Andrew Hughes summed up North End`s performance at the Madejski perfectly when he said after the game that “we were miles off it, today”.
North End certainly were miles off it in producing their worst performance of the season, just when they had an opportunity to go even higher in the Championship table.
We just could not get started and although the Royals were enthusiastic and workmanlike North End would have beaten them, I’m sure, with anything like a decent showing.
Whether the impact of the new manager had an influence it’s difficult to say and maybe Alex Neil had not expected the shape and pattern of the Reading side to be what it was after a change at the top.
However, it was our performance that lost us the game with some sloppy play and some complacency at the back in our passing although the goal once again came from a set piece which are becoming a bit of an Achilles heel for North End this season.
We tried to go wide and round the back when I feel it would have been a much better tactic to have played Harrop to run at them down the middle, though as we all know, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
To be fair, it was not a game that was full of chances although I thought Reading were always the more likely as North End lacked a bit of oomph in the final third.
Rudd saved well from a Jonathon Swift free kick with the ex Chelsea man being the best player on the field in my opinion.
Down at the other end, North End made one or two half chances with one falling to Nugent who could not sort his legs out in time and the best one probably falling to Tom Barkhuizen who got himself in a great position but shot tamely at the keeper when heading for goal.
The rest of the half was a pretty tame and tepid affair and the 0-0 scoring at the break probably reflected a half where neither said had control or made a telling impact on the game. North End, in all Yellow, made the better start after the interval and our best chance of the game came five minutes into the second half when we really should have have taken the lead.
Some great passing down the right flank saw Darnell Fisher whipping in an excellent cross round the Reading defence and to the back post where Nugent was waiting but the Prodigal Son could only head the ball into the arms of the Reading keeper much to the exasperation of the North End fans behind the goal.
With an hour gone Alex Neil made a double substitution with Alan Browne and Josh Harrop coming on to replace Paul Gallagher and David Nugent as North End looked for the goal that would surely win the game.
Harrop got enough of the ball going forward but we just could not break down a Reading defence that were really only average at best.
At the other end the home side had one or two half chances but with twenty seconds left of the seven added minutes the home side won the game when defender Miazga volleyed home after North End failed to clear from a corner.
It was a devastating blow but one, which if nothing else, will teach North End to see the game out properly especially on the road.
It is debatable whether Reading deserved to win the game but one thing is for sure and this is North End certainly didn’t. Reading were at best average and looked shaky at the back when we applied what little pressure we had on them.
There is no doubt that we should have the inquest and then move on because this game must be taken in the context of the excellent start North End have had to the season. Only two poor performance out of 12 league games - Milwall and Reading - and a mediocre display at Middlesbrough, has provided North End with a platform to go forward.
People often say, rightly or wrongly, judge us after 12 games.
Well we have played 12 games and we currently sit sixth in the Championship so I think constructive criticism of Saturday’s performance is valid but we really must just take it on the chin and look forward to two huge games coming up at Deepdale this week when we entertain Leeds United and Blackburn.