Manchester City have attracted just about the most stoical support in these islands, but even their patience will be tested if much of yesterday's disjointed display is not corrected quickly. Reading were not good, but they were two goals better than their visitors.
Early word from the City training ground is that Steve Coppell is keen to see more mobility and interchange between his midfield and attacking echelons. The tiny twin option of Uwe Rosler and Paul Dickov certainly allowed for this system early on last night, though it was the involvement of Eddie McGoldrick which may have been of more interest to the manager. He has the forward gears for the sweeper's role, but on the nights he is not playing, it may pay him to attend evening classes in defending.
Lee Nogan appeared to be heading for a rendezvous with the inhabitants of the South Bank when he executed the sort of back-heel which suggests he stays in on Sunday afternoons and watches Channel Four. When the ball was then delivered, Trevor Morley forced Andy Dibble to his first meaningful gesture of the match.
This inspired Nogan and after 35 minutes he took full advantage of City's naivete, accepting a through ball from James Lambert and sliding it past a goalkeeper who appeared to go down as quickly as the leaning tower of Pisa.
The visitors did not seem shocked by this reversal (they conceded the first two goals in Saturday's draw at Loftus Road) and they offered little fightback before the interval. A tactical shift saw Georgi Kinkladze, who had been suffering from malnutrition on the service he was getting behind the front two, drop further back in search of scraps.
It was Tommy Wright in the home goal who made a meal at the beginning of the second period, extravagantly pushing out a shot from Paul Dickov. This passage did, though, signal a collective rousing from City and they quickly forced three corners. The end product was absent, however, and a general desperation was exemplified by Kinkladze's booking on 64 minutes.
Three minutes later that feeling was exacerbated. Michael Gilkes scythed through the middle of the defence and found Nogan, a hermit figure inside the City penalty area, with a diagonal ball. He could not miss.
With defeat increasingly inevitable, City put the seal on a miserable evening when Steve Lomas was sent off for stamping on the substitute, Phil Parkinson. Coppell will have to stamp on his men as a whole.
Reading (4-4-2): Wright; Hunter, McPherson, Bernal (Parkinson, 62), Bodin; Gooding, Hopkins, Gilkes, Lambert; Morley, Nogan. Substitutes not used: Quinn, Williams.
Manchester City (3-4-3): Dibble; Symons, McGoldrick, Brightwell; Lomas, Clough, Wassall, Kinkladze; Summerbee (Frontzeck, 68), Dickov (Kavelashvili, 72), Rosler. Substitutes not used: Whitley.
Referee: M Pierce (Portsmouth).