Tuesday night’s Fans Verdict was a joy to write, with Lucas Joao earning praise and a Michael Morrison wonder goal stealing all the headlines, but it’s a sign of how topsy-turvy this league is - as if we ever needed one - that I’m pretty sure writing this one will be pretty much the exact experience.
We just never, ever got going against Boro, with Pauno stating that even the warm-up was lacking the usual intensity - and when that happens, you’re always going to have an uphill task on your hands.
Every game and challenge is tough in this league, but arguably none are tougher than going a goal behind to a Neil Warnock team. Warnock’s sides have and will always be the same: direct, tough and streetwise. And, disappointingly, we didn’t have any answer to that on Saturday.
The gap is closing between ourselves and the teams below us, and this is the perfect stage of the season to build a run of wins. Pauno will be hoping that can happen, the fans certainly are...
Criticism for Pauno
Pauno came under for a fair bit of flack last Saturday due to a couple of tactical decisions, in particular the one that saw Holmes come off at 1-0 up for Andy Yiadom. Again, on Saturday, the fans pointed out a few mistakes that they think Pauno made. After Tuesday’s win against Bristol City, it did seem odd to play all three of Laurent, Rino and Semedo - not that I’m sure which way round they were all playing.
Pauno deserves all the credit in the world for what he’s done to our club this season, but here’s what the fans had to say about his decisions against Boro...
I'm afraid for a second successive Saturday Pauno is again at fault. More terrible game management and a lack of a plan B. Switching to a 4-4-2 with only ten minutes to go is totally negligent. Needs to try something different and quick. #readingfc— Tom Mitchell (@tomwmitch_) February 20, 2021
Pauno messing with the team caused that today. Get Holmes back in, Rino and Laurent as CMs, and ffs just try an academy boy at no.10 behind Joao if no one else can do it #readingfc— Cam Baker (@cambaker96) February 20, 2021
#readingfc why has pauno put a rb at right wing and not put puscas on— james (@dingpring) February 20, 2021
Pauno got that so wrong, how could he not see Joao being marked out of the game and wait until the 77th min to add another attacking threat. Cannot see us holding on to our playoff spot this season sadly. #readingfc— Stuart (@stufenton) February 20, 2021
2-0 down, Pauno goes up to players at HT and we then come out an muster up 1 shot on target. Comfortably outfoxed. One to forget #readingfc— Tricks (@richiec87) February 20, 2021
Why did we bring kn Puscas so late? I can never understand these substitutions by Pauno, they don't make sense.— Joe (@RFCJoeJ) February 20, 2021
Top six hopes
Two weeks ago the top six was nailed down according to pundits and social media. Nothing’s ever nailed down in this division. We’re going through a bit of a rough patch at the minute, and if we’re not careful we’ll lose that top six position that’s looked so safe and secure for so long.
With Barnsley and Cardiff hitting form now too, it’s getting to squeaky bum time, and the fans are fearful that a top-six spot might not be ours for much longer...
Awful result, from being comfy in the play-offs we are now looking over our shoulder. The pressure & expectation on beating Wycombe & Rotherham is now greater & just don’t underestimate them #readingfc— Nick Houlton (@Houlton11) February 20, 2021
Poor performance. Well below our standards. Need to do much better if we want to stay in the playoffs #readingfc— AidenRFC (@AidenRFC_) February 20, 2021
So. Here we are then. The next 7 games is the make or break for our season. 15+ points and we will make the play offs. Anything less and we will potentially fall away. #ReadingFC pic.twitter.com/VMaUq8jBnY— Jamie Hodder (@Jamie_Hodder21) February 20, 2021
#readingfc fans seem to be divided as to whether we should be looking towards the top 2 or looking over our shoulder to stay in top 6. Personally, we should be looking at both - six points off second and five clear of seventh, anything could happen.— Lewis Radbourne (@lewisradbourne1) February 20, 2021
It's a shame we couldn't take advantage of other results going our way but at the same time we haven't lost much ground either. We're still in a good position, but if we want to make sure of the top 6 we can't afford many more games like that between now & May! #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) February 20, 2021
Don't let the mid week win against the worst form side in the league distract you from the fact we're sleepwalking out of the top 6. #readingfc— Tom Mitchell (@tomwmitch_) February 20, 2021
No top 2. Pressure on us and Bournemouth to stay in top 6 #readingfc— Rfc106 (@Read106_) February 20, 2021
4 out of top 6 having a bit of a wobble, gunna be an interesting final run it #readingfc— Max (@maxtweets01) February 20, 2021
Given the results elsewehere, that's the worst result of the season. Poor all over today. Won't be in the top 6 for much longer losing key games like this. #readingfc— Ben (@BenParsons89) February 20, 2021
The next few games are, on paper, winnable games for us. I bloody hate using that term in the Championship because it doesn’t exist, but if we’re serious about finishing in the top six, we need to win these games.
We are now entering the defining run of matches for our season. It’s completely up to the players how it goes, but strap in Loyal Royals because it'll be an emotional rollercoaster. We need a reaction, and it feels like I’ve been saying that far too often recently...
That result makes me wonder how we will get on at Adams Park on Tuesday up against Wanderers' never-say-die style.— Mick Day (@MickDay99) February 20, 2021
They have players in their squad with stuff to prove.
A banana skin it is not.
But as Veljko says "we can't relax".#ReadingFC #WWFC
Our muscled and our bullied this afternoon, classic Colin. However we just have to remember where this team was last year. So yes poor but not going to go overboard on the criticism. Freshen up for Tuesday night & keep the faith #readingfc— Clive Wratten (@Clivewratten) February 20, 2021
I love you Reading FC but my goodness you frustrate at times, dust ourselves down and we go again on Tuesday. #ReadingFC— Paul Stacey (@pstacey11) February 20, 2021
You would of got good odds on #readingfc, Swansea, Bournemouth and Brentford all losing today.— Lee Richards (@Lee_Richards1) February 20, 2021
Poor performance all round today. Never mind, dust off and beat Wycombe on Tuesday.
Holmes is such a physical presence and missed in games like this. We have so many creative players, we just need defenders to defend... #ReadingFC big game now on Tuesday against a team who’ll be physical too— Tony Dempster (@DempsterTony) February 20, 2021
Pauno dosent seem happy at all based off interviews. Expecting reaction on Tuesday. #readingfc— Royals 360 (@Royals_360) February 20, 2021
Laurent poor. Rino Poor. Yiadom Poor. Richards Poor. Olise moaning when the ball isn’t played to him but also holding onto the ball too long. Ejaria holding onto the ball with no product.— Jamie Hodder (@Jamie_Hodder21) February 20, 2021
Massive 5/6 games coming up now. Need a reaction. #ReadingFC
It’s up to the players, we have all the quality in the world and more than enough to finish in the top six. In this league though you get exactly what you deserve and we have to start putting a run of two or three wins together.
If we let this slip now it’ll heartbreaking. But we keep the faith.