Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - Premier League


Reading: --
Sunderland: J McClean (3 mins), S Fletcher (28 mins), S Sessegnon (90 mins).

The two sides in the poorest run of Premier League form came together and many expected a close edgy game. This was anything but. Sunderland scored early on, controlled the game, outclassed Reading with ease and duly moved 6 points clear of us as the defecit increases and the relentless slump continues. This was a desperate performance, poorer than anything produced since McDermott took full time charge. The team looked leaderless, lacking in quality and relegation certs. The whole experience felt much like the Plymouth away game in December 2009; long away trip to fellow strugglers who beat us by three clear goals, with an overwhelming feeling that Brian McDermott sat in the Reading dugout is out of his depth. Of course, that man McDermott then took us on an outstanding run of form which lasted until the end of the season and indeed for the following two seasons of play-off heartache and subsequent late surge to the title. Could it be though that McDermott have now flatlined at this more demanding level?

Reading lasted a luxurious three minutes of this hugely significant fixture before tamely capitulating. A Sunderland corner was swatted away by Federici like a pensioner attempting to catch a fly, Sunderland's McClean was first to the loose ball and he drilled in a tame looking effort which defeated our prone goalkeeper at his near post. A soft one to concede, the goal should have been prevented and Reading already once again were showing all the signs of a defeated side. Federici dealt rather better with a Larsson effort when Sunderland worked a one-two following abject surrender of Reading possession in the middle of the park. McAnuff was the next Reading man to be caught napping and Sunderland again broke with pace, an effort from distance looped up and Johnson fired into the side-netting. Sessegnon spun Pearce and smashed well wide after Sunderland worked a simple move under minimal pressure before the lead was extended following good work by Rose in exposing the huge deficiencies in Reading's right hand side by setting up Fletcher for a tame backheeled finish having been far too cute for Mariappa. Sunderland two to the good within half an hour with other chances having gone begging and Reading having failed to remotely trouble Mignolet unduly.

Time for action at half time? Not when you consider Reading's bench options. Sure, injuries are not helping but it is not as many of those missing options were flying before now anyway. A bench which includes Gunnarsson - himself in semi-retirement - and two untried teenagers is hardly likely to be able to influence a game. McDermott left it until twenty minutes from the end before introducing young Dominic Samuel to a hopeless situation. The young lad frankly offered very little but looked no more out of his depth than his more experienced team-mates. The substitution, the timing of the substitution and the options for the substitution are all frankly an insult to all Reading supporters, particularly the 277 hardy souls who travelled this great distance to watch such rubbish. We had a transfer window in the summer in which to improve the squad and McDermott, Hammond and the board have failed us.

Reading's woeful effort on the night was best summed up by a right flank corner kick resulting from a barely threatening build up. The flag kick was delivered and promptly returned with interest from whence it came courtesy of Noel Hunt's forehead. Truly a pathetic attempt. The set pieces thus far have been a scarce highlight of an abject campaign and now we can't even get those right. Reading's performance reeked of a side who know they are beaten before kick off, consequently the commitment levels these days aren't even to an acceptable standard. It is perhaps human nature when you consistently fail at what you do for your head to drop, for you to question yourself and for your application to dip. This is the manager's job to raise the morale, perhaps he is not capable of doing that any more, perhaps he is not even able to replicate the things he does best ie. getting the group to perform above what might otherwise be their natural level.

The only other moment of quality was a Nicky Shorey freekick which Mignolet - presumably bored to tears - rather theatrically parried away. Once again, Reading failed to carry any discernable goal threat from open play, with Leigertwood barely able to operate outside of his own half and Tabb as usual willing-if-unable with the ball at his feet. The wingers again were little short of abysmal, and with McDermott's teams rarely playing other than percentage football, the wisdom of two sub-six footers up front should also be questioned. Another soft goal at the end ensured the emphatic scoreline which Reading so richly deserved. A long ball in injury time was easily retrieved by Sessegnon and he held off Mariappa with consumate ease and waltzed around Federici to score. He could have had time to stick the kettle on en route to goal, so elementary were the errors in our defending.

Is this a watershed moment? If changes are to happen they may as well happen right now or not at all. A new manager who be able to write off the next two games against Arsenal and Manchester City as impossible, analyse his team's few strengths and many weaknesses over some more winnable Christmas fixtures before TSI live up to their hype and talk by investing the money in January which should have been used in the summer in order to give us the best possible chance of avoiding wasting half a season as we have done thus far this term.
Neil Maskell

This Premier League game took place 2552 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.