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Five Things From Reading’s 150th Birthday Defeat To Coventry City

Bobbins dissects on- and off-pitch matters from the Royals’ eighth consecutive loss.

Reading v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

Let’s party... or not

The club had promised many a celebration of Reading FC to tug at the heartstrings on such a poignant day but still seemed to get it terribly wrong. No former players, no former managers, nothing alluding to the actual fabric of the club over the 150 years of existence.

Save for a touching video for loved ones of fans that have been lost there was little to feel nostalgic about, or that we have all been a part of something much bigger than just one game. The return of Kingsley and Queensley with their progeny, Princely, seemed to conjure up suspect images that belonged more in the darker corners of the internet. What a club.

Who’s between the sticks and why?

For many, this was the first chance to see Karl Hein after his move from Arsenal in the January transfer window. What did we learn from his first showing? One could argue, not a great deal. Despite Coventry scoring three goals, he was not at fault for any but from what we saw could he be described as an upgrade on the deposed (one of our own), Luke Southwood? Probably not. Aside from one decent save, going down to his right in the first half from a Coventry breakaway, there was little to be seen that would raise him head and shoulders above Southwood.

Again, the chatter related to the Kia Joorabchian influence has soured this move over and above the merits of whether he or Southwood should be playing.

Attacking verve

On a more positive note, Reading looked as much of a threat as they had done for many at home this season. In the first half particularly, the trio of Junior Hoilett, Lucas João and Tom Ince took the game to the visitors. The pressing high up the field, intensity, and willingness to win second balls (especially from Hoilett) was an anathema to recent showings.

Indeed, the whole team seemed generally lifted during the whole game in differing scenarios. From the enthusiasm of going a goal ahead via a very well executed move, to the spirit when trying to get an equaliser with 10 men, the fight was there. Whether that fight will be there when the crowd isn’t almost a sellout remains to be seen.

Reading v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

Hoilett’s red mist

After such a fine performance in the first half, teeing up João for a simple header via a fine cross and generally being a total nuisance for the Sky Blues, Hoilett getting himself sent off for two very similar offences will have disappointed him just as much as the fans.

Going down to 10 men in any game is a difficult ask, but when a team is as fragile as it is, the inevitability that we would lose was obvious. If he had kept a level head and stayed on the pitch, we could have been talking about the first three points in forever. Junior’s first red card of his career put pay to such fanciful notions, but shooting ourselves in the foot is just what we do.

Return of the Yak

One of the few true positives to take from yet another defeat was the long-awaited return of our talisman, Yakou Méïté. Missing since the very start of the season, we have missed his presence, power and goals enormously. His introduction in the second half was induced by Hoilett’s red card and, despite our numerical disadvantage, he did his very best to still cause Coventry problems with lung-bursting runs down the right flank.

One cross for Ince could and maybe should have led to a goal, too. This led to him raising his arms to rally the crowd, to which we duly responded. How we have missed that raw emotion from Yakou, too. Where other players might be more reserved or deliver a fist pump, Yakou will always wear his heart on his sleeve. The gesture may have been as much for him as it would be the fans, but as suspected by many, a fit Méïté could be enough to save our status in the Championship alone.