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Inconsistency

If Nigel Adkins has brought one thing to this team then it's a horrible inconsistency. The turn of the year normally sparks Reading into life, but the same run that took us to the Championship title two seasons ago has failed to materialise. Brian McDermott's side showed a grit and determination to win games that seems to be lacking recently.

McDermott was, of course, the latest victim of a team that can put anybody to the sword - but 5-1, and 7-1 wins weren't backed up and now The Royals are in very imminent danger of falling to 8th. Our last 6 read:

L 0-2 Sheffield Wednesday Pearce sent off (rescinded)
W 3-1 QPR Gorkss sent off (rescinded)
L 0-1 Blackburn
D 1-1 Yeovil Yeovil finish with 8 men 
D 1-1 Brighton Brighton finish with 10 men
W 4-2 Leeds

Obviously the thing that jumps out straight away is that we saw 6 red cards in 5 games, but the worrying thing is that even Sheffield Wednesday managed to capitalise where Reading didn't - whether or not the red card was deserved. (QPR were already dead when Gorkss was sent off, so we managed to see that out) Not being able to beat a side who are bottom of the league, and had the misfortune to see three players dismissed is embarrassing. Plain and simple. For a side that - whatever the result - were playing in the top tier of English football last year it's simply not good enough; especially at the most crucial point of the season.. WhoScored has us registering 30 shots, and it's telling that 11 of those were blocked, but we had the same number off-target which has to be improved upon. Couple that with missing a penalty, and our goal being a fortuitous OG and things really were looking bleak.

Jobi McAnuff had a chance to seal the points at Brighton but failed to capitalise, and it's a similar story. Reading had 26 shots (8 blocked) but 13 off target but only found the net once. Our loss to Blackburn saw 18 shots, but Robinson only had to make one save. Then you look at our wins. Reading managed to score three times off six shots against QPR, and four times from 14 shots at an, admittedly demoralised, Leeds.

The only thing that I can see is that Reading lose all confidence when conceding the first goal. Wednesday, Blackburn, Yeovil, and Brighton all scored first. Looking back further than that, in our last 11 failures to win the opposition have scored first in all of them. Conversely Reading have scored first in all of their last 14 wins. The only time we've come from behind to win is the opening day of the season, when Jay Tabb's strike cruelly opened our campaign.

Adkins team seems to let their heads drop straight away, and never give themselves a chance of getting back into the game. Why? I have no idea, but maybe it's time to call in a sports' psychologist because the trademark of a Reading performance, for the last few seasons anyway, has been battling away until the last minute - and the fact that we had more comeback wins last season than our current one says a lot.

Either that or we need to be a lot more solid defensively, those run of 1-0 victories in the Championship winning season were absolutely crucial. In my mind Alex McCarthy is at fault for both of the goals conceded against Yeovil and Brighton, being far too eager to come off his line and getting caught out of position because of it - either by the opposition or his own team-mates. Hopefully it's just a temporary blip by McCarthy who has looked so solid all year.

Reading still have to play the top two, as well as Derby, Wigan, and Middelsbrough, which makes the run of games after Derby all must-win. Birmingham (A), Barnsley (H), Huddersfield (H), Charlton (A), Bournemouth (A) are all winnable, but slip up in any of them and the play-offs are a pretty unrealistic goal. Brighton and Wigan both have games in hand to lift them above us, and it just shows how crucial beating the teams around you is. A win against Brighton (or Yeovil) and we would be sitting in fifth, out of the reach of The Seagulls.

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