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View From The Dolan: Dull Against The Blades

Ben’s take on how Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat played out off and on the pitch.

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You know that video with Gary Neville where he’s asked what he thinks about Reading and he says “I don’t think of Reading”? I’d love to be him. Since Saturday’s embarrassment (and no amount of sound bites from a certain someone will convince me otherwise), I’ve thought about this club an unhealthy amount.

Results, the squad, personalities, the points deduction, putting blame on people - all of it. It’s all gone through the old grey matter. I won’t go into my thoughts about the game against Boro - you can find all that in my tweets. But what I will say is that we are, yet again, lacking the bare minimum in the basic areas and that is why the mood darkens once again in RG2.

Clearly I wasn’t the only one who felt like that before Sheffield United. 15 minutes before the game and there were more people on the concourses than in the actual stands. I used to be of the opinion when we were good that I’d love the stadium to be empty so I could park easily, not have to be confronted with the news “sorry the pies have sold out” and not have to move people out of my seat (yes, it’s MY seat - I’ve had it for 20+ years, so it’s mine).

But if I could have one football-related wish, specific to the stadium, it would be to travel back in time and tell myself that it doesn’t get better than having a sold-out South Reading Stadium. Honestly, nights like last night are just miserable. And I don’t blame anyone for not going, by the way. When the seat next to me was selling for, what, £27, why would anyone go?

What was particularly galling is that the team news showed us reverting back to type, with nine defenders on the pitch. Having “gone for it” away to one of the best teams in the league three days prior, the question really would be “what was the point?”. If you are going to give it some beans, do it at home for God’s sake.

I also want to address the rhino in the room: Liam Moore. I honestly don’t care whether he plays, doesn’t play, leaves, stays. The whole thing with him has become a complete circus that has taken up far too much time, energy and column inches. I’m fully aware I’m adding to that by bringing him up, but the reaction last night of people berating him and defending him was, for me, a complete waste of time.

I won’t say too much about the game as better writers than me have done that already. What was hilarious was seeing Andy Carroll basically play as a central midfielder for sporadic spells in the first half and actually perform better than those who were meant to be playing there. Little balls through, tackles flying in, passing accurately - remember when we had players who did that regularly? Good times man, good times. To be honest, Ince has tried everyone else so he may as well put a striker in for lols.

Watching United play was good too. They were slick in the transitions, built up the play, kept possession, had patience and recycled the ball well (God I sound American!). Half time was met with boos from our fans, possibly for the referee, possibly for the fact that they knew they’d have to watch two lads try and and hit a traffic cone from 15 yards during the water break. Spoiler: both of them missed every chance they had.

The visitors came out and upped their game ever so slightly. Sure enough, they were rewarded for their efforts with a well-worked net nugget that put them ahead. After that, we had a couple of chances: Carroll with a header and Andy Yiadom with a nice strike that was the wrong side of the top corner. Ultimately, we never looked like equalising or forcing the issue against a side that knew their roles, stuck to them and were very disciplined indeed.

So, what have we learned? Well, Tom Holmes should never, ever be allowed to shoot again, the apathy among the fans is creeping back in, Lucas Joao and Carroll cannot play together - even for 10 minutes - and players that we once relied on are dropping out of form (hi Ince Jnr).

I didn’t even listen to Ince Snr after the game, haven’t looked at his comments and generally tried to steer clear of him. As I’ve said before, I don’t care who is in the dugout (barring Russell Martin who, if ever he turned up in Berkshire, would force me to hand in my season ticket), but what I would very much like to see is some well considered comments post-game, some emphasis on understanding the fans a bit and not being gaslit by my own gaffer.

It promises to be another dark few days for the club once the points deduction is confirmed. Once it’s done, we can then analyse whose fault it is. But yet again, the fans are in the dark. As I said, I’d love to be Gary Neville right now.

Until next time.