For anyone who didn’t already believe it, or simply refused to, the penny dropped with a huge clang at the Madejski Stadium yesterday that Hull City are in real Championship trouble.
Despite being early on in the season a quick glance at the league table and the form guide of the two sides yesterday showed you that this game was a real six pointer. Reading had lost their opening four home games of the season but that all changed yesterday as City fell to another damaging defeat.
Despite the loss at Wigan in midweek we arrived at the Madejski believing City had a chance to get a positive result. We should have known better though as three minutes into the game Reading won a corner and that is enough to fill any City fan with dread these days. Sure enough David Marshall had to be on hand to palm away yet another unmarked header but his parry fell straight into the path of Sam Baldock who slotted the ball home from close range.
That set the tone for the rest of the afternoon and the first half was nothing short of embarrassing. City looked petrified to attack and Fraizer Campbell once again cut a lonely and isolated figure up front. The midfield was non existent as City resorted time and again to hoofing the ball forward via the foot of Marshall as they stuck to a rigid and defensive 4-5-1 formation.
City did have the ball in the net twice in the first half however they were denied by two correctly judged offside decisions. The one bright spark was Jarrod Bowen who looked bright and keen to take the fight to Reading, it’s a shame his teammates didn’t look bothered. As other, more accomplished sides in this division have already shown this season, Reading are not a good side but they coasted to half time and looked like scoring every time they ventured forward. David Marshall was impressive again but you know it’s bad when your goalkeeper is consistently the best player in the side.
The start of the second half was better from City, they attacked with more purpose and Reading were on the back foot slightly. Adkins hooked the frankly hopeless Kevin Stewart and sent on Chris Martin to try and find an equaliser. Bafflingly though he also chose to take off City’s best player Bowen to be replaced by Kamil Grosicki. Bringing turbo on was the right decision but to take off Bowen made it look stupid, why take off your most effective player in the game at such an early point in the second half?
Martin looked dangerous when he came on and after being on for a couple of minutes he stung the hands of the Reading goalkeeper and glanced a header wide. This was better from City and we thought an equaliser was on the cards. We should know better by now, this is City and sure enough a few minutes later Reading countered quickly, cut our defence to ribbons and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson was given as much time and space as he needed to fire past Marshall and double Reading’s lead.
After that we might as well have gone home. City gave up and Reading duly added a third thanks to another defensive lapse this time capitalised on by Andy Yiadom. “How shit must you be, we’re winning at home” chanted the Reading fans, it was one of those days. Chris Martin still looked keen to attack and when he was clean through on goal John O’Shea brought him and down and was shown a straight red. The resulting free kick hit Martin and found it’s way into the net but the loanee was adjudged to have handled the ball and it was disallowed, that summed the game up.
Minutes later the small band of City fans were put out of their misery and allowed to trudge back to their coaches and cars in the rain ready for the five hour journey home. It really was as dark a day as it sounds and hammered home the message that this team is heading for League One unless something dramatic changes.
We have praised Nigel Adkins several times this season for his commitment and his tireless effort to engage with City fans and the community but the fact is in football management terms he is average at best and that showed yesterday. The phrase “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” is perhaps a little harsh but it did seem like Adkins had little idea how to get a result at Reading.
The team sheet surprised a lot of the fans before the game. Campbell up front on his own? and Chris Martin, a proven goalscorer at this level on the bench again? It just didn’t add up. Adkins played for a draw with that team selection and once that plan went down the drain three minutes in there was no way back as the players stuck like glue to the rigid formation and many didn’t look comfortable on the pitch all afternoon.
Take Kevin Stewart for example, he is absolutely useless! He didn’t look interested in the first half and every time he got the ball he lost it. He shirked responsibility and didn’t try to effect the game. Markus Henriksen wasn’t much better but Stewart was so bad it made him look better. Maybe Adkins doesn’t have any other options but persisting with Stewart is laughable. He isn’t the only player under-performing but when the shit hits the fan, as it is right now at City, you need leaders and players who are willing to bust a gut for you, Stewart is not that player.
Kamil Grosicki looked lively when he came on and we need to see the best of him again but taking Bowen off was baffling. With Turbo and Jarrod on the pitch Reading would have retreated quicker than Theresa May from the latest round of Brexit negotiations, instead one willing runner replaced another and that was easy for Reading to deal with. Their fans will probably expect a playoff charge after yesterday’s game but a better team will probably hammer them next week, they weren’t special but boy did City do a job Simon Cowell would have been proud of, making bang average talent look like world beaters.
Nigel trudged over at the end to give a round of half hearted applause to an away section that was already basically empty. He has to go back to the drawing board and quick as City face Boro, Leeds and Sheffield United next and if yesterday was anything to go by they will need miracles to get anything from those games. The Championship is a cruel and unforgiving league at times and right now City are on their knees. Sad times indeed.
The September issue of our Hull City Independent Fanzine is still on sale. There’s a range of topics covered, It’s opinionated, sometimes funny and only a couple of quid. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy at Reading. It’s also available to order online here. Tell ya mates, encourage them to buy it. It’s your fanzine, you make it what it is.