There are not enough negative adjectives in the English dictionary to describe the shocking performance that we had to endure on Wednesday night at home to Wigan Athletic. The players were outfought, ou tthought and just second best in every single way - and that’s being polite.
From the get go, the players just didn’t look interested - the passing was slow and pedestrian, there was no quality on the ball and the tactics chosen by Mark Bowen just played right into the hands of Wigan, who didn’t have to get out of third gear all night.
Wigan will say they played well and put in a good performance, but I - and I'm sure the majority of the Loyal Royals will agree with me on this one - don’t think they did, because they didn’t have to. It was a throwback to the Paul Clement era where teams would turn up, play a nice game of football and travel back home with three points - an era I genuinely thought had long gone, but apparently not.
Here’s how the fans reacted to some of the key talking points - and trust me, it was incredibly hard to stick to the family friendly guidelines for this one...
Lack of fight
We don’t ask for much as fans - just work hard, get stuck in and leave everything you have on the pitch and, on the most part, the players have given us that since Bowen took over. However, we got given the complete opposite on Wednesday evening.
The players didn’t look bothered, they didn’t fight and the defending and attitude for the third goal was truly horrendous. Liam Moore, who I thought before the Wigan game was someone you could always rely on to give 100%, jogging back at snail speed was horrible to watch.
The fans were fuming with the application of the players, and quite rightly so, it was just unacceptable...
Not enough expletives to describe that performance tonight.— Helen Bullen (@PAN1F) February 26, 2020
If we can’t put the effort in to win a game against Wigan, then I expect nothing less than abject failure on Saturday against Barnsley.
And by the way Mark - all 46 games are ‘must win’.#readingfc
Tactics mean nothing if the effort is not there. When Bowen came in he made us nasty to play against. Winning second balls and getting in the opposition faces. None of that was there last night. Change the manager and we will be saying the same thing next year. #readingfc— Steven Kemp (@kempy26783) February 27, 2020
For years we’ve blamed and changed managers but after last nights performance, yes I am aware Bowen has to take some responsibility, there was no passion or fight from any of the players. How Moore calls himself a captain after that 3rd goal is beyond me. Get him out! #Readingfc— TomCrook (@tomcrook01) February 27, 2020
It was the lack of effort, fight, desire, strength etc that is most disappointing. Beaten by the better side, yes, and Bowen got it very wrong. But the players have to take a long hard look at themselves too. Embarrassing. #readingfc— Ben de Souza (@ben_deS_94) February 26, 2020
Having work at 1am but staying up till 10.30pm to watch that utter dross @ReadingFC with no passion, fight, desire, togetherness and never say die attitude was gutless. I’ve played football know we can all have off days but no excuse for effort until the final whistle #readingfc— JamesSuarezruns (@james6suarez) February 27, 2020
@BBCBerkshire @willow1871 @TimDellor whatever the outcome of this game please do not let Bowen off the hook for that abysmal 1st half. No tenacity, no spirit & don’t even mention flair! He & his players are cheating the fans with performances like that. #readingfc— Andy C #FBPE (@AndyRFCCharman) February 26, 2020
These players need to stand up and be counted. Last night was not all about tactics. It was lack of desire,effort and guts all of which can be gained at most last night #readingfc— steve richardson (@Rich1Steve) February 27, 2020
To cut a long story short, they weren’t great.
4-4-2 just does not suit this team, and having played our best football this season playing 4-2-3-1 I cannot for the life of figure out why Bowen made the switch.
Bowen is evidently a good coach, he’s been in the game 20 years so knows his stuff. But he definitely showed inexperience as a number one against the Latics.
The players were pathetic and embarrassing, but Bowen’s decisions were nearly as bad. He stated after the game Puscas shouldn’t have been on the bench due to an injury - so surely a fully fit McCleary, Loader or even Thierry Nevers is a better option than an unfit striker who didn’t come on when we were chasing the game?
Bowen certainly wasn’t a popular man on the Reading FC hashtag after the game...
This performance simply shows that the #readingfc players are fed up with the negative tactics and the inept manager! Bowen has lost the dressing room!— Neil Eleazar (@NeilEleazar) February 26, 2020
@willow1871 @TimDellor Ask Bowen what his tactics were? And follow up with Did he tell that to the players? We made them look like Barcelona. They executed their game plan perfectly, our players didn’t know where they were suppose to be playing #readingfc— Robert Bunting (@Bunting1871) February 26, 2020
Maybe Bowen should sack himself at this rate. Absolutely clueless. Isn’t a manger. Tactics wrong. Doesn’t know how to use subs. Absolute shambles #readingfc— Tim Newcombe (@TJN1992) February 26, 2020
Never expect to win every game but as someone who spends thousands of pounds a year on following this team I'm disgusted by this performance. Bowen has no tactics and this team doesn't care as long as they get their wage. #readingfc— Tom Mitchell (@Tom_1871) February 26, 2020
Bowen’s got a lot to answer for after that absolute shambles. Poor tactics, poor team selection, poor all over the pitch. 1 win in 10 now for #ReadingFC— Sam Spencer-Ades (@SamSpencer001) February 26, 2020
Gomes had credit in the bank and still got sacked. Bowen is one win in ten, and last nights team selection and tactics were terrible. Must be starting to look over his shoulder now #readingfc— Gary Fleming (@garyfleming14) February 27, 2020
Another relegation fight?
Tim Dellor made a great point on BBC Berkshire, and I don’t say that a lot. He stated to Bowen that if we were five points off the top six then he would be saying we have every chance of making them, so surely now we’re five points off relegation he must be looking over his shoulder?
The horror show left us now five points above the drop, and makes Barnsley at home on Saturday an absolutely huge game - but can we trust the players to react after seeing that absolute shambles?
The fans are certainly beginning to fear the worst. I’m sure we all thought our relegation fight days were over - but we might be wrong about that...
Absolute joke and now bowen is on the radio saying we aren't in a relegation battle. Have a word #readingfc— smudger (@smujjii87) February 26, 2020
Ah perfect. A game against a team in the relegation zone on Saturday to get us back on track. Just what we need #readingfc— Jack (@jacktindall1) February 26, 2020
What a night for #readingfc. 3-0 loss to 22nd placed Wigan. The rarely seen 442 with 4 CMs. Rafael stopping a real hammering. No shots in the entire 1st half. Bowen leaving a sub unused because he put an injured striker there. Bowen digging his own grave. Relegation battle again.— Calum (@caldini4) February 26, 2020
With Barnsley, Charlton, Boro, Huddersfield and Stoke all to play how can Bowen genuinely believe we are not in a relegation battle? 5 of the current bottom 7... #readingfc— Jordan Norris (@JordanNorr1s) February 26, 2020
The players need to sort it out. They’ve been on the beach for a month now and we are sleepwalking towards relegation. We are in a proper scrap now and the players need to get their heads right and start playing again. #readingfc— Louis Stagg (@dinglouis_) February 27, 2020
I’ve been following Reading up and down the country now for near enough 10 years and I cannot remember a more hopeless, hapless, pathetic performance than what I, and the rest of the fans, paid their hard-earned money to watch against Wigan.
Bowen has a big job on his hands. Five points is still a decent gap, but we are on a downwards trajectory and now looking down the table rather than up it.
The players need to sort their act out too - and sharpish.