It's been a frustrating season. Despite being second at one point, after 46 gruelling league games, Reading finished 17th in the Championship. For the second season running we were closer to the bottom three than the top six. It was a campaign that saw two different managers and one temporary one, and I think the following six matches are a pretty good representative for the last nine months of football we have witnessed. You can click on the headlines to read our match reports from the games...
After beating Derby County 3-0 on the final day of 2014-15 and a promising pre-season, there was plenty of the usual hype as Reading travelled to Birmingham on the opening day of the season, where they had lost 6-1 the previous campaign.
It wasn't another defeat of that nature, but a disappointing loss none the less that left fans a little deflated just one game in the season. There's plenty of aspects from the match that would resemble the campaign ahead.
Firstly, NICK BLACKMAN SCORED. He might have had a good pre-season, but he always does. But a league goal? The rejuvenated forward would go onto to score 11 times in the Championship before being sold to Derby in January. He now can't get a game at the iPro stadium having returned to his old self. And we got £3 million for him. Brilliant.
Secondly, there was an element of bad luck about the 2-1 loss, with Aaron Tshibola having a goal wrongly disallowed. Now I'm not saying with more luck we'd be in the top six, but there certainly have been times this season where things perhaps could have gone more our way.
Thirdly, in the last minute at St. Andrews, Reading were awarded a penalty which new signing Orlando Sa stepped up to take. His weak effort was saved and Simon Cox fluffed the rebound. It was a symbol that both of those players would not enjoy the best of campaigns - Sa would be sold in January, and Cox would go on a goalscoring drought that only ended in April.
Despite that opening day defeat, Reading had dusted themselves off and hadn't lost since as they welcomed Ipswich Town to the Madejski Stadium live on Sky.
The cameras were in for a treat as the Royals beat Mick McCarthy's usually hard to beat side 5-1. Orlando Sa (him again) actually scored a hat-trick, which would prove to be just three of his five goals in his short spell of the club. Nick Blackman scored AGAIN, his fifth of the season to level his 2014-15 tally already, whilst the night was topped off by a superb Oliver Norwood goal from 30 yards.
After the game, we tweeted this:
It pretty much summed up the hype following that emphatic victory. We'd just signed Matej Vydra, scorer of 16 Championship goals last season (lol!), Lucas Piazon and Ola John (supposedly two of Europe's best young talents) all on loan and things were looking bright.
And things were bright. For a bit. We may have lost the following game to Derby, but then went five games unbeaten with four wins. Then this happened....
Oh that fateful day. Reading were third in the league at the start of play at Craven Cottage, and it looked like it would stay that way as goals from Piazon and Sa gave us a 2-0 lead after 49 minutes. Sitting in the away end, I thought it couldn't get any better.
I was right. Just a minute after our second goal, Fulham scored. Then again. And again. Within the space of six minutes, the Cottagers had netted three times and now had a remarkable lead. Moussa Dembele scored his second and Fulham's fourth later on, and Reading's fall from grace had began.
That kind of defeat was always going to happen. But I am convinced that it wouldn't have mattered one bit if we had responded well to it. The problem was, we didn't. It showed the players were mentally weak. It showed Steve Clarke didn't have a plan B. We would go on to win just one of the next eight games, one of which signalled the end for the Scot as manager...
It was this Thursday night game live on Sky that would end up being Clarke's last at the club. If taking the opportunity to speak to Fulham and a poor run of form wasn't enough to making both fans and the owners a bit frustrated, this last last minute defeat to QPR with Colin W at the helm was the final nail in the coffin.
In truth, Reading didn't play that badly, but just lacked quality in the final third. That night we had 10 shots, but none of them were on target. I think that pretty much sums up our season - we've rarely been outplayed, but don't have the ability to finish chances to win games.
The game was also decided by an Ali Al-Habsi error as the Oman international let Nedum Onuoha's header through his legs. That too, was typical of Reading under Clarke. Multiple times matches were decided by goalkeeping errors, whether it be AAH that night or Jonathan Bond at Sheffield Wednesday. Fair play to Al-Habsi though, who has perhaps been our best player in the second half of the campaign and picked up the Player of the Season award.
The game left the Royals ninth in the table and just a point outside the play-offs, but the Thais had seen enough and Clarke was out of the door.
It wouldn't be complete look back on our season without referring to the cup run, that once was again was the main positive to take from the season. We may not have made Wembley for the second campaign in a row, but a fourth quarter-final in seven years is a record that no other team in the country can boast. For that we must be proud.
For me, the highpoint was the fifth round win over West Brom. After dispatching Huddersfield (via a replay) and Walsall in emphatic style, we were aiming to create a shock and knock out the Premier League side. Despite going behind, goals from Paul McShane (his first for the club) and Chelsea loanees Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon meant we were once again creating heroics in the cup.
It was once again a victory that created hype around the Madejski Stadium as it showed what this side was capable of. I would perhaps go as far as to say along with Ipswich game, it was one of our best performances of the season. The magic of the cup was at it again, and we nearly took Crystal Palace to a replay in the quarter-final, but the less said about the better.
Is a cup run as well as a promotion push viable next season? For me, it's one or other, and 2016-17 is when the league needs to take priority. Players need to be fired up for every game, not just ones where they are likely to get noticed more or when there is a chance for personal glory (ie in the FA Cup). That has been a problem over the last couple of years and it needs to change.
This was meant to be a game that no one really cared about against a Middlesbrough side fighting for promotion that would probably thrash us. But it turned out to be significant for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, we didn't get thrashed. I wasn't one of the brave (or deluded!) souls that made the trek up to the North East on a Tuesday night, but the team put up a pretty decent fight. We certainly weren't outplayed by a Boro side that will be playing Premier League football next season.
Surprisingly, Simon Cox scored. He finally ended that aforementioned goal drought with a coolly taken finish, chipping the ball over the goalkeeper. After being frozen out by Steve Clarke, Brian McDermott began to play the Reading born striker again in the last few weeks of the campaign, but it doesn't look as though he has done enough to earn a new contract in Berkshire. That means his goal at the Riverside was his last in a Reading shirt - unless he returns for a third spell?!
Middlesbrough's winning goal in the 94th minute was just infuriating. There were so many chances to clear the ball, but failure to do so revealed the fragility of the defence. The game also summed up the season of Matej Vydra, a £2.5 million loan signing who ended up scoring just three league goals. The 24 year old missed a golden opportunity to win the game, but smashed his effort over the bar, prompting BBC Radio Berkshire controversial commentator Tim Dellor to proclaim: "If he was a dog, he would be put down". Ah yes, that.
Frustrations boiled over in the North East, pretty much telling everyone that Reading were in one great big mess. There was Dellor vs Vydra, Dellor vs McDermott and most surprisingly of all, Paul McShane vs Danny Williams. The pair went at each other on the pitch, and both picked up three game bans from the FA.
So yeah, a pretty irrelevant game then!
Any other games that you think can sum up our season? Let us know fixtures you think that Olly has forgotten in the comments below!