Friday night was the first time in a very long time when I hadn’t been nervous for a game. I have now well and truly resigned myself to the fact that we are going to be the team who misses out on the play-offs, and I know a lot of the Reading faithful will be joining me with that mindset.
With that said though, there is still a glimmer of hope of making the play offs, but against Cardiff - in the first half in particular - we were playing as if the players were already on the beach.
There was no urgency or quality and yet again we really, really struggled to break down a team who were quite happy to sit in front of us in a well organised defensive structure - one of the key recurring themes from the season.
For the majority it was a game between two teams that thought they had nothing to play for, which is the most disappointing aspect from my point of view. It’s one thing losing out on the play offs but to do it with a whimper would be even worse.
Here’s how the fans reacted after the game. Spoiler alert, they weren’t very happen yet again...
Even though the overriding emotion from the Loyal Royals was understandably one of frustration and anger, there was space to throw some praise the way of Tom Holmes.
No one could’ve expected Holmes to become such a key member of the squad this season. He’s mainly been used as cover for Yiadom at right back, however he has moved back to his favoured central position in recent weeks, and has been our best player in that time.
He is sure to be a big part of our back four next season to, and put in another performance to prove that against the Bluebirds on Friday...
Holmes is looking better and better every minute he plays. #ReadingFC— Mat (@MatDevon) April 16, 2021
Think Holmes has been superb tonight despite the teams lacklustre performance #readingfc— Samuel Goodwin (@samuelgooders13) April 16, 2021
Tom Holmes only shining light again, big big future #readingfc— Reading Talk (@RoyalReading106) April 16, 2021
Tom Holmes HAS to be up there for player of the season. Been an absolute rock and hardly made a mistake #readingfc— Rob Nutley (@Rnutley) April 16, 2021
Tom Holmes absolutely outstanding so far. Gets better every single game #readingfc— Harry Smith (@harrysmithEFL) April 16, 2021
Our man of that first half was Tom Holmes. Easy choice!#ReadingFC— Mick Day (@MickDay99) April 16, 2021
The whole 90minutes wasn’t the best let’s be honest, but in the first half in particular we looked clueless, lacked ideas and, more worryingly, lacked any kind of urgency.
It was the kind of game that two mid table clubs would be playing out at this stage of the season, not ones chasing the play offs. Yes, our chances are slim of making the play offs but you’ve got to give it everything nonetheless - and i think the fans felt that that was not the case in the opening 45 minutes.
Here’s what they had to say, it's not pretty reading...
Absolutely 100% spot on by @stephenhunt1010 these players are playing like the season is done, far too casual. Maybe it's naivety as not many of them have been involved in must win, crunch games, but whatever it is it's not good enough in that first half. #ReadingFC— Milo (@MiloRoyal1871) April 16, 2021
Final one for now - goal aside, how different was that first half to the Derby game? First half lethargy has been an ongoing problem for some time. #readingfc— Sean (@sean_rich96) April 16, 2021
I mean that’s what happens when you don’t turn up in the first half. #ReadingFC— Jordan (@lockmannj297) April 16, 2021
Such a slow half of football with a real lack of urgency. Not a lot of movement, players look too causal and Cardiff are first to most 50/50s. Need to really go for it in this second half #readingfc— Harrison Mitchell (@harrison1871rfc) April 16, 2021
Too much sloppiness and not enough commitment & passion in that first half. Clearly it’s not just sections of our support who are lacking in belief. A few on the pitch too. Missing Morrison’s character more than we perhaps realise. #readingfc— Andy C #FBPE (@AndyRFCCharman) April 16, 2021
Rubbish first half no urgency in there play look like they have given up #readingfc— Ryan Owens (@RyanOwe55418492) April 16, 2021
Top six gone?
If this wasn’t the general consensus before the Cardiff game, it definitely is now. It was a must win game, and we didn’t win it. You could see from the players reaction at the end of the game how they’re feeling too.
It’s even worse when you look at how it’s got to this point. I wouldn’t go as far as saying we haven’t put up a fight, but we as fans expect and deserve a lot better than what we’ve been given in the last couple of months, it’s not been good enough and the players have been punished for it.
It’s a gutting feeling, as you can tell from these tweets...
Biggest frustration this season has been that we’ve not made the Play-Offs entirely of our own accord. You can’t say that Barnsley & Swansea are better teams than us, or even Bournemouth this season for that matter. It’s not missing out cos others have been great...#readingfc— Sam Hudspith (@samhudspith24) April 16, 2021
Players know playoffs are gone now and we totally deserve it. Performances have been dreadful for weeks not to mention the fact we’ve consistently missed open goals and Pauno’s game management has been poor for ages. #readingfc— Louis Stagg (@dinglouis_) April 16, 2021
Complacency and injuries against bad sides has cost us Playoffs: Wycombe, Coventry, Preston and Brum x2 #ReadingFC— (@OohGareth) April 17, 2021
Anyone saying this season has been a success needs to give their head a wobble! Has any other team top after 7 games bottled it and finished outside the play-offs? #readingfc— Jonathan Burdon-Kirkwood (@JBK_92) April 17, 2021
Think I’ll go insane at hearing the next person to put a finish outside of the top 6 in a positive light, on the basis that it would have been a good result before this season started, or being “pleased that we were in top 6 for majority of season”. #readingfc— Gordon Hawkes (@GordonDJHawkes) April 16, 2021
I simply cannot believe how much we've failed the play offs. Seasons an improvement but ultimately a failure having been in the top 6 all season #readingfc— Dean Bennett (@DeanBennett1993) April 16, 2021
i think what hurts the most is the fact we’ve spent the whole season in the top 6, and now we’re gonna be lucky to finish 7th. our first season since jaap stam that our position in the table hasn’t screamed mediocrity, yet it had so much potential to be more. gutting #readingfc— Joe (@RFCJoe_) April 16, 2021
I wanted a better finish than last season which is what we'll get, however when you have been in or around the top 6 all season to not push on to secure that place is unforgivable. Simply haven't been up to the required standard for at least the last 15 games. Fuming #ReadingFC— Milo (@MiloRoyal1871) April 16, 2021
45 points from our last 34 games. It’s progress but this team was never going to stay in the top 6 with that record. Incredible start to the season, mid-table side since. #readingfc— Jack Malden (@JackMalden) April 16, 2021
It was a poor evening for Reading, and one that may well and truly have squashed the top-six dream which was already decreasing by the day.
With that being said though, as I write this Coventry have just beat Barnsley 2-0 - leaving us four points off with four games to go. Stranger things have happened, and it’s not over until the fat lady sings as they say.
It’s the hope that kills you isn't it?