Game three of our winnable matches run saw Reading visit a Stoke City side that has been in desperate form this season. When you’re at the bottom of the league two things happen: firstly you worry about every team that visits your ground, and secondly games away from home against sides that are lower in the league than you take on a new sense of purpose, turning into genuine six-pointers.
This one fell into a good potential of ‘three points if not certainly one’ category, and what we didn’t expect was probably the most boring game in a very long time.
If truth be told, both teams could have played “rush goalie” as neither side actually needed one. This is summed up by the scathing verdict of Sky Sports News pundit Alan McInally who was covering the game live.
The Stoke fans are very similar in their opinion of the game, the players and the club, with little love for anything at the moment. But when you see how far they have fallen in a short period of time, it’s understandable.
Think this summed up everyone’s mood
Yup seen this too many times
Zero connection between fans and players at Stoke City right now. Them and us. Never ends well. #scfc— Neil Finney (@NeilFinney) December 14, 2019
You have to give them 10/10
Moment of appreciation for anyone who's going to all the way to Middlesborough on Mad Friday night, when it's on the tele, after watching that shite today! #scfc— Lee Hallam (@LeeHallam89) December 14, 2019
This is a good point!
How can a team with Rory Delap on the coaching staff be so awful at throw ins ? At least two players need to want the ball. It really isn't rocket science. #scfc— poc (@peteoconn) December 14, 2019
Bit early in the season for a six-pointer but point made
Definition of a six pointer & the lack of urgency was frightening #SCFC— Mozz (@Mozzaa92) December 14, 2019
Try writing a column/match report/ratings/follow-up on it!
That was crap again. I’ve got no more insight to offer #stokecity— UTC Studio (@UTCstudio) December 14, 2019
If you thought last game’s column was a little short, it’s nothing compared to this one. I really am struggling to find anything that’s either positive, negative or just actually mentions us. What there is isn’t great, most pointing out that this was quite possibly the most boring game of the season/year/decade (delete as appropriate).
Looking firstly at the Stoke Sentinel, they carry an interview with Michael O’Neill after the game where he laments his side’s slow play and lack of an attempt to do something expansive, commenting that they took the easy option and got nothing for it.
SkySports have 1.02 of coverage which has to be one of the lowest for an age, and predictably it’s four of Stoke’s chances which gets onto the highlights reel. In their interview they call the game a ‘drab dour affair’ and in reality the most entertaining thing of the whole afternoon was McInally’s comments while reporting.
The BBC paint a similar picture, saying that although we couldn’t register a shot, Reading never actually looked like losing, so small mercies I suppose.
Bowen actually seems upbeat with the interview on GetReading’s site. I suppose that a point away from home is decent given the run we are on, but team selection and injuries do lead the line a little.
There’s a school of thought that says when you’re struggling a point away from home - wherever you are - is a decent point. There’s also another school that says against teams below you, you should be looking to maximise the result.
Whatever side you want to jump onto there is no doubt that, with a run of three games against Birmingham City, Barnsley and Stoke – given their league positions, off-field issues and current form, should have been Reading looking at getting nine points. This would have placed us comfortably mid-table and everyone could have had an enjoyable Christmas.
But no, now we face a Derby County side who are the epiphany of a “don’t know what team’s gonna turn up” on Saturday, and if we lose that we face the prospect of another miserable Christmas. Bowen sees improvement in this team and to be fair our defence structure on the whole isn’t bad (well apart from Michael Morrison having a brain meltdown every now and again) but we are creating little and forwards just ain’t firing. There is an argument that we look better with a bit more width and maybe a return to a traditional 4-4-2 might not be the worst thing in the world.
With a defensive crisis looming now that Andy Yiadom and Matt Miazga are seemingly out for a few weeks it’s up to the squad and in particular Chris Gunter to step up to the plate and deliver. To be fair to Gunter he has been fairly decent when he’s played this year, he just hasn’t got that attacking threat that Yiadom has.
We have a run of games now starting with Derby, then onto QPR, Preston and Fulham, none of which are in decent form. Get anything from that run and it’s a positive but I do see us moving into the New Year with renewed fears and the club in crisis again! (Hoping for some reverse luck here!)