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Reading 0-2 Luton Town: Emotionally Empty

Another game, another limp defeat.

Reading v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

After Derby I felt angry, after Kidderminster I felt angry and embarrassed, after Fulham I again felt embarrassed but with a strong tinge of gallows humour to keep me going, after Middlesbrough I felt frustrated... but tonight I don't feel much at all.

I was emotionally empty throughout pretty much the entire game, which was a staggeringly flat spectacle for a side that's in desperate need of a win. I barely felt anything as Luton scored their first - an own goal from Tom Holmes - or their second - a tap-in after the Hatters had carved through a borderline nonexistent defence.

There's not much to say about the rest of the contest, which barely mustered any hope for the sparse - yet commendably supportive - home fans. Reading managed a few tame shots on target in the second half, there was a bit of a lift when Lucas João came on... that's about it. The Royals were otherwise incompetent at avoiding errors, building attacks, establishing any control of the contest or looking vaguely like they might score a goal. A shell of a performance from a shell of a team.

The biggest positive I can take from the game is that it wasn't a rout. This performance was somehow worse than the one put in against Fulham (the first half of that game wasn't terrible - that's enough for praise nowadays). Reading are lucky that the Hatters were fine to stroll through the match, barely breaking a sweat.

It's worth acknowledging that Reading are in an extremely difficult situation with injuries. It's been a nightmare all season and it only got worse tonight: having just 10 senior players available beat the previous low point of 11 for the 1-0 loss at Millwall. I wouldn't be surprised if some are playing half-fit knowing our luck - after all, Michael Morrison, Andy Rinomhota and Lucas João haven't been back from injury all that long.

But even in this situation, Reading should be coming up with more. In that defeat at The Den I saw a decent but tired performance that was ultimately edged out. The Royals showed promise but didn't have enough in the tank or on the bench; fatigue looked like a genuine explanation for coming up short.

Tonight though it was as if we didn't bother turning the key to get the car started in the first place. It's a damning sign of a team with no direction, no confidence in itself and certainly not the manager, who was subjected to loud booing at full time.

Veljko Paunovic is far from the only problem at this club but the little energy fans had for anger tonight was dished out to him. He should have been sacked a while ago and, as the season progresses, it's only becoming increasingly clear that he's out of his depth, has no answers to Reading's predicament and has fundamentally lost control of the situation.

I, like plenty of you out there, am well beyond the stage at which Reading putting in a sh*te performance is anything surprising. At this point the ineptitude feels baked in.

At every level as a football team - on the pitch and in the dugout - Reading are a side in disarray. Perhaps we get a spark from somewhere to turn things around, but that's looking an increasingly slim prospect. Still, the conclusion to this season appears inevitable and we're barely past the halfway point.