There are different types of 1-0 defeats. There is the 1-0 defeat that you are forced to accept, after creating little of note and allowing your opponents a straightforward opening to score. That was the first half at Ashton Gate yesterday.
Then there is the 1-0 defeat where you can count yourselves pretty unlucky to not have got something from the game after a decent showing. That was the second half at Ashton Gate yesterday.
It is therefore relatively difficult to know quite how to reflect on the afternoon, but here we go.
The game began in lively fashion, with Andreas Weimann heading over for the hosts and Yakou Meite seeing a shot blocked before the inevitable happened. And it is now exactly that: inevitable. For the eighth game in a row, Reading conceded the first goal, and what a poor goal it was to concede. Niclas Eliasson’s cross from the right hand side was certainly dangerous, but not as dangerous as leaving Famara Diedhiou free in the middle to head it home. Reading’s marking was atrocious, and it was Michael Morrison who had let the Senegalese striker go seconds earlier.
As the half wore on, the pitch seemed to get tighter and tighter for Reading. They weren’t afforded space or time on the ball, and stringing passes together became a struggle. The situation needed a midfielder capable of breaking free from those shackles, and unfortunately Pelé was certainly not that man. Ovie Ejaria tried his best, but even he was forced to try and navigate his way out of a crowded final third before releasing an unspectacular shot that sailed over the bar.
The Liverpool loanee did though create Reading’s best chance of the half, as he lofted the ball over the top to Yakou Meite, who controlled the ball well, but perhaps should have done better as he shot straight at Dan Bentley.
It was at half-time, following 45 minutes of uninspiring football, the man in front of me turning round every few seconds to tell me Gomes should be sacked and the child behind me continually kicking my chair, that I wondered what the hell I was doing in Bristol on a Saturday afternoon.
I got my answer as Reading came out for the second half with Liam Moore lining up in midfield. That was why I was in Bristol on a Saturday afternoon. In all seriousness, although it smacked of a tactical decision by a manager who was trying anything to save his job, it actually worked. Not to the point that it helped Reading equalise (that would be silly), but it made the Royals perform to at least an acceptable standard.
Having said that, the match could have been over less than a minute after the restart as Rafael was forced to push Callum O’Dowda’s effort from the edge of the box just past the post.
After that though, Reading dominated the half and really should have at least got an equaliser. Bristol City didn’t seem that keen on getting a second goal, meaning the Reading backline could sit slightly further forward, bridging the gap between defence and midfield. Moore was also key in allowing this happen as he assumed a holding role, acting as the perfect pivot. Full-backs Andy Yiadom and Omar Richards were brought into the game a lot more to great effect.
Richards was involved one of Reading’s best moves of the match, as he released Ejaria down the left hand side, who played in George Puscas, only for the Romanian to waste the opportunity with a poor first touch. The ball bounced off his boot and out for a goal kick.
It was not his first chance of the game, but it was certainly his best, and failing to take it summed up his recent woes in front of goal. He was substituted six minutes later, having seen a ninth game in a row pass him by without a goal. There’s a good striker in there, but without any confidence, we’re going to struggle to see it.
Puscas’s replacement Lucas Boye, and the Royals’ second substitute Josh Barrett, furthered the team’s attacking intent. Barrett, playing out on the left, twice set up good opportunities for Meite, while Boye teed himself up for a half volley which Bentley had to turn behind. For all this good work though, there was to be no equaliser. No away day #limbs this week.
To come back to those different types of 1-0 defeats, then. Ultimately, they all produce the same outcome. Zero points.
Sadly, as soon as Reading went 1-0 down, you knew zero points was what they were going to end up with. Bristol City knew that too, and defended well once they had gone ahead. Other teams will realise that as well, and place emphasis on getting the first goal when they come up against the Royals.
You can point to the positives of the performance, as in the second half Reading continually got the better of a side who are now ten games unbeaten. But performances will not keep Jose Gomes in a job. The only thing that can keep him in a job is results, which will become imperative after the international break with the Royals now in the relegation zone, albeit on goals scored.
Time is running out for George Puscas to take his chances, for the marking to improve and for Reading to solve this exasperating issue of going behind in every game. Winter is coming.