No-one expected the Royals to approach this game like a cup final, with a season that had long fizzled out we expected a few changes, perhaps some of the youth given a chance, those that might move on playing for a contract elsewhere, stalwarts looking to cement a their first team place for next season. With no pressure on the Royals we went with hope, expecting to see a team at least try to play for one final win.
If you've ever been called in for a shift at work you're not needed for and you know you're going to be sat there twiddling your thumbs and counting down the clock then you'll know how it feels when there's nothing to play for. That's how Reading approached the game. Coming into the match Reading were on level on points with Blackburn, having notched up one win more than their opponents, but without a win in over a month. With both teams playing for nothing but pride at least our opposition found themselves in the same situation.
The subdued nature of the Reading fans reflected the nature of the match, with only a couple of dozen inflatables bobbing round the away end and a historic Ewood Park now reminiscent of a library.
The match began with a tempo that would suit a bank holiday shift; slow, lacklustre and uncreative. Very rarely did that change. Rovers attacked, Reading hoofed it away; Reading pressed but couldn't break through; Rovers returned and tried again. After a bit of back and forth Rovers scored, and then scored again. Two down after fourteen minutes and both sets of fans knew what type of game it would be.
At about the half-hour mark Reading woke up and started to push on. The passing improved, their drive started to show and they found themselves with good possession in the final third. It began to feel like a comeback might be on and once the confusion had died down over whether Yann Kermorgant had opened the scoring with his free kick (he had) we thought we'd have a competitive fixture on our hands. Unfortunately that momentum soon petered out and Reading returned to the back foot. Chances were few and far between, with the only really memorable one being a long range Danny Williams drive from outside the box, the half was played out quite sedately.
The second half didn't offer much more in the way of excitement either, Hal Robson-Kanu came on at half time for his swansong and appeared to be one of few players that had turned up. By this time the enthusiasm of the travelling fans was worn out and despite a few rallying cries from the faithful, we sat the game out in relative silence. Even the Rovers in attendance rarely felt like cheering or antagonising.
Rakels made a few chances, Williams tried to find an equaliser, but nothing came together. The through balls were long or flagged offside and whilst the midfield were trying to string passes together, attacks broke down far too quickly.
@maffff and I had been trying to decide before the game if we should run across to Accrington to see Tarique Fosu, with an automatic place possible should they win. Around the 75th minute mark enough was enough and the chance to see another game saw us quietly skulk out the ground.
After we'd left a goal late on for Rovers killed off any lingering hope of at least taking a point from the match and the game wound down to a close.
I'm sure the loyal Royals will have a lot to say over the next few months, but very few words will be spent on this quiet end to the season.