Team: Mautone, Booty, Sandford, Robins, McPherson, Primus, Parkinson, Hodges, Asaba, Meaker, Lambert.
Report by Roy Evans:
I can picture the after-match scene now. Clive Baskerville asking Bullivant about the game and the manager replying - in that irritating accent that seems frighteningly reminiscent of Barry Fry - "the lads gave 120% and I couldn't ask for more".
Well that may be true. But effort alone doesn't win games, sadly. If it did, we ran out winners against a rampant West Brom side by a square mile. The truth is that Reading couldn't score if you placed all 11 players in a brothel, and this fact alone will prove their undoing this season.
And it all started so brightly. In the Moat House Hotel car park I ran into Barry Hunter who said that he couldn't see Reading losing. Great, I thought, as they must really be keyed-up for this one. Then I saw Ulrika Jonnson in the same car park dressed in tight jeans and even tighter black top. Seeing her run was undoubtedly the best movement I saw all afternoon.
The game itself was only a minute or so old when Lambert received a great diagonal ball across the box from Robins. Admittedly, it came to him at an awkward height, but Lambert seemed to want all day to control the ball and a golden opportunity went begging. Then West Brom stepped up a gear and had four great chances to score. A twenty five yarder from Butler that Mautone tipped brilliantly over the bar (that's 1.5m now, Mr Strachan). Taylor then wasted a chance after a misunderstanding between Sandford and Mautone. And two chances that Primus and Sandford cleared off the line, both from elementary defensive errors.
Reading's only other noteworthy chance fell to Asaba after a cross from the right from Meaker. Once again, he tried too hard and his flick followed by volley fell wide of the left hand post. I had the dubious honour to sit among the Albion fans who were less than complimentary about Asaba. "How much did you pay for him??" and "He's a complete donkey" were two of the more popular exclamations. And it would be hard disagree with them. Asaba never threatened all afternoon, and has a first touch that sometimes make him look, frankly, third rate. You have to feel for Robins, because he barely gave the ball away at all, and must have felt himself to be a one-man attack.
The second half saw Albion attack with a little more purpose, although ironically, not one of the chances they had in the first 25 minutes was as good as any of the four they had in the first half. Just when I thought that we had done enough and that the home team - now leaders! - had run out of ideas up popped Hunt to head in. Typical of Reading's luck this season, it was a scrappy goal that would have been made much harder if Sandford hadn't been off the pitch receiving stitches at the time. In fact, he was trying to come back on before the throw-in that led to the goal. Sneekes was wise to this, took it quickly before the referee could act and the rest is history. After the goal, Albion shut up shop - hardly an enterprising approach for a team chasing the premiership. Reading had the most of closing stages, but couldn't force an opening - we could have still been playing now and we would not have scored.
There were a few positive aspects to this performance. Sandford looked very solid at left back and must be worth a bid. Parkinson had the best game I've seen him play for the club. Hodges is improving every game in midfield and the two centre backs appear to be developing a better understanding. As for Lambert, he thought he could stroll through the game and had no effect whatsoever. Asaba and Booty appear to get worse as each game goes by and Meaker. well, he's just Meaker, isn't he. Even Mautone's handling was suspect, and his positioning from tricky crosses leaves a lot to be desired.
So what's to be done? Without spending an absolute fortune - which we don't have - it looks like the Madejski stadium will be host to Second division football next season. Question is, will the club ever recover?