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Reading 2 City 0

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The tone of my match review posts has certainly taken on a more negative tone of late, as both results and performances have dipped of late to leave us on the outside looking in in terms of European qualification this season.

Saturday's defeat at Reading - coupled with the defeats for both United and Chelsea, have meant that direct European qualification is now out of the question, both in terms of the points differential to now make up, but even more importantly, the likely performances between now and the end of the season do not hold out any hope that we can be realistic challengers, with even the Inter-Toto route perhaps now out of reach.

Much has been made in the aftermath of the game about the non-penalty decision (and Johnson's booking), and whilst my opinion is that both Johnson 'incidents' were penalties, to use this as a reason for the defeat is burying your head in the sand.

Two key areas have been apparant of late - the lack of creativity and defensive fallability, and both of these were again our undoing on Saturday. The defence was facing problems already with Onouha's absence along with Richards absence giving the line-up a makeshift look with Corluka, Dunne, Ball and the returning Garrido starting the game. Dunne's injury left an even bigger hole at the back, with Sun-Jihai's return perfect timing for my interview piece about him on Goal.com, but ultimately was a key part in our conceding both goals.

The first, saw Ball easily brushed aside at the touchline, whilst Corluka clearly thought he was still playing at right-back as he allowed Long to wander competely unmarked to fire past the exemplary Joe Hart.

Ball, was again at the centre of the second goal as Kitson was allowed to slalom through the defence with Ball statuesque at the heart of the defence.

Injuries cannot be accounted for of course, but since Richards' absence (and even before as he struggled prior to his injury) we began to ship goals but it has highlighted we are short on numbers at the back and we have owed a lot to the consistency in appearance and quality that the Richards-Dunne axis provided.

Of bigger concern must be though the lack of creativity in the side, and the lack of firepower from the front men, and once again this was evident and our goals differential is now only plus 1. In the past three games we have failed to score, and in the past eleven matches we have only scored more than one goal on one occasion - a damning statistic and a clear reason on why we are sliding down the table.

The team tough looks tired, particularly key components Hamman and Corluka who are now struggling to maintain the levels they were at earlier in the season as they have rarely had a spell on the sidelines this season to help re-charge the batteries and keep them fresh for this exact stage of the season where a fresh and large squad is a necessity - and something we do not have.

Nine games left now, with European qualification no longer on the horizon, and we are in danger of a continued slump between now and the end of the season, a far from palatable proposition, but one that is perhaps unsurprising when all things are considered.

Reports:

The Independent
The Telegraph
The Observer
The Guardian
Purely Man City
Hob Nob anyone?