Have you ever thought that you've had the same recurring dream and felt it be quite a pleasant experience? Usually it turns out to be the case that it is pleasant, but the reality for us is a harsher scenario.
Despite Blackburn definitively securing safety for the Royals in the Championship for another year - for the many positives that were gleaned despite the death of of all deaths in the FA Cup Semi-Final - Reading again failed to put their opponent to the sword.
The More Things Change...
Reading lined up with several changes to the starting XI from Wembley. Jake Cooper slotted in (perfectly) in Central Defence alongside many peoples Wembley Man of the Match, Michael Hector. Nathan Aké took place in midfield to replace Danny Williams, who put in a herculean shift previously also. Nick Blackman replaced Pavel Pogrebnyak (sort of) and local hero, Jem Karacan stepped in to give Hal Robson-Kanu a break from another baffling performance.
As such, we lined up with a 4-3-3, that flexed and morphed during the course of the 90 minutes. At times, Garath McCleary had a free role and on occasion swapped with the misfiring Blackman. Such is the lengths we have to go to try and inject some creativity. Alas, well, it didn't work. Again.
...The More Things Stay The Same
Despite this shift in tactics, Jamie Mackie had little in the way of chances falling his way. Often the reason for this was, again, not for the first time, either a lack of quality in crosses (not that we really should be trying to cross to a 5'11" striker anyway) or that we dwelled too long on the ball enabling Birmingham to reset. Time after time we would gain decent possession in enemy territory only for the pace to be slowed down to a crawl. By which time City, who were all set up to play for the draw, were able to sit deep and frustrate.
Despite our 64% possession, we struggled to penetrate in the last third. Our 26 crosses connected just seven times - although in percentage terms, this is a bit of an improvement in the days of Nigel where 50+ crosses connected often about as many times. A progress of sorts or maybe just straw clutching there.
The most frustrating element of this season was highlighted perfectly in this game at how many times we either couldn't get a shot away or had decent chances blocked. Again, this is not down to another fluke of a defence against us but a common theme amongst almost all Championship teams we have faced. They all, bar a few, can be set up to defend well against us.
As this graphic shows, whilst we had peppered attacks, many of them were sniffed out at source, saved my Randolph, or just hopelessly wide.
Addressing the Important Impotence
It barely is stating the bleedin' obvious but 9 blanks in 13 home games paints a pretty obvious picture. Thankfully, somehow, there have been worse teams than us during 2014/15. The lack of firepower this season has simply been the worst in many a season. The reasons for it have been equally a mystery and as clear as day. Not enough pace, not enough guile or agility and possibly most importantly, no confidence in their own ability. Of course, this is a natural erosion from one season to the next. Confidence within the squad is generally low and would have been for some time.
The fact that Clarke has brought in Yakubu, Knight, Chalobah, Aké and Appiah (with the Adkins loan signing of Mackie) demonstrates that there is a genuine problem of depth of quality within the squad, not just up front. Unfortunately, the type of player required to bang in 20 goals a season tends not to be readily available - that said, our top scorers is still one Glenn Murray.
With Clarke clearly not fancying Simon Cox, Yakubu providing the square root of bugger all in the league, Pogrebnyak hardly being prolific, and Mackie only recently been used up front in comparison to the others, it's not hard to see why this area will be top of Steve Clarke's wish list. No doubt the same for the fans, too.
To sum up this scenario entirely, a guy who sits near me has seen just ONE League goal since September!! By the any standards that's an abysmal return.