Sadly, as I predicted in my preview for this game, Reading were beaten at Ashton Gate by inform Bristol City 2-0. What I and the rest of the fans didn’t expect was how easy it was for Bristol to carve our team apart and add to the misery of our poor form. Sadly, I was unable to travel to the game but following the game on Twitter and seeing the subsequent highlights it must have been terrible viewing!
Through this report I will look back on what happened in the game and adding my thoughts of where this result leaves Reading in terms of the league going into 2018.
Reading put a changed line-up with Bödvarsson finally earning a start and George Evans returning the side after a considerable absence. However, the big talking points were Liam Kelly & John Swift being omitted from the travelling squad after picking up illnesses and lacking match fitness.
On the pitch, the side put out experienced defensive errors early on with Bristol City being able to have a free header on goal after a quick throw in which sailed over the bar. This would be the early warning shot to the Royals that set pieces would be their downfall.
Down the other end, Leandro Bacuna’s halfway line cross found Liam Moore who did so well to bring it down but the attempted volley was way off the mark. Both sides were trying to find their rhythm during this half with City having the backing of the crowd to push them on. It would end in stalemate with the second half promising to be a tense affair as neither side looked to have their shooting boots on.
However, the break was what City needed as they begun to place enormous pressure on the Reading midfield who were pulled out of position on multiple occasions. This left the exposed defence who couldn’t decide whether to press or track back in no man’s land.
City’s goal was a result of this with the midfield being stretched to follow the long ball’s path which left a massive gap for the attackers to exploit. Jamie Paterson was able to have enough time to bend his shot unopposed leaving Vito Mannone beaten at his top left corner.
Jaap Stam rolled the dice by throwing on Garath McCleary and Yann Kermorgant for a familiar line up but both players were significantly behind in fitness and out of form. Reading’s only real threat was a scramble in the box after a intercepted cross which left Barrow one-on-one with the keeper which was subsequently squandered.
Bristol City would end Reading’s misery with a Lloyd Kelly strike after Reading couldn’t significantly clear the box from the threat of City. The home side move up to second in the table while the Royal’s slump down to 17th!
Where does this leave us?
This game leaves Reading in a perilous position in both the league and in terms of footballing philosophy. They are significantly behind in the play-off race and are slowly being dragged into a relegation scrap which we all didn’t expect would happen after our play-off final defeat in May.
Over my 11 seasons of supporting this club I haven’t seen such a demoralised side since the Rodgers era where both players and fans didn’t understand the system the manager wanted them to play in matches. The difference here is that Stam is into his second season and ¾ of the squad here all played for him last season.
Reading need to have a tactical overhaul in the break before Birmingham as we have been found out in the league and teams know how to play against us. The wins we have picked up have been when the squad is at full fitness and has clicked. Sacking the manager has been brought up so many times on Twitter and in the stands recently that the club must be fully aware of this by now. My thoughts, however controversial they may sound, are: STICK WITH HIM TILL THE END OF THE SEASON!
My reasoning behind this view is that he does deserve more time to acquire players in the January window who could make a huge difference to our squad. We are currently playing one of our midfielders as a right back and our only established right back is playing left back! This shows how bad our injury crisis has been and Stam could use this poor form to force the owners to spend if they seriously want to push for the play-offs.
It can be argued however that the players he asked to bring in the summer have not worked significantly and bringing in the same type of players would add fuel to the fire.
While it may sound easy to sack him as most fans currently want to happen, there is no outstanding manager on the market to replace him at the moment as far as I am aware. All the managers with significant experience in this league or the Premier League have recently joined new teams or retired (Tony Pulis and Alan Pardew prime suspects). This would delay our recovery in the league and we don’t have a McDermott figure within the club anymore who could takeover if we don’t find anyone.
So, going into 2018 Reading need to use this game as a reminder of the faults of the previous tactics and acquiring new players to fill in for injuries will significantly help add more flair and force competition within the squad.
We always like to hear your opinions at the Tilehurst End so email the mailbag and this will be brought up on the podcast in the next episode! Happy New Year and hopefully we can toast to a change in form to Reading at the next game!