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The Highs And Lows Of Reading’s 2023: January-March

The opening part of our 2023 review takes in a miserable first quarter of the year.

Stoke City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images


High: Beating Watford in the FA Cup (January 7)

An easy high to pick out for this month as it was Reading’s only win in January. The Royals’ second string saw off fellow Championship side Watford to progress through to the fourth round of the FA Cup, and it included some memorable goals too.

Kelvin Abrefa opened his account with a bizarre finish, his deep right-wing cross finding its way over the goalie to squirm home for 1-0. Then, late on, Shane Long put the game to bed with what would prove to be his final goal for the club, and indeed in his career, ahead of retirement in the summer.

Low: Battered at Stoke (January 21)

Reading were looking for a morale-booster ahead of the FA Cup trip to Manchester United, but got the polar opposite by being rinsed 4-0 by the Potters on the weekend prior. This was a horror show, an all-round capitulation, and to add insult to injury it came against a relegation-threatened side: really the kind of team Reading should have been able to beat at this stage.

It was also an example of the kind of away-day misery that Reading fans would have to endure throughout the year, whether in the Championship or League One. No entertainment, no real fight, just a painful chore to be sat through.


High: Tangerines gobbled up (February 25)

There’s two wins to pick from for this month, but the confident 3-1 victory over Blackpool far eclipsed a late 2-1 smash-and-grab against Rotherham United. This was an unusually attacking, free-flowing performance from the Royals, who shifted away from 3-5-2 to 4-1-4-1 to good effect. Fans would have to wait until late November for the next league game in which Reading scored more than twice.

Tom Ince and Yakou Meite both looked particularly dangerous, with the former scoring twice and the latter involved in the build-up for two goals, including winning a penalty that Andy Carroll converted. Unfortunately, it was the last three points Reading fans would be able to celebrate for quite some time...

Reading v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

Low: Friday night frights in South Wales (February 17)

Reading had quite the curse for Friday night televised games last season, having already lost at Queens Park Rangers and Birmingham City in 2022. Unfortunately, that run continued in a dire outing at Cardiff City, when a particularly unadventurous, lifeless Reading limped through the contest without getting a single shot on target before being beaten by a late winner.

This is the game when fan anger against Paul Ince seemed to really intensify, given how costly his negative tactics proved to be. He didn’t help himself after the match either, blasting his players without taking responsibility himself.


High: An away goal from open play! (March 15)

Yes I know, that’s a comically small thing to celebrate, but March was a truly dire month for Reading, given that it included a run of defeats and horrendous developments off the pitch (see below). I could have gone for the 1-1 against Hull City, but this little moment at Blackburn Rovers before felt more special than a disappointing draw.

Reading were dire on the road at this point. Not only were we awful at getting results - no win since mid-November, no draw since late December - we couldn’t even score from open play. That changed with a cracker of a strike from Cesare Casadei in a 2-1 defeat at Ewood Park that, briefly at least, made it feel like Reading were showing some tentative signs of improvement.

Low: Hello points deduction my old friend (March 1)

Despite Reading’s downturn in form the previous month, the club still seemed to be on track to stay in the Championship. However, our survival hopes were rocked on March 1 when news broke across multiple outlets that the club was once more facing a points deduction.

Initially, we didn’t know much more than that. Different reports’ estimates varied wildly - one suggested Reading could be docked 12 points - and we didn’t even know specifically what the Royals had done to incur a penalty in the first place. The resulting anxiety and lack of clarity hung over Reading for weeks to come.