I can imagine if you’d gone to Stoke City on Saturday and it was your first football match, you wouldn’t be in a hurry to attend another game. The rain was awful, the wind was unforgiving (I’m surprised the corner flag survived the match) and the football was far from entertaining.
We rode our luck early on when Stoke hit the woodwork twice. They certainly had the better of the chances and if anyone was going to score, they probably looked more likely to. They attacked with much more meaning and speed than we did. It was still so glaringly obvious that we are seriously missing something special up front, and it was a shame that Yakou Meite didn’t create anything.
Don’t get me wrong, the performance wasn’t horrific, and a point away from home is great. Any point we can get at this stage of the season is good; I just felt like it was a winnable game. I believe that, had the likes of Nelson Oliveira, Andy Rinomhota, Sam Baldock etc had been playing, Saturday’s result could have been very different.
On the plus side, we kept a clean sheet, Emi Martinez yet again making a seemingly impossible save from point-blank range. We defended very, very well. Liam Moore and Matt Miagza really seem to have built a good partnership, which is going to be vital in the last eight games. Some of the tackles and blocks that were put in were fantastically timed; it seemed like players were really prepared to put themselves on the line and grind out any result we could.
Although we are still riddled with injuries, some of our midfield performed impressively against a notoriously physical Stoke side. Although John Swift was slightly frustrating, Lewis Baker had a very controlled performance, and kept calm on the ball when he was put under pressure. It’s taken him a couple of games, but he’s really starting to make an impact. Michael Olise also gave a very respectable performance in his first senior start for the Royals.
Saturday didn’t match the feeling after the Wigan game, but I’ve definitely felt a lot more disappointed and annoyed at times this season. Overall I’d say it was a solid point and certainly one gained rather than two lost.
I still can’t tell how our season is going to go. My nerves are already through the roof thinking about this battle going to the final day. One day I think we’ll be fine, the next my gut is telling me something completely different. Let’s hope some of injured players can come back after the international break.