It was never going to be an easy weekend facing third place Sheffield United, and it’s no real surprise that three points stayed in Yorkshire with the Royals facing a 2-1 defeat.
After a really good victory against Leeds last weekend, there was confidence that we could build on the performance, but that soon went with both of United’s goals coming in the first half through Paul Coutts and Billy Sharp (was always going to happen). Roy Beerens scored in late on but it was too little too late.
Jaap Stam was complimentary of United’s performance and admitted our first half display was not good enough, he told the Official Club website,
“We faced a very good team - a team in form, playing in a certain way, with lots of movement if you give them time. If you don’t do anything about that, they’ll get into their rhythm and make it difficult... that’s what happened.
“They scored two good goals, and we couldn’t go forward because we weren’t taking initiative on the ball.
“We’re talking about the basic things that you need to bring to the game - what you need to do, how you need to start, the intentions that you have. If we’re not doing those things, you make it very difficult for yourself.
“We knew how they play and what their strengths are if you give them time. We spoke about that.
“We weren’t ourselves in the first half. We didn’t do things defensively and when we were on the ball and attacking, we weren’t good enough. Then they get into their rhythm and make it difficult for you. That’s what they did in the first half.
“You always ask questions as to why it comes in the second half when you’re already 2-0 down. There’s that feeling of having nothing to lose, but I think you need to start like that from the start and give yourself some confidence. Do the things you’re good at and don’t think too much about the opposition.
“We did it better in the second half - and when you go forward, and create a couple of moments where you threaten. You score one and you want to push on and get a second. But they’re looking for the counter-attack, and they’re looking to stay narrow and tight and not give any gaps.”
It did not help today that the Royals had no striker on the pitch, with Jon Dadi Bodvarsson ruled out with an injured calf, and Garath McCleary also not available, Stam added:
“Jon Dadi had a problem with his calf in training, so he couldn’t join the squad today. And the same with McCleary who had a problem with his groin.
“We needed to make changes and play in a different way - which we can do, and it didn’t need to be a problem, but if we don’t do the things that we said then it’s going to be difficult.
“We need to realise that in the situation we’re in, we need to be very focused and aggressive in everything that we’re doing, and to play our own game. By doing that, you get results. If you don’t do that, you don’t win games.”
Next up for the Royals is a return to the Madejski Stadium facing Middlesbrough on Saturday.