The full gory details of Reading's thumping at Fulham have been covered by Jordan in his match report and player ratings but is there anything positive or negative to learn by digging even deeper into the mire? Let's give it a go...
Ill-Discipline Costing Stam?
Reading may be third in the points table but worryingly we're also up to fourth in the bad behaviour league. Only Nottingham Forest have earned more red cards than our three, and the 44 bookings we've received are the fourth most in the division. Reading were already without Liam Moore due to a suspension on Saturday and now Danny Williams' moment of madness will see him miss the next three games.
Sadly, Williams isn't the first culprit to cost us after a moment of stupidity, as Garath McCleary also had to serve a three-game ban for lashing out at Barnsley. Having passion and getting stuck in is one thing, but these type of red cards are unacceptable and as a senior player, Williams should know better, especially with the current injury crisis.
His latest red comes in the same year as his bust up with Paul McShane at Middlesbrough that cost him another three-games and his temperament will be something Stam and Brian Tevreden have to take into account during any contract negotiations.
When quizzed by our Fulham chums at Cottagers Confidential ahead of the game, they put forward the argument that perhaps Reading had been 'lucky' this season due to having the second worst defence according to advanced stats. Saturday's outing showed that maybe the stats do have a point and when you dig deeper you have to say Reading have been getting away with it a bit even during a fantastic five-game winning run.
For example, Ali Al-Habsi has been averaging four saves-per-game this season, with his total of 76 ranking more than any other keeper. Brighton on the other hand, have made just 43 saves and Newcastle 44 which shows the amount of pressure Ali has been under compared to other top teams.
There's no question that Al-Habsi has had a brilliant season so far, nor the recent defensive improvements in front of him, but no club wants to be relying on their goalkeeper to dig them out of trouble so often. The return of Liam Moore will go some way to help that, but as Will pointed out in pre-season, the midfield have to do their bit too.
No Plan B = Big Problem
Sadly, here's what I wrote in last week's column about Dom Samuel's inability to win headers.
"It's not a big problem when we're retaining possession and dictating the play but when teams like Bristol City close down the defence and force us to go long, it's a problem when the ball ends up coming straight back because we can't win it in the air. Yann Kermorgant on the other hand has won 59% of his duels in the air, again showing why Stam has kept faith with the forward despite some lacklustre efforts in front of the opposition goal."
Now here's what Jordan wrote in Saturday's match report....
"Unfortunately his (Samuel's) inability to win the ball in the air or hold the ball up is creating real issues for us particularly from goal kicks. Throughout the game we would set up as normal for a short goal kick, but Fulham were able to press us so high, due in part to the extra man but also, safe in the knowledge that a long kick up front was food and drink for their two centre backs."
You're welcome Fulham scouting team :(
It's unfair to pick on Samuel, especially when he has contributed positively to two wins in his three starts but this is a glaring problem. Sadly it's not a problem with an obvious solution until either Kermorgant returns to fitness or the January transfer window opens. Is Yakou Meite a better option? Well he won two out of two duels on Saturday but that was in a dead game and he's still a big gamble at this stage. Likewise Joseph Mendes has shown little inclination that he can lead the line in his brief time on the pitch.
So, either Reading's defenders are going to have to take more risks with short passes or someone's going to need to win a few more headers.
You can only beat what's put in front of you but when Reading have had a good team in front of them on the road, it's generally not ended well. Now the problem is, it won't get any easier....
Reading Away Results In Championship (by current positions)
1st - Newcastle - LOST 1-4
10th - Fulham - LOST 0-5
12th - Barnsley - WON 2-1
17th - QPR - DREW 1-1
18th - Brentford - LOST 1-4
20th - Wolves - LOST 0-2
22nd - Cardiff - WON 1-0
23rd - Wigan - WON 3-0
24th - Rotherham - WON 1-0
We've played nine away games this season and worryingly, the only two games against current top 10 opponents have ended in resounding thumpings. Three of the four wins we've had have come against the current bottom three, while our win over then in-form Barnsley sparked a run for them that's only seen two wins in 11, highlighting how they're reverting back to the team tipped in pre-season to face a relegation battle.
Sadly, we've only got little evidence to suggest Reading can truly mix it with the best teams in this division for 90 minutes, especially away from home and with 9 of the remaining 14 away games coming up against the league's top 11 it's going to be a very tough travelling schedule.
Never mind, we're still third
Third in the table, won five of the last six, January and potential new owners around the corner, things are still looking good for Reading FC. Relegation worries have been all but buried and we've got a good core of players who should be able to make strides forward in the coming seasons. With Swift, Kermorgant, Quinn and Moore to return plus Danny Williams fresh from a 3-game break, there's reasons to be optimistic that with a bit of luck and more hard work we can at the very least stay in contention for those top six spots.