Terrible form continues
After a shocking run of form in the Championship over the Christmas period which has seen Reading pick up a meagre two points from their last six games, the Royals and under-fire boss Jaap Stam would have been hoping an FA Cup clash against a Stevenage side that lies 16th in League 2 could have brought some welcome respite.
However, that was far from the case as a relatively strong Reading side struggled against the home team who earned a 0-0 draw and a replay at the Madejski Stadium. The game was an example of Reading’s awful league form carrying over into the cup competition and only intensified the speculation and scrutiny surrounding Jaap Stam who goes into Saturday’s fixture with Hull City desperately needing a win.
Who is the best left back?
With Jordan Obita’s injury meaning he is out for the entirety of the season, Reading have been struggling to replace their first-choice left-back with Tyler Blackett, Chris Gunter, Leandro Bacuna and Omar Richards all getting their chance at various stages of the season.
Blackett has made his fair share of mistakes this season and has seen right-back Gunter preferred to him in recent weeks who has been solid if unspectacular while filling in. 19 year-old Richards got the nod against Stevenage which marked his fourth appearance for the Royals and he once again impressed in a game where not really any of the other Reading players did.
At such a tender age it can be understood why Stam does not want to thrust Richards into a team which is experiencing a tough run of results but Richards has always delivered when he has played. Perhaps it is time for him to get a run in the first team.
Too many midfielders
Reading lined up against Stevenage with Bacuna, Joey van den Berg, Dave Edwards, Liam Kelly, George Evans, Garath McCleary and Modou Barrow all starting alongside just three out and out defenders and no striker.
It has been said before and will be said again but Reading clearly have too many midfielders as Bacuna continued filling in at right-back and McCleary played as a striker. While there is no issue with having versatile players – it is clearly a benefit – but the fact that seven midfielders began the clash with Stevenage highlights the lack of attacking and defensive options at Stam’s disposal. Hopefully this can be rectified in the current transfer window but it seems as though Reading fans should not hold out much hope on this front.
Centre-back Liam Moore was conspicuous by his absence from the game and while Jaap Stam assured fans it was because of a knock he received in the previous league match against Birmingham, naturally speculation amongst fans arose that Moore was absent as he was going to be moving on in the transfer window.
As I have stated in a previous article, the loss of Moore would leave a massive hole in the Reading side that they would need to plug, especially considering the lack of depth in defence right now. Whether or not Moore does leave remains to be seen.
Gunter and McShane
At the end of the game, a visibly frustrated Reading side were about to go down the tunnel to the dressing room straight away without fronting up to the disappointed and upset fans who had travelled to Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium to watch their side.
Captain Paul McShane had to be convinced by Gunter to go over to the supporters and both players addressed the situation on social media recounting their frustrations with Reading’s current situation.
“Not one for these posts but feel it’s important after today. Having sat watching the game, I was hugely disappointed with some of the chants coming from the away end, from the very start of the game. I know full well this season hasn’t been good enough, and we need to improve for the remainder of it.
“We have not given you as fans a lot to get excited about, but sarcastic and disrespectful chanting will never ever help us. And we all want the same thing. I know it’s a minority and the vast support is always brilliant, but I still wanted to say it.
“Not one player today said not to go over to the fans, it may have looked unusual because of the atmosphere throughout the game, but in tough times we need you. We’re always trying to deliver for ourselves, the club and you as fans. Enjoy your weekend and see you all next week at Hull.”
Whereas McShane said:
“Firstly I want to apologise for showing reluctance to clap some of the travelling fans after the match today. For those of you that come to every game you will know I always clap you all after every match and how much I appreciate your support and today should have been no different.
“Let me explain, I know were are not getting the results we had last season but I wear my heart on my sleeve and there is no one more disappointed than me. I give everything I have in every game so to have the fans boo and mock us during a match is very disheartening and hard to take - and not the first time it has happened this season.
“My reluctance to clap was a passionate error of judgement in the heat of the moment - please do not mistake it for arrogance or lack of respect. I know how brilliant our true fans are and for those of you that support the club and players even when results are not going our way we both want, thank you.”