I said to my dad prior to the match that this was the kind of game that would either be a horrendous 0-0 or an end-to-end 5-5. Although neither of those scorelines came to fruition ultimately, it was definitely more one than the other.
Let’s be clear, despite Paul Ince’s best efforts to put a positive spin on the performance post-match, it was a drab, dismal display. One of the most commonly used cliches in football at this time of the season is “[the players] are already on the beach”, and today’s performance epitomised that to a tee.
I know we’re safe and I know West Brom have nothing to play for, but in my opinion, that’s no excuse. For 90% of the game, we saw two sets of players who looked like they’d rather be sipping margaritas on a white, sandy beach somewhere (to be fair so would I, but that’s not the point).
Club 1871 was sold out, there was a decent crowd in, it was a beautiful Spring afternoon and the last home game of the season. I expected, and hoped, we’d get a bit more of an entertaining affair than we did - regardless of the two clubs’ league positions.
Focusing more specifically on ourselves, let’s be honest, we were poor. A grand total of zero shots on target in the 90 minutes speaks for itself really. We just never got going and never looked like getting going. We could still be playing now and wouldn't have scored.
The performance was summed up perfectly with two first-half moments. The first, one of the worst corners I’ve ever seen from Ovie Ejaria. From the moment Junior Hoilett pointed at him to take the corner, he never looked interested in taking it and rolled it along the floor straight to the first man.
That may not sound like a big deal, but it was 30 seconds or so that summed up the attitude of the team today. Almost an air of “do I really have to be here?” - an attitude that tends to be shown more by Ovie than most however, I have to say.
The second moment was a golden chance for Terrell Thomas, who was actually pretty decent until he got taken off injured midway through the second half. A Hoilett free kick found him with acres of space in the box - honestly he could have brought it down, done about 10 keepie-uppies and still had time to get a shot off.
However, I think he got stuck in two minds a bit and only managed to take a heavy touch which went out for a goal kick. Again, the kind of indecisiveness and lack of of quality that summed up our 90 minutes.
To rub salt into the wounds in the second half, Danny Drinkwater - who has hardly put a foot wrong since Ince walked through the door - gave the ball away in the middle of pitch, allowing the Baggies to counter and eventually slot past Orjan Nyland.
A classic end-of-season game, really. I would’ve hoped to see the players put in a bit more oomph to try and get a result. I'm not saying a win against West Brom today would’ve had us all dreaming of walking down Wembley Way this time next season, but it would’ve given us something to smile about.
Instead, driving home tonight I was left with more fear and dread for what’s to come. The lap of appreciation was great and all, but all I could think while watching it was “how many of these will we actually see again on this pitch?”. If Swifty’s slip of the tongue on BBC Berks after the game is anything to by, then the answer is an affirmative ‘not many’.
John Swift on Radio Berkshire: "At the moment there's a lot of players leaving, it's quite hard for #ReadingFC to offer new contracts. It's strange that we're all leaving...might all be leaving at the same time, but it's the situation the club are in. Hopefully it can be sorted."— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) April 30, 2022
This season has been torrid. It’s been horrendously bad in so many different ways. But I arguably feel worse now than I did in the midst of our relegation battle. As it stands, on Sunday 8 May we will have no manager, 40+ players throughout the club out of contract and another transfer embargo placed upon us.
That means there are some huge decisions that need to be made over the summer, and the club simply need to get them right. But the people who need to make those decisions have absolutely zero history of making any good decisions previously. So, it's not looking that rosy.
And by ‘not that rosy’, I of course mean catastrophically bad. I would love to have at least an ounce of positivity going into the summer and next season, but I just don’t. All the calculations I’m making in my head end with us being in an even worse position this time next season. I just pray I’m wrong.
Today should’ve been a day of (somewhat) celebration. Of course, we should never have had to stare relegation in the face in the first place. But, in relative terms, Ince has done his job and we should be in a better place than when he took over.
Compare today to ‘Portugal Day’ at the end of Gomes’ first season. The scenario’s very, very similar. I left that day wanting the next day at the Mad Stad to be as soon as possible. I left the ground today fearing the absolute worst.