JAAP STAM admits Reading’s defending has been “shocking” after conceding six goals in two home games this week.
Royals earned a point after twice coming from behind to draw 3-3 with Derby County on Saturday, but could not repeat the trick on Tuesday night with a 3-1 loss to Sheffield United at Madejski Stadium.
The results leave Reading embroiled in a Championship relegation scrap, sitting 18th just four points clear of the bottom three with 12 games to play.
And Stam says the defensive woes are hard to take.
“If you look at how we concede goals, I can say I find it shocking at times,” said the Royals boss.
“It’s not only about defenders, it’s a team process as well.
“On Saturday we spoke about it and also weeks and months before we spoke about it.
“I am very disappointed. In how we defend we’re not decisive enough, not strong enough and we need to be more aggressive at times as well.
“You talk about it, you mention it, you show it, you tell what needs to be done but it still happens.”
He added: “I don’t know if it’s a confidence issue.
“When we talk to each other then it’s not about confidence. Maybe you should ask the players.
“Sometimes it’s difficult for me to guess what it is because as a defender you need to know that they’re going to be playing long balls so you need to do everything to win that ball.
“You need to go for it, try to win it, try to head it and if you can’t win it, not making stupid fouls.
“You expect players of a certain age with a certain education that they know themselves what’s necessary to do.”
Tuesday night could have been a very different story had three second-half minutes gone Reading’s way.
Trailing 2-0 at the break, Omar Richards pulled a goal back and should have levelled, only for Leandro Bacuna to see a penalty saved.
And moments later the Blades were 3-1 up in controversial fashion. After Vito Mannone threw the ball out of play for a supposed injury to Liam Moore, Sheffield United continued to play on and scored again through Billy Sharp to the fury of some Royals players.
But Stam did not want to use that as an excuse.
“I think as a team you need to realise when they have the ball, you need to do everything to defend it or try to get it back and not be surprised by not giving it to us,” he said.
“I would’ve expected us to have given the ball back (in the same situation) but maybe that’s a problem.
“Maybe we’re sometimes too easy going and too soft in giving balls back.”
Things get no easier for Stam and the Royals on Saturday with a trip to league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday (5.30pm) before a huge relegation six-pointer against Bolton Wanderers at the Mad Stad on Tuesday (8pm).