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Tim Dellor's Royal Watching: Reading face familiar problems in Derby draw

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New year, but same old problems. Having waited 23 days for a game, Reading fans were treated to a spectacle as sad as drooping Christmas trees leaning against wheelie bins on the street. For a while it was such fun, but now what do we have to show for it? An expanded waist line and an empty drinks cupboard and bank balance, in the case of Christmas. A single point, a couple more injuries and a growing clamour amongst restless fans to shift the manager on, in the case of Reading FC.

2-0 up is a very dangerous score-line. Anything other than a win from there looks like gross incompetence, but anyone who has watched enough football knows it is far from a done deal. As the time ticks by a draw or a defeat looks increasingly incompetent.

This was the position Reading found themselves in with five minutes remaining on Monday against a spirited Derby County. 2-0 up, tiring, and uncertain whether to stick or twist, should they go all out to get the third goal, or pack the defence and grimly hang on. Whichever route you go down, if you don’t win you’ll get slammed as grossly incompetent, even if what you tried to do was actually correct.

Tim Dellor's Royals Column
Tim Dellor's Royals Column

Luke Southwood dropped a cross onto the boot of Colin Kazim Richards, who could not miss. Quite apart from giving Derby County a lifeline, you should never really let a fella called Colin score against you at Championship level. It may have been acceptable in the 1970s, but not now.

Then a bullet header 30 seconds into five minutes of stoppage time from the far more fashionably named Curtis Davies gave Derby a point. Reading manager Veljko Paunovic was still busily arguing with the fourth official five minutes was too much stoppage time to have seen the goal go in. The bickering showed a lack of confidence, discipline and focus, but then again the goal was a considerable blow to his job security, so you can understand why he was a bit stressed.

It was the third time this season Reading failed to win from a position of two goals to the good. They lost against Blackpool and could only manage a draw against QPR. Draw to any of these sides having been a couple of goals down and it shows resilience, fight, desire and supreme physical strength. Lose or draw from 2-0 up and it looks mentally and physically feeble.

Paunovic blamed a lack of match fitness, having not played for so long. He will not get a chance to use that excuse again now there are two games most weeks in the next couple of months. He will get short shrift if he now says his players are too tired having played too frequently, at any stage.

Based on the “not enough match fitness” excuse, you must assume he plans to play a first team against Kidderminster Harriers in the FA Cup third round this Saturday. I would not be putting much money on that logical conclusion playing out though, such is the current level of confused thinking.

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