That stellar run of unbeaten results finally came to an end at the hands of Millwall, as goals by Matt Smith and Jón Daði Böðvarsson wrapped up a 2-0 win for the Lions at the Den.
On a boggy pitch and in a volatile atmosphere, Reading weren’t ever quite able to get the upper-hand for extended periods.
For boss Mark Bowen, that was the disappointment – not showing their true quality enough.
“I think we forgot to play,” Bowen said. “We got wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and the pressure that the crowd put on the referee and on the players. We have a good side and we have to be brave in how we play our game – we lost that a bit today.
“The way our system lined up against theirs, we had a spare man in midfield – but I thought we were nervous from the start. Of course, the pitch wasn’t great to play on – but that’s never been an excuse. We had enough quality in there to get it down and play.
“We defended resolutely in the first half – albeit we let far too many crosses into our box. At half-time we encouraged the guys to get on the ball and try to play, but my assessment as I look back on the whole match was that we were nervous in possession.
“In forward areas, we didn’t retain it enough, we weren’t clever enough, we weren’t imaginative enough. Hopefully it’s a one-off because we’ve been on a very good run. We want to shrug it off, learn from it and get back to what makes us a good side.”
Smith’s goal, with 20 minutes remaining, was a bone of contention – clear use of an arm in the build-up went unpunished and eventually the Lions’ front-man fired home.
But nevertheless the boss is expecting his side to show their mettle when they get back to action in midweek.
“I have to say, it’s one of those games where I thought one goal could change everything,” Bowen continued. “And it certainly did – and in the build-up it was an absolute certain hand-ball, right in front of the referee.
“Three or four of our lads stopped, expecting the referee to blow – of course you should play to the whistle, and we should be better at dealing with the cross, but the bottom line is that it was a certain hand-ball.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves because we’ve lost. Week in, week out, it’s a brutal league. We prepared right, but when I’m asking the guys to be brave on the ball, I don’t just mean putting heads into crosses and feet into challenges. It’s about when the atmosphere is tense and players are charging around, to have a cool head and show your true worth.
“We were probably a bit short on that today. But the guys in the dressing room want a reaction. We will bounce back.
“It’s a bit of a kick up the backside for us. We didn’t approach this game any different, but once the game is underway you have to make the correct decisions and be brave in possession.”