Coming away from Leeds on Tuesday, Reading faced another tough prospect against a Stoke City side, themselves on a fairly decent unbeaten run and a team that is becoming draw specialists. There’s an interesting stat from this - Stoke have actually scored fewer goals than Reading (one goal different) but they have a better defence (25 conceded against 32). What it does go to show is that there are fine margins (sorry I had to get that in!) between a mid-table team and one that’s fighting for its life.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that this Reading side is a patch on Stoke, and indeed going into the sheds 1-0 up it was confusing to anyone who watched the first half as Stoke probably should have been two or three up.
Looking across the social scene from the Stoke fans, a few things become immediately apparent. They aren’t the most social of clubs, they really dislike managers past, present and probably future, and they also like to get on their players’ backs a lot more than most Championship sides.
They also had a pop at the officials for the apparent push in the build-up to Modou Barrow’s goal. I’m gonna say it, it probably was a foul, but given that the referee was doing a good impression of a chocolate fireguard when you consider the decisions prior - including a potential head butt by James McClean - then they really have little to moan about.
The news angle on this was interesting, with one of Reading’s favourite sons David Kitson getting comments left, right and centre following comments attributed to him and The Secret Footballer (really, have people only just worked out it’s Kitson? Jeez). I’ll cover that further down.
So the Gary Rowett fan club is supportive then
"annoyance towards his players after they frittered away two priceless points"??— SCFC65! (@scfc65) December 2, 2018
Is he for real? HE changed the whole situation by taking off attacking players, freeing them up to attack us in numbers!! HE DID THAT!! This manager is fast losing any respect I had for him! #SCFC https://t.co/beF3WnqORx
Wow that’s harsh
How many points have we thrown away already this season through this manager's negative, idiotic, or downright cowardly substitutions? If I was making decisions at work that failed as badly as these as regularly as this I'd be sacked. He is COSTING @stokecity promotion!! #SCFC— SCFC65! (@scfc65) December 1, 2018
Or maybe a yellow for a headbutt instead of a red eh...
Thanks for giving them a corner instead of a pen !! #stokecity #scfc these referees are like a bag of revels!!— Bryn Shurgold (@shurgold_bryn) December 1, 2018
Pretty sure you’re around 20% under capacity this season...
At least we only embarrassed ourselves in front of a stadium of blue seats #ShouldBe3Points #Reading #Stoke #AwayDays #SCFC #RFC @ Madejski Stadium https://t.co/9EwJj78qVt— Josh Harding (@joshwharding) December 1, 2018
Looking like another year in the Championship for Stoke then!
Lets be honest, reading are the worst team we've played all season and if we can't beat these we deserve to be nowhere near going up. #scfc #stoke— Ashley Amoré (@DJAshleyAmore) December 1, 2018
Common sense prevails
Disappointing result, should have been out of sight before we conceded either of the goals. Clucas was more effective further forward, subs didn’t shore the game up. We need to quickly learn to take the game on rather than try and hold what we have. #scfc #awaydays #rollercoaster— Daryl (@dazz_man) December 1, 2018
If you didn’t sack Mark Hughes you might have stayed up...
I feel nothing but nerves watching us play under Rowett. I felt the same watching us under Hughes last season. The chairman surely feels the same way. Ok we beat Derby on wednesday but the bigger picture is it's December and we're no way near the play-offs. #scfc— Kyle Norbury (@kyle_norbury) December 1, 2018
What, that £43m strike force..?
Our barn door strikers will cost this game,should be 4 up and out of sight,Reading are appalling #scfc— Tom Crinson (@TommycSCFC) December 1, 2018
Coates watching that and thinking blimey, I've got to give £12,000,000 to Wolves in January for Afobe. #CheckTheSmallprint #SCFC— Mark Perry (@stoke27) December 1, 2018
***** RANT ALERT*****
Oh Stoke City, you really are the gift that keeps on giving. After letting Reading get away with a draw, the coverage from your local ‘media’ outlet - the Stoke Sentinel - was hilarious. I know that the local sports news team generally aren’t unbiased, but your man Martin Spinks takes the biscuit.
So where do we start? Firstly, having a pop at Sir John is a little out of tune seeing as he hasn’t been too involved in the club for a number of years and saved the club. Secondly, having a go at ex-players, namely Sir David Kitson also is interesting. I’m presuming this was prompted by his comments regarding the Ryan Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey. Again, note to Dave, next time lie to make the Potters feel better.
You have spent £12m on Benik Afobe. OK, so our local media don’t always sing our players’ praise, but saying that with ginger hair Afobe would be a latter day Kitson is at best hurtful. We might be bang average, but we still held you guys. Oh and you failed to mention James McClean’s attack on Andy Yiadom. Mate, really...
Right, now that rant is out of the way, a quick look at the rest of the media. BT Sport again mention us, and this time actually are quite complimentary to Reading and call Stoke “laborious”. Over at SkySports and, as usual, they have the video highlights - all 2.21 minutes of them - and call the game entertaining with the rest of the report similar to that of BT.
At the BBC they have their usual factual report of the game with Rowett saying it was criminal that they didn’t get three points, where the BBC say it was a vital point for Reading.
The Daily Mail get in on the act as well this week and say this game highlighted the problems of the two teams - Reading not finding a way to win and Rowett not finding consistency. Finally, Football.London have a good wrap-up of the game with Rowett crying like a baby that they didn’t get the point, and the foul on Tom Ince in the build-up to Barrow’s goal.
So Reading fans, what do we think? Against Leeds we played well for 45 min then lost impetus, and against Stoke we were second best for virtually all of the game. There were some highlights - Andy Rinomhota has been brilliant since his introduction to the first team and Danny Loader also has looked bright but needs a goal.
Marc McNulty made up for his heartbreak against Leeds with a nice goal against Stoke, but there were issues. The defence looked shambolic, and OK without Moore it probably was going to be tricky, but Tiago Ilori probably had one of his worst games since he has been at the club, with some seriously strange pass selections and zero communication with his fellow defenders - highlighted with the mix-up for Stoke’s second goal.
We also saw John Swift have a better game than the previous two but still way off what we have seen him produce. Whether this is him playing slightly out of position or that he’s not confident I’m not sure, but something needs to change.
It’s good to see Paul Clement turning to the academy with another starlet on the bench in Tom McIntyre. However, given the players that we have signed over the last few years, it is alarming that injuries and loss of form have decimated this squad so much.
The big question still remains though, how long do we give Clement? Currently there is a massive number of decent managers out of a job, and we are now into the business part of the season with December generally making or breaking a team’s season. Heading into this with question marks over the manager and the January transfer window closing in is worrying.
I think now we are in a position that the club either have to say we are sticking with Clement till the end of the season or change now - so that the new manager can assess the players and see who stays and who we try to ship out. The status quo can’t continue as it is, as surely that’s a recipe for disaster.