Reading returned to action on the road for first time since March 7 with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Derby County.
Tom Lawrence opened the scoring for the Rams on 43 minutes after getting on the end of teenager Louie Sibley’s flick - with the midfielder bending his finish into the top corner and Rafael left stranded.
Former England international and Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney doubled Derby’s lead from the penalty spot shortly after, when Liam Moore’s clumsy challenge on Martyn Waghorn gave the referee no option but to award a spot kick.
Andy Rinomhota pulled one back for Reading in the second half with a brilliant looping header, following a poor punch by ex-Royals goalkeeper Ben Hamer.
Despite Reading seeing more possession after scoring, the visitors could not force an equaliser, much to the disappointment of manager Mark Bowen.
Here are five things that we learnt from the match.
Failure to see out halves are costing Reading
Another Saturday, another game where Reading have failed to see out a half.
It happened last week where Reading threw away three points against Stoke and yesterday the same thing happened just before half time.
One of Reading’s tactics was to allow Derby centre-back Andre Wisdom to carry the ball out from defence and win the ball back as soon as possible to start a counter attack.
For Derby’s opener, Wisdom was carried the ball all the way to the 18 yard-box, finding Chris Martin who passed the ball to Sibley. Teenager Sibley then found Lawrence who did the rest.
When Wisdom was running with the ball, no one closed him down. Instead, the players backed off allowing him to run some 50 yards to the penalty area.
If someone closed Wisdom down and won the ball back then Reading would have been able to overload the midfield. From that, there would have been space in behind to get players in.
It’s so frustrating seeing players making basic errors. The game could have been totally different if Reading had seen out the first-half.
There wasn’t too much difference between the teams in the first two games since the restart, which makes the situation even more exasperating.
On Tuesday, Reading play the best in-form Championship team in Brentford and if you are a Royals fan, you have to fear what could happen.
Where was the intensity/fight/passion?
One thing I witnessed during the game was the lack of intensity from the Reading players.
Derby were allowed too much time and space throughout the first half. Yes, that was tactical, but surely the players should have got tighter to their man, put a challenge in and made life difficult. Even at 2-0 down, the players didn’t exactly come out of the blocks strong in the second-half.
I didn’t even see many players wanting to win the ball back after they lost possession.
There was a moment in the second-half where Rooney gave the ball away to John Swift. Swift then raced towards the Derby penalty area where he was about to play in Michael Olise - but Rooney then raced back to win possession back for his team.
Just little things like that could have a made all the difference for us on the day.
Only from the 52nd minute to the moment where Reading scored was the period of the game where the Berkshire side played with the most intensity.
As mentioned previously, the Royals play Brentford who play a very high-tempo game and have some very creative and technical players in Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins.
Mark Bowen will need to get his players to step it up in the next game because of this.
Puscas isolated/finishing needs improving.
In one of three changes from the side that started the match against Stoke, George Puscas came in for the injured Lucas Joao.
Sadly, the 24-year-old looked isolated throughout the game, winning just one aerial duel and just having a mere ten touches until he was replaced by Sam Baldock.
At 0-0, Puscas had a great chance to put Reading in front after finding space in the penalty area, but he could only put his effort over the cross bar.
It’s a shame because before football was suspended, the Romanian was looking like the top class striker that Reading fans were expecting him to be when he signed last summer
You only have to go back to game against Birmingham (A) where he was one of the best players on the pitch and started the move for Pele’s goal.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before Puscas gets back up to speed and starts firing again.
Meite looks so much better defensively
One of the few positive things that I noticed was Yakou Meite’s hard work from a defensive point of view.
During the match, the 24-year-old won two interceptions and won all his aerial duels (3).
There was an incident in the first-half where Craig Forsyth had been played in by one of his teammates.
However, Meite being the last man was able to track the left-back and make a vital interception. Otherwise, Forsyth would have been clean through.
The Ivory Coast international’s defending has improved massively since he was signed back in the summer of 2016 and can now be trusted to help his team out from a defensive point of view.
This work rate could be a huge asset going forward.
The threat of being dragged into a late relegation scrap is a big concern
Following the defeat yesterday, Reading are now seven points clear of the relegation zone.
In the fight to avoid relegation, Luton picked up three points against Swansea, Charlton beat QPR, while Middlesbrough won their game against Stoke.
Although it’s unlikely that Reading will be involved in a late relegation scrap, the club can’t be complacent especially if they don’t win their next two games and the teams below start winning.
It therefore makes next week’s game against Luton a massive one in which the Royals must win to give themselves breathing space.