This report may as well just be a repeat of Friday’s. Reading badly needed a win and you’d think they would at the very least show the desire to get all three points, but intensity, application and quality were lacking. With Barnsley winning at Huddersfield Town, a result that we couldn’t really afford even with victory at Kenilworth Road, the Royals’ season is over - for sure this time.
The display being even worse than Friday’s, despite the lower quality of opposition and the higher level of pressure, demonstrates the fact that this side just doesn’t have enough for the playoffs at the moment. It may have the quality, but it can’t rise to the occasion when needed.
The Reading we saw tonight - like on too many other occasions in recent months - is a shadow of the Reading side we saw earlier in this season. Contrast the lack of energy and spirit with the performance at home to Bournemouth in January. That Reading would tear this one to shreds, and they’re only separated by three months.
I could try to go through the events of this game but, to be honest, there weren’t many of note. Reading had more stoppages for an injury to Liam Moore than shots on target - our only one being a John Swift free kick that Simon Sluga stopped with little difficulty. Besides that it was a dull, laboured, uninventive and passive 90 minutes from Reading.
The first 45 minutes alternated between passable and poor, and although I thought there’d be a drastic upturn after the break, it didn’t come. Surely Pauno would lay into them at half time, they’d come out all guns blazing and go for the throat? That not happening spoke volumes about Reading’s inability right now to psych itself up at key moments.
I don’t think Pauno had much of an idea as to how to change things with a substitution. The all-round performance was so limp that subs had a tall order if they were to make an impact, and there was a lack of attacking quality on the bench anyway. John Swift’s introduction on 72 minutes made sense, although he should have been on earlier, but the subsequent triple change smacked of desperation more than a plan.
Off: Omar Richards, Michael Olise and Ovie Ejaria. On: Sone Aluko, Sam Baldock and Alfa Semedo. Reading switched from their customary 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2, with Aluko going to wing back and Laurent dropping into the back three, taking off some of their best (but sorely underperforming) playmakers and bringing on a few attacking players who, putting it kindly, have had a minimal impact this season.
All in all, a bizarre roll of the dice. But when a bizarre roll of the dice is all you’ve got up your sleeve, what else can you do? Unsurprisingly it didn’t work, and Reading home without a win. Again. That’s now just one victory in eight - a pretty depressing come-down for a side that had once been destined for the top six.