For the second home game in succession a team came back from the dire depths of being two goals down to snatch a point. Fortunately for Reading, it was us that performed the comeback on this occasion via a magical strike from the scorer of great goals, Jeff Hendrick. Huge smiles all round but slightly tinged by the fact that we could have nicked it if Yakou Meite didn’t balloon his shot over the bar.
As it always is, we lacked composure. Not just for Meite’s last-gasp effort but throughout the game. Whilst we started OK and didn’t give Watford too many chances, they were buoyed by the fact that we couldn’t string two passes together. Repeatedly we failed to complete movements of play where we couldn’t win the second ball or anything that could be remotely attacking.
We tried the Andy Carroll ball up to Shane Long, but... you guessed it, he’s not Andy Carroll! We tried to exploit the height of the debutant, Cesare Casadei, but that had similar results. It was terrible to watch.
Speaking of Casadei, the young Italian got his first taste of professional football in the cauldron of the Championship and, sadly, his rawness showed. Like a shy kid on his first day at school who’d just been pushed into a group of other kids and been encouraged to join in and enjoy himself, he looked like he did anything but enjoy himself.
Whilst there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with his intentions, his moments were few and lacked conviction. Obviously he’s setting in and finding his feet - this fixture probably came too soon as he seemed a tad overwhelmed by it all. Once he has settled in for a few weeks no doubt he’ll be more confident and able to put his mark on proceedings.
As for the rest of the group, they weren’t far away from being overwhelmed after Watford’s two goals to put them within touching distance of the three points. Both goals were the architect of defensive failures, both of them seemingly down to Tom McIntyre. For the first goal, he just let his man go and for the second, oh, he just let his man go. It’s a very common trait it seems that TMac loses concentration easily or physically can’t keep tabs on his man for 90+ minutes.
It’s difficult to castigate when he’s one of our own, but he’s been caught out so many times either for crosses or at set pieces. The argument that he could and should be better placed as a defensive midfielder will rage on, but this was another game where he doesn’t seem to have the attributes required to be a bona fide centre back long term. Where Tom Holmes has grown into his position, the other Tom has not shone as brightly.
One who did shine when he arrived was the long lost Femi Azeez. With the game being stretched, Femi gave us fresher legs to exploit the spaces that had opened up. Finally, we had a bit of pace about us and to give the crowd something to get remotely excited about. Finally, we had someone who we could play the ball ahead of and run on to. Another trait that, until Shane Long’s perfectly obtained penalty claim, we failed to do.
If our passes complete, they are always to feet and never ahead. Maybe that’s down to the lack of pace that’s generally in the side, but this slows our play down and we lack invention. Only when Andy Yiadom put his slide-rule pass into the box for Long to connect with did we seem to try to pass ahead of the player. Azeez enabled us to do more of the same and could also run at a defender. We looked much more fluid and threatening. A bit more like Watford and a little less like Oxford.
On the flip side, it was another game at home that we could and maybe should have won. As it was against QPR, we earned just a point. The winless run continues as we maintain our trend of only limping away from the relegation zone. The slide down the table has been more akin to a helter skelter than a sheer drop, but a few wins here and there wouldn’t go amiss to quell the nerves.
Aside from the gargantuan road trip to Sunderland, we have three games against teams in the bottom five (and with worse form than ourselves) ahead. Wins against them should give us a lot more breathing space and reach that magical 50-point target.