In my last column I used the word horrific, and I - along with 1,200 other fans - took the journey to Shropshire, probably more in hope than expectation. After 30 minutes I started to actually be positive about a performance which in all honesty was good.
But hey, this is Reading FC we are talking about, so we all know the script. A really, really sloppy goal conceded after 30 minutes meant the Royals went into the sheds with a goal advantage and everything to play for.
After the first half’s decent 15-minute showing, the second was anything but. Generally, it seemed one-way traffic in the second half and all the fans around me were expecting us to lose. When the second went in it was almost a dead cert that there would be a third. Mental resolve anyone?
Following on from that, with the international break on the horizon (in other words a weekend that’s not ruined by Reading losing), we focussed on the Pizza/Car/Whatever It Is This Week Trophy. As usual that meant a goal fest and Reading looking like a good side when we entertained a poor Arsenal under-21s. It’s borderline ridiculous the scores in this competition, against those in the league. Granted, the opposition is a lot weaker, but it still defies logic.
As you can imagine, the jubilation from the Salop fanbase was high, but there were still people questioning the manager and the players.
Some things are more important that football
A decent team is the key phrase
I think we can all agree #Salop were very poor for a large part of that game. A decent side would have won that with yards to spare, but you can't argue with the fight, spirit and comeback. Great effort— Dave Burrows (@BurrowsAbout) November 11, 2023
Doubtful, very doubtful
ASTOUNDING!!! It's no exaggeration to say we could have been 5-0 down after half an hour, so how we won is anyone's guess! A performance that leaves more questions than answers but, for tonight, WHO CARES!! Great display from Tom Bayliss. #Salop https://t.co/paHsbjk6l3— Marc Petty (@MarcPetty9) November 11, 2023
Football, it breaks your heart
Déjà vu is appropriate
Penny for the thought of Reading fans after that. 2 up and cruising, and they leave with nothing. Unbelievable game. #Salop— Alex (@Alexjm05) November 11, 2023
Every away game...
Never a truer word spoken
There’s no winners today— Nathan (winiesta enjoyer) (@Salop_Nathan) November 11, 2023
If reading win they’ve still got shit owners and Shrewsbury will have just lost to dead last and there’s no promise Taylor gets the sack
If Salop win Taylor keeps his job and reading have just lost to a team who’ve only scored 7 goals #Salop #ReadingFC
There literally wasn’t a huge a lot the Arsenal fans were bothered with…
A very eventful game. Too easy for Reading to run at us & they did so to good effect throughout. Nelson had a good game, always threatening. Not sure on the sending off, looked a solid challenge #EFLTrophy #RFCvAFCU21 #AFCU21 #Arsenal— DJ Void (@voiddj) November 14, 2023
That’s positive after a 5-2 defeat
Wow. Reiss Nelson is cooking. Hope to see more of this in the PL #AFCU21— Saikwa (@amosmozart) November 14, 2023
The BBC called the Shrewsbury game “dramatic” and our away form (or just form really) “woeful”. The phrase “no sh*t” springs to mind…
If you’re a real masochist you can watch the highlight of the game via Sky Sports. They have given up writing reports about us as it’s that dire.
Over at the Reading Chronicle and James Earnshaw has documented our away capitulations in the last 20 matches. It’s what, two points out of a possible 60? That’s not relegation form that’s just “give up as you’re rubbish at it” form.
The most interesting thing to come out of the Shrewsbury game was the interview with Sam Hutchinson at the end of the match, which everyone has had a view on, but whatever you think, for a player to come out like that, it’s rather... well, dramatic.
The performance for 20 minutes against Shrewsbury looked good. After the goal went in it felt like it was a matter of time. I have said before that this team is lacking in leadership and Hutchinson proved that with his interview.
Ruben Selles though didn’t help: his substitutions were up there with Paul Ince’s best as being clueless and head-scratching. Taking Jeriel Dorset off - OK, I get that he was tired, but why not just put Nesta Guinness-Walker straight there rather than shifting all the back line and confusing the players? The goals came from players being confused where they were meant to be and who they were meant to be picking up.
The B team once again raised eyebrows with their performance against Arsenal. Yes, there was a sprinkling of first-team and kids playing, but I am going to once again say that we have a full-back issue. Matty Carson isn’t the worst that we have as, yes, he’s defensively not amazing, but going forward he balances that out.
I’m not sure why Caylan Vickers keeps getting overlooked given he’s one of our most creative players, and what Michael Craig has to do to get a run in the team is a good question to ask. Let’s be honest, the current incumbents of the shirts are hardly setting the world on fire. We are in a mess and Selles is running out of options and time.
Selles though is an issue. He looks tactically weak, he does not know how to motivate the players and is running out of excuses; I don’t see how his position is currently tenable.
My closing thought is: someone for God’s sake get on the phone to Neil Warnock and pay him what he wants to drag us out of this mess before we hit administration, relegation or oblivion.