With the combination of our depleted squad and the attacking power of Brentford, I was quite nervous going into Saturday’s game, and my fears turned into reality in the opening 45 minutes, which was arguably our worst 45 minutes under Paunovic.
Yes, Brentford are very good going forward, and have the ability to put three or four goals past any team in the division, but the defending in the first half was really and bad and, as you would expect coming up against a team like Brentford, our individual errors were punished.
Obviously Rafael was at fault for the opener, Tomas Esteves should know better than to let Mbuemo cut onto his left so easily for the second, and the third was as easy as you like for Brentford forwards to cut through the defence.
It is important to look at every result with a balanced point of view, and we were much better in the second half. Unfortunately though the damage had already been done and, in the last game before Christmas Day, the fans weren't left in the most festive of moods.
Here’s how they reacted to some of the key talking points...
There is no debating how good Rafael has been for us so far since he joined. He had some seriously big Emi Martinez shaped boots to fill and on the whole, he’s done that pretty well. So much so that he even won player of the season last time out.
However, this campaign has been a little bit more difficult for the Brazilian, summed up by the clear mistake he made on Saturday for Brentford’s opener. He is, for me, still our best keeper and should continue to be our number one. However, on Twitter after the game, some fans were debating whether this is on mistake too many for Rafa...
Why is Rafael still are number one keeper to many mistakes now #Readingfc— CooperRoyals (@RobertC89059161) December 19, 2020
When is it time to accept that Rafael isn't that good of a keeper? #readingfc— Matt Lansley (@mattlansley97) December 19, 2020
How much longer are people going to defend Rafael?! #Readingfc— jamie (@jamiec9900) December 19, 2020
Rafael has definitely made more individual errors this season than Virginia did last term, and he got an absolute battering. Shocking goal to concede again. #readingfc— Jacob Potter (@pott95) December 19, 2020
Said this for weeks now: Rafael needs to be dropped for a few games. Horrendous season.— Tim Patten (@TimRobinPatten) December 19, 2020
Too many goals, and points, dropped due to his mistakes. #readingfc
Rafael ain't that great. There's a reason he is at Reading. #readingfc— Nath St Paul (@NathStPaul) December 19, 2020
The first half
Clearly, this is where it all went wrong on Saturday. The defending was awful and, despite a small spell before Mbuemo doubled the hosts’ lead where we threatened with a couple of set pieces, we didn’t offer anything going forward either.
Brentford are a very dangerous team, but we really didn’t help ourselves and we were punished for errors that really need to be cut out if we want to be towards the top end of the table come May.
The fans were left disappointed, angry and upset at the first-half performance...
I reckon just sub on the under 18 and 23’s and make a quintuple sub at half time and send it #readingfc— Ben martin (@Benmartin9876) December 19, 2020
Embarrassing performance. Obviously injuries have hurt us massively but there is no excuse for that. Been set up all wrong with players playing out of position and some of that defending has been woeful. 5 changes at half time please. #readingfc— Harrison Mitchell (@harrison1871rfc) December 19, 2020
The defending in this game missing players or not this is shocking #readingfc— Jacob Hodges (@Jacobhdgs) December 19, 2020
Can they end the game now? Defending has been awful. How we can be giving Mbeumo that much space on his left foot is beyond me. Only positive is that we pressed well at points. That's it. #readingfc— Lewis Radbourne (@lewisradbourne1) December 19, 2020
#readingfc that first half was shocking the worst I have seen this season— Royalstaylor (@Garytay1961) December 19, 2020
It’s clear what Pauno thinks of his current options. The Serb only made one sub all game, bringing on Sone Aluko for Alfa Semedo not long after into the second half, leaving the likes of Jayden Onen and Nahum Melvin-Lambert on the bench as we tried to find a way back into the game.
That could show a bit of naivety on Pauno’s part; surely he had nothing to lose throwing a couple of the youngster’s on? But what it definitely does show is that the squad at the moment is not deep enough.
The injuries play a big part in that, and of course that’s something out of Pauno’s control, but you would still expect him to dip into the transfer market in January. The fans are certainly hoping he does...
Long afternoon ahead. I cannot stress how badly additional signings are needed in January. Lack of depth is actually vile. #readingfc— Jacob Potter (@pott95) December 19, 2020
The squad depth can’t compete in the top 6.. it’s a shame because our first eleven is clearly competitive at the top of the division.— Alex Stone (@alexgstone) December 19, 2020
Brentford, and Norwich on Weds, have so much more quality against this Reading side. #readingfc
To win the league you do need league. That luck comes in the form of injuries. You won't get promoted if you are unlucky get the whole main starting 11 injured but if recruitment team is good enough they will prevent this issue by getting depth in. We haven't done that#ReadingFC— Reading FC Blue And White Wall (@bluewhitewall) December 19, 2020
What do we need in January? Don’t think we need anyone to come in and start (if we have a fully fit 11 back) - I’d suggest some squad depth? #readingfc— Jack Roberts (@jackaroberts95) December 19, 2020
These injuries have highlighted just how much work is still needed to sort out this squad. Pauno needs a couple of windows to move players on and bring extra quality in. #ReadingFC— Milo (@MiloRoyal1871) December 19, 2020
Too many games and piss poor squad depth biting us massively but then Pauno’s tactics in the last 2 games haven’t exactly helped us either #ReadingFC— Laurie Figzal (@Laurie_Figzal) December 19, 2020
I think we need to keep standing back and looking at the bigger picture. Saturday was a bad day, and well have more bad days before the end of the season. But we’ll also have good ones, and when we start to get bodies back and hopefully some strength added in January, hopefully the good days go back to outweighing the bad.
I still want to reiterate that we have half of our best eleven out at the moment. That would hurt any team.
Onwards and upwards, and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas.
Stay safe and healthy. Look after yourselves, it will be a difficult festive period for a lot of us.