After an impressive midweek FA Cup win against Cardiff City, with visitors Hull City on a four game losing streak having just lost their two star players in January, I’m sure that fans were heading to the Madejski on Saturday full on confidence. There was also expectation that the players would seal all three points against the Tigers. But, in true Reading Football Club fashion, that didn’t happen.
We were flat, dull, and lacked any sort of creativity from the very first whistle to the last. Far too many players had off days and it was the kind of performance you get from a team that believe they’re going to end up in mid table come the end of the season. With so many games still left to play, that is a very dangerous habit to get in to.
Bowen’s tactical decisions also left a lot to be desired. Playing three centre backs at home against a team really struggling for form looked like a questionable decision before the game, and looked it even more so at the end of the 90 minutes. The midfield looked tired and fatigued, especially Swift who also played for two hours in midweek against Cardiff.
It was a frustrating afternoon to say the least and the fans really weren’t happy. Here’s how they reacted to some of the key talking points...
Criticism For Bowen
Since he took over from Gomes, gaffer Mark Bowen has received a lot of plaudits for the way he’s got the squad playing, and rightly so. However, on Saturday afternoon against Hull, he made a few decisions that raised eyebrows amongst the Reading faithful.
Starting with three centre backs, his choice of substitutions and his direct style of play all came under fire after the drab draw. The question regarding whether it was too early to give him a new contract has also been asked more and more in recent times, as we have failed to win in the league since he signed the contract extension. In fact, we have now picked up just three points from a possible 18 in the league.
Here’s what the disgruntled fans had to say about the manager’s choice of tactics after the game...
Bowen’s subs today were awful, why Richards on the wing and not Puscas up top etc. #readingfc— Nick Houlton (@Houlton11) February 8, 2020
3 points from a possible 18. Worse than relegation form. Bowen needs to improve. #readingfc— Paul Smith (@Skeptichead) February 8, 2020
I'm not saying I'm Bowen out and I think he's done a decent jobs at times, especially compared to recent managers but I'm not really not convinced he's the man to take us forward in the long term and I definitely think it was too early to give him a contract extension. #readingfc— Harrison Mitchell (@harrison1871rfc) February 8, 2020
Been generally supportive of Bowen and as an option to steady the ship following the mess Gomes left he was perfect but I am not fully convinced manager to take us forward. #readingfc— Tom Mitchell (@Tom_1871) February 8, 2020
Whats Bowen got against Rino? 1 0 up and shaky we should be shoring up that midfield, instead brings on Aluko. Also was Obita injured? Two poor teams. Need to shake it up Bowen! #ReadingFC— Alex Sheppard (@Alex_Shep_Urzz) February 8, 2020
Dreadful performance. Can someone tell me why when we are winning 1-0 with 15 minutes left Mark Bowen brought on Aluko over Rino, Puscas, Adam? Clueless substitution that in my opinion cost us all 3 points. #readingfc— Sam Gardner (@SamuelGardner04) February 8, 2020
Mark Bowen will not be the manager by the end of next season. #readingfc— Alex Lane-Kieltyka (@alex_elkay21) February 8, 2020
Debut For Araruna
One positive that the fans took from a horrible afternoon was the debut of Brazilian Felipe Araruna, who entered the fray earlier than he would’ve expected as Gunter trotted off injured after just half an hour.
Seconds into his first appearance, Araruna picked a pin-point pass for Sam Baldock to fire wide, which set the tone for a very assured performance. He first appeared at right wing-back when he came on, and then at right back when Bowen switched to 4-4-2 in the second half.
My initial reaction is that it may be hard for him to play in his (apparently) preferred position of defensive midfield in the Championship due to his small and slim build. However, his performance was a bright spark in an otherwise dull day in Berkshire, and one that got the fans excited for what could come next...
Exactly this sort of game is why we'll be stuck in mid table and no higher. Hopefully next season we can change that. Big positive was that Araruna looks a great acquisition, very comfortable on the ball and can pick a pass #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) February 8, 2020
Bad game not to win, not the best performance overall. On the plus side, Araruna looks decent. #readingfc— Melvir (@Melvir88) February 8, 2020
The players have been praised time and time again since Bowen came in for their commitment, mentality and desire to win games of football. This is what made their performance against Hull all the more surprising, confusing and frustrating. From the start, we looked off it, tired and fatigued and it didn’t make for a good afternoon of entertainment.
From a fan’s perspective, it honestly looked like the players couldn’t really be bothered and have now accepted that the play-offs are out of reach. They may well be right with that, but that is no excuse to turn up and put in sloppy, half-hearted performances. It was a showing that worried the fans, but angered them more than anything. What’s the point in us turning up if the players aren’t going to?
Thoughts on today’s #readingfc performance, all a little too predictable for me, disappointing that we couldn’t hold on against a pretty poor oppo and for the life of me I don’t understand Aluko introduction.— Paul Hunsdon (@Hunsy1969) February 8, 2020
That's the performance you get when you priorities the FA Cup. Very flat performance. #readingfc— Steven Kemp (@kempy26783) February 8, 2020
Performance was really poor today. It was vital for us to get the three points with our next three matches, could get quite nervy if teams below us start picking up more points #readingfc— Matt Bell (@mattbell40) February 8, 2020
Poor performance from #readingfc. Hull possibly the worst team to come to the Madejski this season and we couldn’t find a way to kill them off. Too slow, too sloppy, too little movement, and actually a bit too arrogant/cocky at times. Great @bluecollarfood chip butty though.— Matt Williams (@mattwilliams100) February 8, 2020
Very frustrating performance went in front, didn't see the initiative and paid the prize.— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) February 8, 2020
That result right there is why Reading are finishing mid table and not challenging for the play offs #readingfc
Absolutely disgraceful performance after we scored the goal. Sat back and were lazy, sloppy and was a matter of time before Hull had a chance, due to our own doing, and punish us. Should’ve pushed for the second and put it to bed, against a beatable team at home. #readingfc— Ed Ryding (@EdRyding) February 8, 2020
Very dull, poor quality game and a pretty rubbish performance. So sloppy and lethargic throughout with not enough pace going forward. Bad result as we shouldn’t be dropping 2 pts at home to a less than average Hull side. Obita or Morro motm imo #readingfc— Oli Bryant (@OliB_RFC) February 8, 2020
Hopefully this just a one off, because there’s still far too long to go in the season for us to take our foot off the gas. But above that, we as fans do not deserve to show up to games and see half-hearted performances devoid of any real quality or intent.
Next up the small matter of the visit of league leaders West Brom, and if we turn up and put in a similar performance to the one against Hull on Wednesday, you can guarantee we’ll be on the end of a drubbing. Let’s hope we can get something out of this game.