the entire internet has adopted the format, from Oscar to the Oscars. You know it's time for a change of tack when '5 Things' is being used for Drake's new mixtape...
Being the social media pioneers that we are, we at the Tilehurst End have forged a new blade from the Valyrian steel of off-the-wall analysis. Simply put, 'Four Corners' is the '5 Things' that you all know and love, with the same grumpy blue and white lion stamped at the top of the article.
Without further ado, here's the first edition of 'Four Corners' (we wish it had a better result to welcome it).
Given more discussion that the actual game was the reported incident that two Reading fans, sitting in the north-east corner of the stadium, were asked to leave by stewards. I didn't see it in person, although I was one of the thousands in the east stand that craned their neck to try to see what was going on. Noise coming from the north stand is one of those rare, confusing events you only see a few times in your life. After the match, we compiled a few first-hand accounts here at the Tilehurst End to clear things up, but we're still in the dark without a report from the club themselves.
Considering that lack of clarity, starting a petition protesting against the actions of the stewards is a bizarre knee-jerk reaction, and I doubt that many of the 564 supporters (at time of writing) actually saw what happened. The claim that the fans that this happened to were asked to leave for 'supporting their team and singing encouraging songs' is laughable. We all love to think of the club as killjoys, but people don't get asked to leave without a good reason.
Nonetheless, events like this are easy to portray as 'ignorant club doesn't understand passionate fans', so it resonates deeply with a fan base that has, in truth, been subject to a lot of stress in recent times.
How will the supporters react at the next home game? Will the whole north-east corner stand up and show their support for the team for the whole 90 minutes? I highly doubt it.
Mixed fortunes for returning players
If Tuesday's defeat at Huddersfield taught us anything, it's that Steve Clarke is prepared to use the full extent of his squad to carry us through a gruelling part of the season. Despite the recent down-surge in form, the team has done well to gradually claw itself up the league, and get to the quarter finals of the FA Cup. That effort looks to have taken its toll on the team.
Saturday's team looked relatively normal in comparison to what we saw at the John Smith's Stadium, but I picked out two interesting moves by Steve Clarke. First of all, the gaffer gave a full 90 minutes to Chris Gunter at right back, who played for the first time since limping off at Cardiff in the FA Cup a few weeks ago. The Welshman looked solid at the back, bombed forward with enthusiasm, and deservedly leads in our man of the match vote.
However, I also found it curious that Steve Clarke chose to bring on Danny Guthrie in the closing stages, rather than Oliver Norwood. Both central midfielders largely play the same role, but Norwood has had much better fortunes than Guthrie during this campaign. With the ex-Newcastle United player rarely featuring under Clarke, and out of contract in the summer, what does the manager want to get out of him?
It would be easy to cast off a player that has had a fairly lacklustre Reading career, but a gifted technician needing to put himself in the shop window could be a dangerous weapon in our arsenal.
A bad day at the office for Simon Cox
What a terrible day it was for poor Simon Cox. The summer signing lined up against his old club on Saturday and had two glorious chances to open the lead in the first half, but couldn't find the net. On both occasions, he could have sent a subdued home crowd into raptures with a strike right in front of the travelling support.
In our player ratings, we gave the academy graduate a 4/10 for his efforts. As I said to Wimb on the day, either you bury those chances and you get a 7/10 or 8/10, or you fluff them and get a 4/10 or 5/10 - there's no middle ground. Such is the life that strikers lead. I might be being harsh here, but this game could show us where Cox's limitations are - his work-rate and commitment can't be faulted, but you have to say that another forward would have come away with a brace.
One of those days
With that last point in mind, it's frustrating to reflect on how the game against Nottingham Forest could so very easily have gone so very differently. By most accounts, the Reading performance up until at least the first goal, if not the second, was a good one. Despite hardly dominating the game, we looked to have knocked the visitors off their impressive form of late, and good chances were being created.
As the previously mentioned Simon Cox will confirm, missing chances loses you points. I'm sure any Forest fans sneaking a glance at this Reading-orientated analysis will write me off as a bitter loser, but the away side didn't offer much for vast swathes of the game. That of course ignores two phenomenal strikes from Ben Osborn and Gary Gardner, but Steve Clarke will be disappointed with both goals. Each time, Reading defenders gave Forest players enough space to set up a golf course.
If you don't take your chances, but make it as easy as possible for the opposition to do so, defeats should never come as a surprise.