Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League
ASTON VILLA 1 READING 0
Aston Villa: C Benteke (80 mins)
It is difficult in hindsight to gauge which apparent certainty was the harder to predict; that Reading would fail once again to take maximum points from a fellow struggler or that the game against a Villa side struggling to score goals would be a diabolical spectacle. In the end, Reading supporters - who, according to manager Brian McDermott, should be enjoying these alleged best-of-times - suffered both inevitable outcomes at the end of another dispiriting evening in this most depressingly predictable of seasons.
In all fairness to Reading, Villa were as abysmal on the night as we were. But at least the Villa supporters had the satisfaction of a win at the end of an entirely awful 90 minutes devoid of quality. 90 minutes. You could have boiled 30 eggs in the time wasted watching this utterly unmemorable travesty of a match. Or 3 episodes of Last of the Summer Wine. McDermott resisted selecting Compo and Cleggy to replace Gorkss and Gunter - for a duo of pensioners couldn't have done any worse on the evidence of Saturday's showing at Wigan - opting instead for the more tried and no less trusted options of Mariappa and Cummings. Gorkss has been a fantastic servant for Reading FC, his part in last season's remarkable title triumph should never be forgotten and who would bet against him re-inventing himself in the remainder of the season and becoming a dependable part of the side. But the plain truth is that he has utterly failed to adjuts to the step up required at this level. Given that Gunter himself was bombed out at Spurs you tend to wonder whether he is himself capable of the leap.
The winning goal that this turgid contest did not deserve came again in the closing stages and was a result of a set piece. The clues, as Loyd Grossman used to say, are there. 3 goals have already been shipped as a result of corner kicks this season, Fulham once and Arsenal twice the beneficaries. Christopher Benteke became the latest beneficiary of buffet defending, allowed a far post free header which drifted apologetically into the net albeit with a hint of a foul as Reading ultimately failed to clear the looping header at the near post. The alarm bells had already been rining with a number of free headers from Villa corners flicked wide of the gaping Reading goal and after we conceded so late at Wigan it was no surprise whatsoever to see us capitulate again so late, so meekly.
Reading had chances, but they were few and far between. In the first half the frankly anonymous Le Fondre turned an ambitious overhead flick following a scramble wide of the net and in the second half the matchwinner against Everton put a presentable headed opportunity from a corner of our own over the top. Top quality Premier League players would score those chances, sadly Reading have few - if any - of those kind of match-winners at this level. From a first half corner the ever-improving Morrison steered a firm header fractionally wide. Reading's best opportunity of scoring a goal seemed to be from hard-running source of Jason Roberts who used all his experience to win several ultimately non-threatening free kicks with his willingness and ability to run the channels. Sadly, both Roberts and Le Fondre were ill-rewarded in their efforts by quite ineffective performances by HRK and McAnuff on the flanks. Leigertwood and Tabb put their usual shifts in but once again demonstrated their lack of creative talent. Villa were able to bring the likes of Stephen Ireland and Marc Allbrighton from their bench, Reading in response used the option of the tyro Garath McLeary to shake up the underperforming flank options. That a side misfiring in this league as Villa are were able to call on replacements of this calibre sums up neatly just why Reading - until January at least - are absolute relegation certs. By contrast, our bench included Brynjar Gunnarsson, himself in semi-retirement.
The game was crying out for a nuisance to stretch Villa's defence. It seemed that Noel Hunt's endeavours might be best suited to our attempts at nicking something from this game and when he was belatedly introduced with 11 minutes remaining following the depressed, meagre away support's vocal pleading for the manager to make a much needed change, it was incredibly Roberts who was withdrawn rather than Le Fondre. Another baffling decision from a manager who has had a stinker of a season himself. Reading resorted to banging long balls up in the general direction of the midget front pairing, by which time we has fallen behind barely a minute after Hunt's introduction. McDermott after the game seemed to suggest, with some sarcasm, that the substitution craved by the supporters had hardly been the greatest idea in hindsight. Perhaps, Brian, if you had been more positive earlier against a side there for the taking then we could have had control of the game long before your players played Musical Statues at a corner.
Reading's neanderthal style of football must be by some way the least entertaining to watch in this division. Stoke City receive many barbed comments from (usually defeated) opposition managers and supporters, but their style is well suited to the personnel they have available. Is percentage football really suited to the likes of Adam Le Fondre? You simply cannot expect two sub-six footers such as Le Fondre and Hunt to thrive on long balls. Perhaps if there was a semblance of creativity from the middle of the park then they may achieve some success, but together with the likes of HRK and McAnuff failing to provide any consistently good delivery you suspect that Reading could have played all night and failed to seriously test Guzan. The positive note is that the recalibrated back 4 looked a little more composed, albeit against a side without a goal in 5 hours. And we still conceded a soft goal from a set piece. Natch.
It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to write in such negative terms about Reading, but there is a growing sense of realisation that relegation is inevitable which is such complacency on the part of the football club given the promises of TSI and the magnificent efforts to secure promotion in the first place. As supporters we wish fror our team to be successful and to be entertaining in their endeavours. We will settle for the former if we cannot have the latter as well. If it is just the latter then that is some miniscule crumb of comfort. When you have neither, you begin to wonder why you have bothered to make the effort at all. So much for good times, Brian.
This Premier League game took place 2036 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.