Mark Bowen brought his men to Pride Park for the second game, and the first away day, of this ‘new normal’ off the back of an extremely disappointing, but unfortunately unsurprising, last-minute capitulation against Stoke City last Saturday.
To make things worse, the gaffer also revealed during the week that the injury that goalscorer Lucas Joao picked up in the first half against the potters also looks like ruling him out for the next few weeks - and is a different injury to the one he picked up on New Year’s Day against Fulham. Great.
With that said, George Puscas came back into the starting eleven to replace the injured Joao. As did Andy Rinomhota and Matt Miazga as Bowen made some tactical tweaks in the search for a first win since March 7.
The game started exactly the same way as the majority of all the games have since football restarted - not very excitingly.
It was a scrappy start to the match with Derby controlling the majority of the possession but not really doing much with it, whilst Reading were more than happy to sit behind the ball and wait for the ball to come to then - rather than press and try and force an error.
The first chance of any real note did fall the way of the visitors though, with Puscas firing over from close range after some good work from Ovie and Chris Gunter - unfortunately a moment that would set the tone for the rest of the Romanian’s afternoon.
However, Reading did begin to grow into the game - and it’s no coincidence that that started to happen when we began to start finding Swift, Olise and Ejaria more, particularly the latter. Ovie didn't have the greatest game last weekend, but he looked much sharper against the Rams - showing off his notoriously magic footwork before firing against the post.
And then it all fell apart, in true Reading Football Club fashion. Tom Lawrence netted an opener in the 44th minute after steering the ball past Rafael from the edge of the box, before skipper Liam Moore tripped Waghorn in the box to give Rooney a chance to double the lead within two minutes, only a short while after Moore got away with another risky challenge in the penalty area on Louie Sibley. It was an opportunity the Man United record goalscorer didn't turn down.
Same old story then, and a horrible two minutes that ruined an otherwise solid first half - and more than likely but any kind of points out of reach of Bowen’s team.
The Royals came out fighting, and within a matter of minutes Gunter had whipped an inviting ball across the face of the goal - only to find the penalty area desert of any black and red shirts.
Omar Richards then did exactly the same thing, with exactly the same result - this time Meite was whiskers away from getting a touch on the academy starlets cross. Just a shoutout to Richards, actually, who I though was probably our best player and showed just how much he has matured as a defender this season.
But the pressure did pay off in the end as Ben Hamer tamely punched a corner only as far as Andy Rinomhota, who planted a lofted header into the back of the net but get the away side back in the game.
The Royals continued to pile on the pressure, but without creating any clear cut chances. With the only save Hamer being forced into for the remainder of the game coming from a tame header from Ovie Ejaria.
Derby showed Reading exactly what they should’ve done last Saturday against Stoke. They defended resolutely, convincingly and saw the game out very well. Despite a better second half performance, Reading ran out losers and all but put an end to any remaining slim hopes of sneaking into the top six.
Just the top things off too, Matt Miazga saw red after the full-time whistle after an apparent scrap with Tom Lawrence - who also received a red card from the ref. After a video surfaced on Twitter after the game of the incident, neither Miazga or Lawrence can have any complaints - with Lawrence head butting Miazga who retaliated with a slap to the Derby man’s face.
Another sloppy, slow performance that didn’t warrant any points, and didn’t get any. Bowen will surely be concerned at conceding more goals in the latter stages of a half - particularly with the manner of Derby’s second goal.
It was two minutes of football that cost Reading, but looking at the bigger picture, it’s two games in a row where dodgy defending and lapses in concentration have potentially cost better results. We were very much in the game against Derby before two minutes of madness, something that needs to be sorted quickly.
Mid-table mediocrity looms, which, I guess is better than the position we’ve been in the last couple of seasons.