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Five Things From A Bitter Defeat At Sunderland

Bobbins analyses a late, unforced defeat at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


Ugh. Whilst it wasn’t the utter capitulation that we suffered at the SCL, Sunderland wrapped up the double for the season via a costly error at the SOL. The manner of the defeat is up there for Mistake of the Season: why Baba Rahman decided to be fancy only he knows. As he fell to his knees after the goal he must have been asking the same question. He was likely to be lying awake thinking about it, but definitely wasn’t thinking about sending any late-night tweets.

For a player of international distinction it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s safe to say he’s not exactly shone in a Reading shirt. Who knows what Chelsea saw when they signed him, but it’s clear to see why he never succeeded there. He’s prone to the bit of oddness and it cost us a much-needed point here. Many will clamour for Nesta Guinness-Walker to usurp Rahman, but that is unlikely as Paul Ince has a problem with attacking players in that he doesn’t know how to use them.


Once again away from home we played the tactic of “we don’t know how to win games, so we’ll just try not to lose it”, and it almost worked. For 80-plus minutes Reading toiled and huffed but, as it has been in so many games, we never looked like winning. We played the same rudimentary, tired, stale, turgid, placid garbage.

It seems automatic at the moment to see nothing but a defeat on the road. We don’t try to vary the formation, only the players seem to differ. The worn-out 3-5-1-1 or 3-5-2 or 5-3-2, whatever you want to call it, is so worn out it’s threadbare.

Ince has said he wants to play four at the back but has almost never been brave enough to use it. In fact, he’s never been brave with his tactics at all as the intention is always to be “tough to beat” when all this really achieves is to leave us without the ball for large majorities of the game and far too deep consequently.


Once again, Scott Dann was released from the bench and defeat was the result. The loss wasn’t Dann’s fault per se, but this kind of tactical substitution has rarely come off. Managers rarely tinker with the defence if it’s doing a job or a passable version of it, but Ince seems to have a habit of messing things up when it’s easier to just leave well alone for the defensive positions at least.

West Bromwich Albion v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Gustavo Pantano/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It also seems that if a game is goalless then he is also loathe to try and obtain all the points. It took 77 minutes for him to make the first change with Yakou Meite coming on for Shane Long. That was likely down to tiredness on Long’s part rather than tactically to use Meite’s strengths. Loanee Cesare Casadei also failed to make an appearance at all. We had Femi Azeez who was a game-changer against Watford, once again unused on the bench. Frustrating.

Taking a risk is out of the question for Ince it would appear, but this also kills off any chance of us winning a game. Fans would feel a lot happier if we actually showed some intent to win games rather than to not lose them. If Ince allowed his team to show some teeth, fans would be a lot more onside with his management.


As such it has put Ince’s tenure under the spotlight for the first time. The calls for him to go amplified on social media. After a run of five wins since October, Reading are, once again, limping towards safety. Whilst the run is pretty dire we have to be mindful that we are not in the best position financially to be sacking a manager when under an embargo. The temptation and eagerness to change a manager to kickstart our season might be present, but it’s doubtful to happen.

As has been said (far too often), this season was always about survival. With the rag-tag teams of misfits that we have, we should expect nothing more. But it’s a tale that is wearing thin and past its consumable date. Fans are getting itchy and irritable with their team not showing up away from home, as it’s a fait accompli that we’ll try hard but rarely achieve anything beyond just a ‘good effort’. It’s not enough for many.


Arguably, Reading have the most important three fixtures of the season ahead: three winnable games against comparable opposition and two of them are at home. Both Rotherham United and Blackpool are dreadful away from home. Cardiff City are pretty awful at home, too. Their last home win was against Rotherham in November and yet, oddly, they also beat Sunderland away in the same month.

Rotherham are unbeaten in four, however. They dispatched the schizophrenic Blackburn Rovers 4-0 at home and drew 0-0 with Sheffield United away, so this won’t be a walkover by any means.

A couple of wins and remaining unbeaten in this trio of games could be the antidote required to set up the rest of the season. Failure to win any could be catastrophic.