After an impressive three-game unbeaten run, it was normal Madejski Stadium services resumed as Bowen’s men put in another more than lacklustre home display. The returning captain Liam Moore put us in the lead after 32 minutes, but it was a familiar story from there on out as we failed to capitalise on a decent start - and heads dropped when we conceded on the stroke of half-time.
The Royals failed again to really test the opposition keeper for the entire second half, and Patrick Roberts made them pay when he slotted a cut-back past Rafael, slumping Reading to another home defeat - meaning we’ve now won one of our last 13 home league games, which is just an abysmal record.
The fans certainly showed their frustration after the game on Twitter, some blaming the players, some blaming Bowen’s defensive style of play - which, let’s face it, has been a topic of discussion for quite a while now. It was probably a mixture of both to be honest. Swift, Olise, Meite and Puscas all looked well off the pace - but, it’s hard to create much when your centre backs bypass your midfield only for Puscas or Baldock to be the lone striker.
Here’s how the fans reacted to some of the key talking points to come from Tuesday nights game...
Awful home form
One win in 13 home games just isn’t good enough. If the league was based just off home games this season, we’d be in the bottom three.
I know it’s different since the return of football as home advantage really isn't a thing anymore with the fact there are no fans in any stadium. However, that's not an excuse, you still need to try and make your ground a fortress.
Bowen spoke heavily when he joined about making the Mad Stad a tough place to come and play, and how he didn’t want teams to be coming thinking they're going to have a nice game of football - the question is, has he achieved that?
Here’s what the fans had to say about our wretched home form on Twitter after the game...
It’s fairly straight forward. Every team we’ve played at home has wanted it more than us. Away from home, there’s far less pressure. This home record is nothing short of tragic #readingfc— P_GMedia (@P_GMedia) July 14, 2020
1 win in last 13 at home is totally unacceptable and underlines a serious long-term problem getting results. Teams come here believing they can win regardless of where they are in the table. #readingfc— Paul Smith (@Skeptichead) July 14, 2020
For last three seasons we’ve lost more than we’ve won at home. On average we’ve lost 10 per season so far. That has to change. #readingfc— Paul Smith (@Skeptichead) July 14, 2020
Finally we need the players or Bowen to come out and say why they can’t win at home. What is it mentally or what that’s stopping them from winning. Because you can’t blame the fans (no one is there) also stop blaming Bowen. He is trying the players and not doing it. #readingfc— マーク・ロブソン ✌️ (@MarkRobson15) July 15, 2020
Without Ovie Ejaria and Lucas Joao - with the system that Bowen plays - we just look so lost and void of ideas going forward, particularly the Portuguese striker.
Again, we failed to build on a solid start and taking the lead. It’s just not good enough and it keeps on happening. Is it the players thinking they’re on the beach already? Is it Bowen lacking the managerial knowhow to make tactical changes that will change a game? I’m really not sure, but constantly swapping Puscas for Baldock - or vice versa - on the hour mark but continuing to play the same way is absolutely baffling.
The fans were definitely left frustrated at the lack of creativity and quality on show going forward...
That because neither Puscas or Baldock can play on their own you clown!! And you have zero plan b when Joao is injured which is most of the time. Awful Manager...get out! #readingfc— Ally Sumner (@ally1871) July 14, 2020
Far too much hype for our midfield, need to recruit someone to take hold of it over the break. Transition from defence to attack was good for about 10 minutes at the start but not looked good since #ReadingFC— Pedro‼️ (@PictonPedro) July 14, 2020
Have we actually created a single chance from open play in 87 minutes? Bar the Olise one which was literally a hoof downfield I don’t remember one - abysmal performance #readingfc— Alex (@AlexLeFondre) July 14, 2020
Do people actually think Bowen is a good manager? Adkins isn’t in a job, go get him, this clown has no tactics going forward #readingfc— Theo (@WardyTW) July 14, 2020
Middlesbrough wanted it more than Reading today. That was a seriously hard watch, devoid of any ideas going forward #readingfc— Stevie p (@stevie_p1871) July 14, 2020
Bowen is a good defensive/difficult to play against coach. He has absolutely no clue about going forward though. How anyone can watch Puscas and Baldock thinking they should've done more I've no idea. What's Puscas got, 12 goals this season? Not bad considering. #Readingfc— Reading FC 106 (@Reading106) July 15, 2020
Again, we looked like a team that didn’t want to be there on Tuesday night.
So often through the season we’ve had a few decent results and then when the going gets tough, there is no one there to grab hold of the team and get them going again - there's no Danny Williams, no Jem Karacan, no Graeme Murty, no leader.
But you look at the players out on the pitch and there isn’t anyone there who can get near those kinds of leadership qualities. Morrison is probably the closest we’ve got to one of them, and i can imagine he and others probably do try and rile the team up when something goes wrong, but the players just don't seem to react to it. That’s a serious mentality problem.
All we ever ask as fans is for players to show passion and leave everything out on the pitch, so we get pretty annoyed when we don't think that is happening...
Nothing to play for???— P a u l T a n n e r (@longlaneroyal) July 14, 2020
Pride? Passion? Their weeks wages? There's three ideas
All we ask for is a bit of fight and effort. Been far too many matches like that over the years where you can tell we have nothing to play for. Infuriating to say the least. #readingfc— Jacob Potter (@pott95) July 14, 2020
#ReadingFC really off colour this evening. Over and over again the Boro players are first to the ball.— Mick Day (@MickDay99) July 14, 2020
The attitude of this current crop of players seems terrible. No intent to turn games around. No hunger, no determination. Lacklustre at home again. Good job no fans were there. Interesting to hear what Karacan would say about them next game. @willow1871 #ReadingFC— Ben Waite (@etiawneb) July 14, 2020
These players have been awful for more than just 1 manager, clear them out ASAP #readingfc— stuart edmonds (@ednoni) July 14, 2020
This team lacks a winner, someone who will run through walls for the team. Somebody to hold key players accountable and bring real leadership. #ReadingFC— Stuart (@fents17) July 14, 2020
Don’t think we should re sign any of the out of contract players I’d let them all go. Club is in need of a MASSIVE clear out and a chance to hit the reset button #readingfc— Dean Bennett (@DeanBennett1993) July 14, 2020
Think that us Reading supporters really need to lower our expectations. We are a poor club with overpaid players who don’t care and with a poor mentality. It doesn’t matter what manager we have, it will be the same every season. Not confident in this “rebuild” at all #readingfc— Luke (@Luke1871_) July 14, 2020
So, as you can tell, it was another very bad day at the office.
Bowen promised when he came to the club that we would become a hard team to play against, hard-working no matter what situation - why hasn't that happened?
I know we are in a very strange position of no fans being allowed into the stadiums during the coronavirus pandemic, but come on. That can't be made to be an excuse, no Middlesbrough fans were there either but they managed to run more than us, tackle harder than us and try harder than us. It needs sorting out really.