Doing a fans’ verdict for a game where there were absolutely no fans in the ground has a hint of irony to it, but none the less something I guess I’ll have to get used to for the next eight matches!
Football is finally back, albeit in very, very strange circumstances. However, I’m sure everybody has missed it and is more than happy to have the Royals playing Championship football again, even though none of us can be there to experience it in person.
Let’s talk about the game itself then - and it was just the same old Reading wasn't it. That might be a bit harsh considering, like I said and like everyone knows, this was our first proper football match in a very long time so it should've been expected to see a bit of rustiness and sloppiness. But, scoring early and not taking chances to increase that lead, only to crumble late on and concede an awful equaliser isn't something that is new to the Reading fanbase.
Here’s how the fans reacted to some of the key talking points from the game on Twitter after the game...
Football is back!
This has been the key talking point, not just for Reading fans, but for the entire country in the last week or so. The beautiful game is finally back, but in a way that no club, fan, player or manager has ever experienced.
The first weekend of football has proven that the remaining games will throw up some big surprises and results and nothing is guaranteed. But what is guaranteed, judging by the fans in the run up to the game on Saturday, is that everyone is excited, relieved and delighted that football is back and on our TV screens again - even though iFollow did its best to make sure that didn't happen.
Here’s the roundup of all of those emotions from the Loyal Royals who were eager to see their beloved club back in action, even if they did end up letting them down...
50 minutes until we get all the Reading fans moaning about the team selection,, ahhh footballs back ⚪️ #readingfc— Daniel Snow (@ReaDan92) June 20, 2020
MATCHDAY! It’s been over 100 days since the mighty ‘ding last played but now we’re back! It’ll be interesting to see what intensity the game is played at today. Hopefully the players come back strong & we obtain 3 valuable pts. Prediction: 2-0 Win+Swift goal ⚪️ #readingfc pic.twitter.com/fWbkhXPc3H— Oli Bryant (@OliB_RFC) June 20, 2020
We haven't seen the Portuguese striker in action since he went off injured in the last few minutes against Fulham on New Year’s Day - and boy, have we missed him. He was key for us in that upturn in form during the Christmas period, and who knows where we would be in the league now if he hadn’t have got injured.
He returned to the starting lineup on Saturday against Stoke, and certainly made an impact. Within seven minutes he had swept home Meite’s cross to put the Royals 1-0 up and get the hoops off to the perfect start. However, it was a bittersweet day for the former Sheffield Wednesday man as midway through the first half, the worst sight a Reading fan could possible imagine happened - and Joao hobbled off injured, again.
It is no coincidence that when Joao went off, the performance started to decline, and Bowen and the fans will be keeping everything crossed that he hasn't damaged his hamstring even more.
Here’s what the fans had to say about the big man’s performance...
#readingfc have definitely missed having Joao up front, his presence is massive— Ross (@RossMT96) June 20, 2020
We have missed Joao so much! So deadly in front of goal #readingfc— BerkshireBoys (@BerkshireBoys_) June 20, 2020
João has been excellent, looks like his hamstring has gone again. Looks understandably devastated. Hope it's not a bad recurring one. Let's go Pușcaș #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) June 20, 2020
READING FC 1-0 UP!!!!!!!! THE DING ARE GOING UP!!!!! JOAO IS BACK AND IS ON FIRE!!!!#ReadingFC— Reading FC Blue And White Wall (@bluewhitewall) June 20, 2020
Lucas Joao looking well up for this. So good to have him back in the mix. #ReadingFC— Sam Rourke (@samrourke_) June 20, 2020
Lucas Joao injured and off again. Feel sorry for him, but also for Bowen. Joao absolutely integral to the way he wants us to play, he's not worked out a team with Puscas yet. #readingfc— Greg Double (@Dubstep1988) June 20, 2020
Gutted about Joao. Was really looking like a player we’d missed #readingfc— vitooo (@v1to__) June 20, 2020
Decent first half first 15-20 we were excellent. Joao looked good before he got injured, hoping it's not too serious #readingfc— ⚽️ (@TheMightyDing) June 20, 2020
Well taken goal by Joao, he had another 2 good chances and Olise had 1. Think Joao was more a precaution, looked like the medical staff made the decision for him #readingfc— Max Howard (@MaxHoward_15) June 20, 2020
‘New’ season, same old Reading. They build us up and then let us down, it’s what we’re used to now let’s be honest.
Like I said before, though, this is the first game back in ridiculously strange circumstances that are sure to effect player performances - especially in the first game. However, it doesn’t soften the blow of conceding a last-minute equaliser from a corner.
Stoke were allowed two free headers before the ball ended up in the back of Rafael’s net in added time, which just isn't good enough - no matter how long it’s been since the first day back.
I have to say other than that we defended brilliantly. Moore and Morrison were both imperious, but one lapse of judgement ruined what would’ve been an important three points - and the fans were certainly left frustrated...
iFollow broken for first 15 minutes, Reading defend solidly for 90 plus minutes and then drop two points to the softest of set pieces with shameful defending. It's good to be back. The Reading Way #readingfc @BBCBerkshire— Tim Patten (@TimRobinPatten) June 20, 2020
Abysmal #ReadingFC defending at the end from the corner. Stood like statues and nobody wanted to win it enough from the second ball— Jamie Harden (@MrCompo) June 20, 2020
That was absolutely appalling defending, all starting from Charlie's attempt at a clearance. #Readingfc— Reading FC 106 (@Reading106) June 20, 2020
No reading defender anywhere close to the TWO Stoke players jumping for the first header there. Shocking defending! #ReadingFC— Michael Dakin (@youvebeen_miked) June 20, 2020
Just as frustrating as before the break, how can you leave 2 CBs free for a header, woeful defending #readingfc— Theo (@WardyTW) June 20, 2020
No words for that defending, absolutely bottled that against a bang average team #readingfc— Ben Brown (@benbrown__) June 20, 2020
I saw tweets time and time again during lockdown saying something a long the lines of ‘I’d do anything to see Reading lose 3-0 at home to Wigan right now’, which in the moment is probably true. But when football actually is back, and Reading actually do concede a last-minute goal, it's still not a great feeling.
Hopefully this game was just a case of dusting off the cobwebs and in the remaining eight games, we’ll be able to push on and climb up the table.
Also, just a quick note from me on the events that unfolded in Forbury Park on Saturday evening. I am not a resident, or have ever been a resident, of Reading but as a lifelong Reading fan, it still hits hard when a town you love is attacked at its core. My thoughts go out to all of those who have been affected by the tragic events.