“Try and stay in the game.” Not my words, the words of the Reading manager, Paul Ince. An outsider who hadn’t looked at the fixture would think we were about to play prime Barca. It’s actually an away game against the team with one of the worst if not the worst home records in the league (can’t confirm that as I couldn’t be bothered to Google it).
This is the rub: the negativity before, during and after a game, particularly away games, is driving me mad. And no, I’m not being negative, you can recognise our problems but also not want them shoved down your throat by the manager every five minutes. You can also want us to stay up AND be critical of the lack of tactical awareness and team selection/“style” of play. Those points aren’t mutually exclusive.
As the team news against the Bluetits rolled in, I chuckled as I saw Femi Azeez’ name crop up. Having excelled so well in the wing position when he was introduced on Tuesday, it made perfect sense to play him in a two up front ahead of senior striker Yakou Meite who was again left on the bench like the last pumpkin in a field in late October. If you’d have guessed the line up pre-match, you’d be being hassled for the lotto numbers.
(Lumley; Mbengue, Dann, Sarr; Hoilett, Fornah, Loum, McIntyre, Guinness-Walker; Carroll, Azeez)
I actually missed the start of the first half (and by that I mean the teams walking out) as I was trying to make a sandwich. I say try, but I’d gone for a cheese and marmite combo. However, when it became time to spread the yeast extract on the bread, I’d gone too hard and fast and split the bread, meaning I then had a disformed bread product, which meant I then had to tread (spread) very, very carefully from there on in, which took longer than I had hoped.
My mood cheered slightly when, within five minutes, I’d heard the commentator mention “safety was the priority” in reference to us. Yeah, I really needed that reminder. It was fair to say in the opening exchanges we were under the cosh very firmly. Cardiff were expansive, used the ball well and were camped very much in our penalty area. They spurned some really good, well worked chances and by 20 minutes in, we should have been at least 1-0 down.
On 32 minutes, Danny Gabiddon uttered the immortal phrase “Reading are still in the game” and at that point, I went to get a beer. The biggest drama of the half was when McGuinness slid in on Mbengue to receive a minor felony card. IMO, it should have been a major felony card, such was the angle and intent of the tackle. Nasty one, that. I think I cried a little when three minutes were added onto the first half. Just blow the whistle and put us out of our misery ref, please.
Much like Tuesday, I had a decision to make: did I leave or stick with it? Obviously I was at home, so wasn’t going to physically leave, but those wrestling DVDs from the attitude era weren’t going to watch themselves, were they?
There was an advert at half time for Tena men, which was ironic as there was no chance of any Reading fan wetting themselves over this performance. Turgid, disjointed, uninspiring. The game, not the advert. The misery was compounded by having to listen to Jamie Mackie witter on about something and nothing during the interval.
Ince made no changes at half time. Despite this, I stuck with it and watched the second half. Cardiff scored and the game ended.
How he thought that making no subs at the break was ok is beyond me, how he looked at Azeez in midweek and thought “you can play up front on Friday” is also beyond me, how Joe Lumley had our best attacking chance, in the 94th minute is, you guessed it... beyond me. We tried nothing and were seemingly all out of ideas. He went defensive, yet again, despite the attacking options we had at our disposal in the squad. And ultimately, you play silly games, you win silly prizes. That prize was a big fat ‘L’.
Ince could have done so many things with that line-up tonight, but he didn’t because he doesn’t know how to. That, my friends, is ultimately the bottom line and the crux of this problem. Try and stay in the game? More like try and stay in your job mate.
Until next time.