If you ever needed proof as to why Reading will finish slap bang in mid-table this season, the last two games have provided exactly that.
The 5-0 victory over Luton Town on Saturday was a joy to watch as the Royals punctured the Hatters’ defence time and time again, resulting in four goals for Yakou Meite and the club’s biggest winning margin in six and a half years.
Yet a little over 72 hours later on Tuesday night, and the team were devoid of attacking intent as they laboured to a 0-0 bore draw against Huddersfield. As much as Saturday bred excitement and optimism, Tuesday left fans frustrated and disappointed.
The reality is that Reading as a club are probably not as good as they showed against Luton, but equally not as bad as they were against Huddersfield, or against Brentford for that matter.
Their level is somewhere in between – strong enough to be well clear of any serious relegation trouble, but lacking the consistent quality needed to mount a genuine promotion push. The question now is how we see performances like that against Luton on a more regular basis.
The defence provides a firm starting point, with two consecutive clean sheets achieved for the first time in 2020. It has been fantastic to see two academy graduates – Gabriel Osho and Tom McIntyre – come back into the side and really shine. The pair had not featured since January, but have shown no signs of rust as they have proven solid and comfortable in the backline.
Mark Bowen has said that both players look to be huge talents for the future, but they may even be ready to be regulars in the present. The decision to leave out Liam Moore has been heavily highlighted, and it could be the beginning of the end of the captain’s time at Reading.
Further forward, Ovie Ejaria’s absence against Huddersfield may go some way to explaining the team’s lack of creativity. Or at least the absenceof a legitimate alternative.
Jordan Obita’s delivery is one of the best in the team, but he looked a little lacklustre and doesn’t seem to be the right fit for a role on the wing. Michael Olise would surely have been a better option or even a natural winger such as Garath McCleary or Lucas Boye.
All three of those players came on as substitutes on Tuesday, but in the case of McCleary and Boye in the 86th minute, it was far too late. Bowen needs to become more proactive when it comes to making changes. After all, he has no clear style of play to stick to and Reading have little to play for, so what’s the harm in trying something different or giving fringe players a chance?
There is no doubt that this Reading team have the foundations to be successful, otherwise they would not be winning a game 5-0.
But issues with consistency, creativity and confidence need to be resolved otherwise progress will never be made.
By Olly Allen