The season up to last Friday had been full of optimism, excitement and disbelief for us Loyal Royals, with many probably thinking we were in some kind of parallel universe, or maybe even a dream.
Well, the last two games have been anything but a dream, and have brought us thumping back down to earth in true Reading Football Club style. That may be a bit harsh, and a bit of an over exaggeration - but no season supporting this club is complete without more than our fair share of games that make you want to tear your hair out. Wednesday night was one of those games.
Perspective is needed though. We're still top, three points clear in fact, and we did have four of our best, most influential players out injured too. Take four of any team’s best players away from them in this division and I'm sure they’re performances would dip a bit, which ours have done in the last two games.
Still though, the fans have every right to be frustrated after watching their team - Lucas Joao in particular - squander huge chances before witnessing individual errors lead to conceding three goals.
Here’s how the fans reacted to the key talking points...
The academy graduate is the dictionary definition of ‘One of Our Own’. This, I’m sure, makes it very difficult to criticise him for many of us fans. I feel guilty just writing this.
But, at the end of the day, he's just as culpable or open to criticism than any other player, and if any other player had played as poorly as Tom did on Wednesday night, we’d all be criticising them too.
He had a solid enough first half, but it all went down hill for him unfortunately in the second. The giving away of the penalty was quickly followed by a mistake that led to Preston doubling their lead.
Morrison and Moore have set the highest of standards this season, but the backups still need to step up when given the opportunity. Unfortunately McIntyre didn't do that, and the fans were quick to notice this, albeit very reluctantly...
I don’t want to be the one to say it, but McIntyre isn’t Championship standard. #readingfc— Alex Dow (@AlexDow9) November 4, 2020
McIntyre at fault there completely missed direct the fight of the ball and allowed the striker to coast in behind. Reading have definitely missed Moore tonight, especially his organisation #readingfc— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) November 4, 2020
Surely he’s got to given Lewis Gibson a chance after that McIntyre performance #readingfc— Henry Knight (@HenryKnight_18) November 4, 2020
Didnt watch the game or listen to it but what i am reading on here Mcintyre has just made Alex Pearce look like Usain Bolt #readingfc— James Masson (@jamesmasson1986) November 4, 2020
I might get dug out for this... but Tom McIntyre isn’t good enough at this level. It’s like watching a fan play. #readingfc— Samuel Kailus (@SKailus) November 4, 2020
Just proves Tom McIntyre ain’t ready yet should’ve sent him out when we had the chance #readingfc— Jacob Hodges (@Jacobhdgs) November 4, 2020
I feel for him and do rate him highly but tonight unfortunately Tom McIntyre had a really poor game. Big mistake for the second goal and didn't looked confident positionally. McIntyre will bounce back but we missed Moore, I'd definitely give Gibson a go on Saturday #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) November 4, 2020
Few things on yesterday: I felt Aluko played well and on another day we win if Joao takes his chances. Unfortunately McIntyre was really poor and that eventually cost us, I like him a lot and he’s very good on the ball but he must step up #readingfc— Nick Houlton (@Houlton11) November 5, 2020
One thing we definitely have been so far this season is clinical. And, ironically, ever since we’ve began to look more threatening going forward overall, we’ve actually ended up starting to lose games.
The game was the definition of what happens when you don’t take your chances in this league. You get punished. We’ve done it to many teams so far this campaign, but on Wednesday it was our turn to be on the receiving end.
I’d be a lot more worried if we’d have lost 3-0 without creating anything, but there are signs it’s starting to really click going forward. However, the fans were left fuming again at the missed chances...
3-0 has definitely flated Preston tonight but they have taken advantage of Reading missing big chances and defensive errors. Awful night #readingfc— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) November 4, 2020
Joao twice. Aluko in the first half. Puscas header.— Jamie Hodder (@Jamie_Hodder21) November 4, 2020
3-0 defeat is horrible but we could have been 4-0 up. Creating chances which makes me not worry tooooooo much!
Point Saturday minimum and we stay top for the international break. #ReadingFC
Didn’t take our chances and they took theirs. Really missed Moore today too. Need a massive response Saturday #readingfc— Zac Colón (@ZacLONDON_31) November 4, 2020
Disappointing of course, but all about taking chances. We've been incredibly clinical in most games, haven't in the last two, and that's been the difference. Still an excellent start to the season, keep calm and perspective #ReadingFC— Ben Greenwood (@BenMoGraph) November 4, 2020
For once this season Reading missing big chances, combined with defensive errors. Plus what a truly awful referee! #readingfc— Stevie p (@stevie_p1871) November 4, 2020
One positive for me tonight is that we had SO MANY chances to score a goal tonight. Problem is we didn’t score any when really, Puscas aside we should be scoring them all #readingfc— Dean Bennett (@DeanBennett1993) November 4, 2020
Seems like we've gone from having no chances but lots of goals, to lots of chances but no goals #readingfc— Richard the Human (@Rootgrapefruit9) November 4, 2020
Last night is definitely filed under "what happens if you don't take your chances"#Readingfc— Niall - Reading 106 (@Reading106) November 5, 2020
On Wednesday we were without our best centre back, our two most creative players and, arguably, our most effective goalscorer. Take those kinds of players out of any team in the world, let alone this division, and your performance is going to suffer a little bit.
You could argue that Meite would've scored the chances Joao missed, Moore would’ve tidied up where McIntyre faltered and Ejaria and/or Swift would’ve provided a moment of magic to get us back in the game.
However, it’s all ifs, buts and maybes now isn't it? One thing is for sure, we are missing those players. And the fans want them back as quickly as possible...
Liam Moore can’t get back fit soon enough #Readingfc— Jake Turnbull (@JakeTurnbull12) November 4, 2020
With Ejaria, Moore, Meite, Swift we are VERY strong. Without them shows how piss poor depth really is. Said it both deadline days we needed strength in depth, we have none. #ReadingFC— Scott McAulay (@scottymac80) November 4, 2020
International break going to come at the ideal time for us. Crucial Meite and Ejaria are back in. Get Moore closer to full fitness and we’ll be alright. Said all along we needed additional depth. #readingfc— Jacob Potter (@pott95) November 4, 2020
Meite and Ejaria have been huge misses the last couple games. Get them back in and we will be fine, wasn’t great tonight but so many changes can be made. Also need Moore and Swift back ASAP. #readingfc— Alex Lane-Kieltyka (@alex_elkay21) November 4, 2020
Moore Swift Ejaria Meite need to hurry back! All key players to this team. Get Stoke out the way then much needed international break! #readingfc— Guilty i support Reading (@royalmint90) November 4, 2020
Squad looking thin with Moore, Ejaria, Swift & Meite out... #readingfc— Stevie p (@stevie_p1871) November 4, 2020
So so frustrating tonight. Missing Yak, Moore and Ejaria. Big wake up call. #readingfc— Joshua Lamb (@lambeyyy1871) November 4, 2020
It's almost as if Liam Moore is important to the team. #readingfc— Greg Double (@Dubstep1988) November 4, 2020
No need to panic, but there are definitely things that Pauno needs to work on. One thing that I haven’t touched on in this is Pauno’s subs, by the way. Which were pretty puzzling to say the least.
One thing I for one learnt above everything else on Wednesday though was the need to get those four players back as soon as physically possible. Moore, Meite, Ejaria and Swift are so important to this team - and you feel their importance twice as much when they’re not there.
Anyway, onwards and upwards. Win on Saturday and all of this will be forgotten...