Ugh. In a game that we were never likely to win, we did our very best to ensure that we lived up to the billing. Given the week Reading and the fans have witnessed, it would have been nice if the players and management showed a bit of steel and determination. Sadly, this was lacking. Not just lacking but non-existent.
Of course, this is not a new experience away from home; this ain’t our first empty, bereft, soulless rodeo. It seems standard now that the standards on the road are so low that defeat is virtually guaranteed. Who knows what the content of the team talk is before the game.
Whatever it is, it certainly has no effect. From the opening minute we looked sloppy and unconfident. The task seemed too high for Reading to endure for a whole 90 minutes. A self-fulfilling prophecy, sadly.
Conceding to a pretty well contrived penalty, whatever zip Reading had was zapped. Shortly after, Shane Long was bundled over in the box, which most of the footballing world could see was a sure-fire penalty, but the refereeing nemesis that is Keith Stroud deemed there was no offence. Quelle surprise.
And with that decision, so went Reading’s resistance. Not that there was much in the first place. That was as close as we got to Boro’s six-yard box. Literally. No hyperbole. That was it. Even for a game where we were almost certain to lose regardless, that was unacceptable to witness.
Once again our players faffed on the ball with no conviction or presence. The movement was stale and unimaginative. Players such as loanee Cesare Casadei looked hopelessly lost, but he wasn’t alone. We gave Boro far too much respect and paid for it in spades. We had no ideas in every aspect of our play. In defence we looked twitchy, in midfield we were spineless, up front we never had a hope because the ball never got close to them.
We had no idea how to create any sort of situation that could hurt Boro. We couldn’t get enough of a foothold in the game to give the opposition anything to cause any worry or concern. No attack had any kind of purpose or guile. Much like most of our away days, everything was predictable. The play, the body language, the result. Awful.
Post-match, things did not improve in his presser when manager Paul Ince seemed to blame the referee entirely for ruining his afternoon. He had a smidge of a point: the handball could be deemed harsh and the offence on Long was almost certainly a foul, but to say the whole game turned on these events was offensive to any Reading fan that has seen us play away from home.
Boro, even with 10 men, should it have come to pass, would still have carved us open at will. Their movement was free and confident, they showed no fear, running rings around our midfield and defence all afternoon. It was a relief that, at 4-0, they took their foot off the gas completely and put on their slippers. But even at this pace it was still too much for the poor Royals. It was a saving grace in the end that they took mercy on us; they could have easily scored another two or three, minimum.
It’s difficult to see where any point is coming from on the road, it really is. We’ve no idea how to do the basics of keeping tight and trying to frustrate the opposition. In possession, we look clueless. Nobody wants the ball, bar Tom Ince. Everyone else treats it like the hottest potato in town. Get rid, quickly, doesn’t matter where. Begone foul creature!
Pity the travelling support that have to endure such turgid fare. Further still, they aren’t even applauded for wasting their entire weekend watching that drivel.
Would be nice for Paul Ince to, yknow, acknowledge the fans who made the long trek up here to put up with that, but nope, no sign of him— The Tilehurst End (@TheTilehurstEnd) March 4, 2023
By train, bus or air, our fans deserve a whole lot more than what they have witnessed. Not that that seems to bother Ince in any way. Only Yakou Meite appeared to deliver any kind of mea culpa in defence. It’s not good enough.
The result is one thing, but the manner of it is more worrying. With the next tranche of points to be deducted in the coming days or weeks, we need to witness more of a siege mentality, a willingness to put bodies on the line, a bit of pride in the shirt. Performances like this are going to have to a thing of the past if we are to survive; it’s not good enough to just turn up at the SCL with the home support urging the troops on. The away support still matters; play for them, too.
Feeling sorry for ourselves and blaming the officials is unacceptable. They have to show more in every department possible. We can’t afford to be rolled over in the upcoming fixtures. We had the buffer of points in the bag previously, but with almost half of that culled (only that, we hope), suddenly we need to put our game face on in each and every game, not just at home.