Written by kirsikka
After the recent terrible league form has seen a drop down the table, Tindall’s team faced up to a crunch match at Reading with four changes from the last non-cup outing. Mepham, King, Rico and Billing coming in to replace Carter-Vickers, Kelly, Smith and Brooks in what turned out to be a form of 4-3-3.
The Cherries started brightly, dominating the opening exchanges with Danjuma looking influential and a little unlucky when his shot from distance was too close to the keeper allowing for a comfortable save.
After that five minute salvo, it was the boxing at distance from both teams, with play flowing from one end to the other without really hurting each other.
Then on 19 minutes and looking for an option when playing out from the back but unable to find one, Lewis Cook turned back towards his own goal only to be signalled to give it back to the keeper by the central defender behind him, who seemed completely unaware of the Reading player on his shoulder. Cook should have seen him but instead blindly trusted the signal and played a perfect through ball for the attacker who contrived to shoot wide. A fortunate escape from a completely avoidable situation.
That seemed to spark Reading a little as suddenly they were first to every ball and a mere two minutes later Billing committed a silly foul in a dangerous area. The free-kick hit the wall but ended up out for a corner which required S Cook to intervene and clear out for another corner as the ball was cut back.
This spell of pressure finally told from this latest set-piece as Stacey and King both missed opportunities to clear and the ball was shot at goal only to get stuck in Mepham’s legs. With the Bournemouth defenders showing all the fast-moving reactions of a set of shop mannequins, a Reading player sauntered over to the ball and poked home for 1-0.
The Bournemouth response was safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to safe pass to me nearly passing out at out lack of aggression going forwards. Eventually, someone would miscontrol or contrive to play a poor ball and give it away.
Then on 30 minutes a Reading player dribble with pace box in our inside left channel and just when it looked like he would burst through our lines he took a heavy touch to send it way beyond his reach and out of play. For some reason, Rico decided it was still a good idea too come flying in and level him.
You may argue that Rico was committed before that final touch but it misses the point that it was an utterly ridiculous challenge and in a very dangerous place. The Reading player curled the free-kick low around the wall but, with it now heading straight for Begovic, he had trouble getting down as he was already heading for a dive towards the corner. All he could manage was a poor parry that bounced in front of him.
The defenders were still in mannequin mode, showing off Bournemouth’s new January look of standing still and watching in bemusement whilst the other team follow up on a chance. I’d call it a disaster of fast fashion but there was nothing fast about them. The ball was easily slotted home for 2-0.
The reaction to this from the Cherries was to go missing en masse. I nearly rang the police to file a report as there was supposed to be eleven of them out there but I swear it looked like about six. Had the coaches of those dastardly Biscuitmen kidnapped them and put them on display in the club shop? It may be a mystery we’ll never solve.
On 42 it got worse. Billing suddenly reappeared on the pitch in time to show the ball control of a wheelie bin near the halfway line. His response to losing it showed all the mobility and desire to win it back of your outdoor rubbish receptacle a week after a collection was missed.
That left the two Reading central midfielders to play around Lerma as if he was an irrelevance, kind of appropriate given his impact on the game, and then knock a low ball to Joao in the channel between Cook and Rico. He took possession of the ball, sent S Cook to the bakery down the road for cupcakes and fired into the net. 3-0 and utter disarray in the ranks.
I was able to mark Danjuma as safe from Reading just before half time as he turned up again with a glorious air shot from an attacking corner which led to a break down the other end that could have sent us in four down at the break but for a timely block on the cross.
I’m glad I wasn’t Tindall as I wouldn’t know what to say to that. Unless this was the start of the greatest rope-a-dope ever then the players must have pretty much ignored his instructions for the first period. Three changes as the teams came out for the second period, with Brooks, Wilshere and Smith coming on for Rico, Lerma and Danjuma, indicate he was equally baffled.
There were a few encouraging signs of zip in the passing from the whistle which may be augured well for a barnstorming forty-five where we pinned Reading to their goal line and mustered a glorious comeback.
Sadly, this wasn’t Roy of the Rovers. It wasn’t even Lags Eleven although some of the performances were certainly criminal.
In the end, it took nearly fifteen minutes before we put Reading under real pressure, King with some direct running and a cross which forced a corner from which we tried a good looking set-piece routine that wasn’t far from coming off.
Finally, we had the biscuits on the back foot but they didn’t want to crumble. Another corner was sent in resulting in a scramble where Mepham and King both tried to poke home but the Reading players were throwing themselves at the ball, putting their bodies on the line to keep it out and showing real desire. In other words, the opposite of how we had reacted in the first half to those situations.
Still, we kept up the momentum as Smith burst through on the left and played an absolute peach of a lay off for Solanke in the middle. Maybe he doesn’t like fruit as a chance that should have been slammed home was instead left to go rotten as Dom completely missed the ball.
Reading were finally rattled though and starting to panic a bit as Brooks ran at them on the right, beat two men and crossed to Billing who’s volley didn’t quite have enough power on it. This allowed the keeper to save and from the resultant corner, a Cherry header seemed destined for the net only for another save.
From that first King run to that last saved header was a five-minute spell of sustained pressure and chance creating that showed we could take Reading apart when we put our minds to it. After that though, instead of keeping our boot on their neck, we stepped back and let them out of their half which was all the encouragement they needed.
At the other end, they were stepping past our defenders like we were fielding holograms. I’m struggling to recall a series of less robust challenges as we waved them past.
On 80 minutes there was a brief bright spot as we saw the unexpectedly early return of Stanislas, on for Billing. Four minutes later Wilshere went on a little dribble near their box and was brought down in a position tailor-made for Junior. His shot should have hit the wall but it looks like the hologram disease was catching as it went straight through them and into the bottom corner to make it 3-1.
Was there to be a grandstand finish as the Cherries threw everything they had at Reading, so the players could walk off the field knowing they left nothing behind? No.
Another defeat to put a cap on Tindall’s mense horribilis. Whether the new face can help shake things up a bit and help turn the season around I don’t know. It felt like a lot more than one player missing out there tonight.
Man of the match against Reading
And it wasn’t just last night’s dismal showing … put it together with the deplorable performance against Derby and you get a real measure of the crisis. It IS a crisis because back to front (Begovic excepted) we’re technically poor and lacking in shape, motivation and energy.
I’m giving JT a couple of weeks to see if he can pull it together – maybe Pearson can show some leadership. After that – best to move for a manager who can mobilise a squad full of talent but that’s sinking fast.
By the way – well-done Reading … lively, skilful and committed. – Join the conversation, click here.