Well, that was pretty awful, wasn’t it? It was the epitome of two teams facing each other who were trying their best not to lose the game rather than actually go and win it - which really damaged the quality of the match.
It wasn’t the greatest start to the day as George Puscas and Matt Miazga were both nowhere to be seen in the matchday squad which immediately damaged the Royals’ hopes of gaining a vital win.
Zero shots on target from either team all game tells you everything you need to know about how good of a spectacle it was. Add to that the baltic temperatures and horrible winds and, all in all, it was a very forgettable afternoon for the Loyal Royals who made the long trek up to Stoke-on-Trent.
Reading seemed to play a narrow 4-4-2 for the majority of the game with the imperious Ovie Ejaria and former Stoke City man Charlie Adam either side of Andy Rinomhota and Pele in midfield. This had both its perks and downfalls as the extra man in midfield allowed more possession for Mark Bowen’s men, but when we were in possession - unless it was Ovie on the ball - we looked devoid of any attacking ideas.
The only real openings we managed to create was a Charlie Adam cross/shot that flashed across the six yard box in the second half and a... actually, that was it. That was literally all we did in 90 minutes of football. It was bad, really bad.
Every game that goes by without Swifty in the team, we miss him more and more. Rinomhota and Pele are both good midfielders, but neither are dictators of play like Swift is. When Ovie and Swift are both playing, we are a completely different team - but we cannot keep relying on two players in order for us to play well.
One positive was that we looked solid at the back and gained another clean sheet. However, that may have more to do with the fact that, just like us, the hosts were woeful going forward and didn’t manage to test Rafael at all.
Although we got a clean sheet, there are still signs of shakiness and vulnerability when we decide to play out from the back. When you have Michael Morrison at centre back with Pele and Rinomhota as the two deeper midfielders, there is no one there really capable of playing under pressure - it was more than evident against Barnsley, and it was evident once again against Stoke.
Even in the dullest of games, Ejaria managed to find some room to do some Ovie Ejaria things, dancing and gliding past players as if they weren’t there, but again the end product was lacking from Reading’s magician - as it was from pretty much every player on the pitch to be fair.
As the frustration grew amongst the fans and the groans started ringing out for the players to up the tempo and urgency, it was clear to see that Bowen and his players were happy for a point - which is understandable if your aim is survival, but if we want to be climbing up the table the way that Bowen says he does, we need to start picking up three points quick-time.
Bowen looked to his bench in the second half and brought on Garath McCleary and Lucas Boye who did, in fairness, add a bit more directness, bravery and willingness to run at players to try and create something - but it was still nowhere near good enough.
I would imagine that Bowen will see this as a decent point away from home at a tough place, but I’m sure the fans will be feeling a lot different as it was a game that was there for the taking. Stoke were just as poor as us which makes the result even more frustrating. A little bit more bravery, composure and quality and we win that game.
A day to forget for literally all involved. Another performance that leaves a lot to be desired and another result which does nothing to help our situation in the table. Hopefully it gets sorted out before Saturday against Derby County because if we lost that game, the pressure will ramp up on Mark Bowen and the frustration will grow even larger amongst the fanbase.
I for one cannot wait to see the how long the highlights clip is of this game because if it’s any longer than 30 seconds I will be truly astounded.