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Reading 2-3 Portsmouth: Bottom Of The Pile

Harry’s take on a day when the Royals fell to the bottom of League One.

Reading v Stevenage - Sky Bet League One - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

The overriding emotion I feel at the moment in regards to Reading Football Club is complete apathy.

As I scrolled social media on the way to the game this morning and saw the images and tweets posted of the #MarchBeforeWeDai hashtag - of loved ones been and gone, sons and daughters and people’s reasons for marching this afternoon - I just couldn’t muster up the same level of emotion.

That’s what travelling up and down the country to watch this team play can do to a man, I guess.

However, as soon as I stepped foot into that protest - positioned just behind Dave Kitson, James Sunderland and Matt Rodda - that all changed. Seeing the sheer number of fans, the placards, the banners, even the coffins, all got me feeling a bit emotional.

Let’s get it straight: we shouldn’t have to be doing things like the march this morning. I don’t want to be walking down the A33 with thousands of other fans protesting against the ownership. I want to make my way to the stadium normally, have a beer normally, talk to my dad about life normally, and just generally do the things that supporters of a normal club do every match day. Needs must though.

It really was a powerful hour or so and did its job in getting me pumped up - or at least a little bit enthusiastic - about a game of football that I really didn’t care much for a couple of hours before.

Bravo to the #SellBeforeWeDai crew for organising everything, and a huge well done to every single fan who took part - we did our bit today.

Now, onto the football match itself.

The Royals welcomed table-toppers Portsmouth - unbeaten in their last 25 games - to the SCL off the back of one of the worst performances in our recent history, against Fleetwood Town on Tuesday, our ninth defeat of the season. So, to say I didn’t expect much from the game was an understatement.

However, it seemed Lewis Wing and Charlie Savage had other ideas. A tweak in formation (yes, you read that correctly) allowed them to play a bit further up, with Michael Craig playing the #6 role. Within 25 minutes, Wing and Savage were on the scoresheet, and Reading were leading the league leaders 2-0. The SCL was bouncing.

We were playing by no means perfectly. David Button made a couple of worldie saves to keep Pompey at bay, but there was a feeling around the stadium. The march, the early lead, the atmosphere - the ingredients were there for a momentous day for the club.

Oh, but then we conceded because, well, we always do. And we all know how things go when we concede. We can change the manager, we can change the players, but for some reason we just can’t seem to shake off this weakest, most pathetic, softest of underbellies.

Honestly we could be 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 up and I’d still think if we conceded we’d go on to lose. Pompey are a good team, a very good team in fact, but as soon as we conceded that first goal you knew exactly what was coming.

After Sam Smith had missed a huge opportunity to restore the two-goal lead, the visitors levelled right before the interval.

Within minutes of the restart you could tell Portsmouth had stepped it up a gear. We couldn’t get close to them. And after a few close shaves they’d got their just rewards and completed the turnaround.

From that moment on we just couldn't really lay a glove on them; a few half chances here and there but nothing really to write home about. Portsmouth managed the game really well, kept us at arm’s length and, despite a late resurgence led by Ben Elliott, we just didn’t have the quality to grab an equaliser.

Don’t get me wrong, it was better. The switch to 4-3-3 worked a lot better than the 4-2-2-2 has in recent weeks, particularly in the first half. And on the face of it, a 3-2 loss to Portsmouth is nothing to be overly concerned about - they look like a team destined for the Championship.

However, it’s the way we lost it which is just unacceptable. It’s as predictable as it is depressing. We concede, we lose. It’s as simple as that.

Put the result into the wider context of everything going on at the club at the moment and it’s just more salt into an already gaping wound.

We’re in dying need of something - anything - to get us feeling vaguely positive about the direction this club is heading in. We’re a fanbase in a complete and utter state of desperation.