Ugh. Yet another carbon-copy away performance and result. Another late defeat where it was crystal clear where the only goal of the game was going to come from, and sure as hell it wasn’t going to be from us.
Once again the tried and failed tactic of anti-football reaped its reward: sod all. When the intention is so blatant that no amount of disguise or deception could possibly hide it, we couldn’t even manage to stick to the plan. Stay. In. The. Game.
When the whole ethos is to not actually to try to win a game of football, you’re going to lose more than you draw. It’s simple. There’s only so much pressure a team can take; at some point there will be a fatal weakness. Again, it proved to be so.
Ince will no doubt bemoan the fact that he made five changes due to injuries, suspensions, bare bones, yada yada, but the team that was put out was still pretty decent. It should have had a little something it to be at least a little bit competitive. But the setup from the outset was just to dig in, frustrate and wish for magic to happen. It’s simply not good enough.
Andy Carroll had to live off scraps but Cardiff managed him well in truth. Femi Azeez had some decent touches, but was never really supported from the midfield to progress the play, and that’s where the problem lied: we didn’t take a single risk. No runners from midfield, the wing-backs never threatened, just hopeless passing into dead ends that were devoid of any thought or purpose.
It took us FORTY-TWO minutes to get any sort of passing going but that ended up with it rolling around the back line and then losing it in midfield. The lack of any idea on the ball was depressing. This isn’t aimed at just this game though - but so many of the others away from home. Possession is a dirty word and seems to be discouraged at all costs.
As a result, Paul Ince reaped what he sowed. Only five shots in the entire game and zero on target. It doesn’t take a mathematician to tell you that if you don’t shoot, you don’t score. If you don’t get anything remotely on target, not even a sneaky fluke, then you certainly won’t win, and that’s the problem in a distinct nutshell: we don’t even try to get into goalscoring positions.
As long as the ball is nowhere near our goal, that’ll do, apparently. It’s just not good enough at this level to just exist. It’s not good enough to be so brazen as to just play for a point from the get-go. Reading are supposed to be a professional outfit; they should be able to be more than competitive.
Sadly, the message from the start of the season has been one of desperation. We’re lucky to be where we are, we’re not like other clubs, we haven’t got this or that, all we’ve got is “spirit”. Spirit only goes so far.
The message has been wrong from Ince from minute one. As such, the players don’t believe they can be any better because they have constantly been told that they’re up against it, that they’re poor relations to the rest of the division. The lack of belief shown in them by Ince has been laid bare.
Time and time again, Ince has set this team up for a fall, and fall they duly will because he doesn’t believe in them. He’s so afraid of losing that he cannot bear his side to show any kind of adventure. As a result the pressure is on them constantly. They are stifled and stale. They may as well give the coach driver the night off and Ince will just put the players right under it.
Ince will no doubt default to his usual tropes of not having X or Y available, but this is his lot. It’s no surprise any more, we know the limitations and why we are where we are. But that’s not the problem - it’s the deployment of the players available and the lack of anything that’s remotely ‘fun’ in watching Reading FC.
Not once did any of us feel remotely excited watching that. Nobody got out of their seat in excitement. One cannot imagine for a second that any of our players enjoyed having to carry out the instructions they were given. The words turgid, devoid and placid have been used many times but the fact that nothing changes is galling.
Thank the Gods for our home form as our away form has been up there with the worst brand of football we have seen in many, many years.
The only bright sides to this dreadful affair were that Nelson Abbey appeared as a late substitute and that we only have six more away games to endure of this utter nonsense.
Who knows what lies ahead for the rest of the season, but fans are rightly annoyed by the tone, message and results away from home. The intimation that this group of players cannot play football is laughable. That kind of talk can only end in one way for the manager. For some, Ince appears to be already on borrowed time.