A much-needed 3-1 win at the Select Car Leasing Stadium for Reading on Tuesday night lifted them to 18th in the Championship, coming out victorious against fellow strugglers Peterborough United.
After an uneventful first hour in Berkshire, star man John Swift stepped up to the plate to put the Royals 1-0 up, with the home side’s second coming just three minutes later when Tom Dele-Bashiru converted George Puscas’ cross.
A consolation from Nathan Thompson made the game more interesting for just under a quarter of an hour, before a rocket from Dele-Bashiru late on sealed his brace and a vital 3-1 win for the second-tier outfit.
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These three points came as a relief not least to manager Veljko Paunovic, who was treading on thin ice after seeing his side concede a stoppage-time equaliser to Queens Park Rangers at the weekend, having gone 3-1 up in the 77th minute.
They will face a much tougher test at the weekend at Craven Cottage against promotion-favourites Fulham, who secured an outstanding 4-1 away win at Birmingham City last night to make up for their loss against recently-promoted Blackpool last Saturday.
But for now, we’re focusing on the Peterborough United game and listing three things we clearly learnt about the Royals after their victory against Darren Ferguson’s men.
They are a confidence side
The first hour of the game was extremely poor for both sides, although as the home side and arguably the team that had the better players on paper, the onus was on them to liven the game up and show their quality.
They failed to do any of that until John Swift scored the first goal, but then sprung into life straight afterwards and crafted two well-worked goals to seal all three points.
If that shows us anything, it’s the fact they thrive on confidence and after such a poor start to the 2021/22 campaign, morale was obviously low before their opener.
Their first-half performance on Tuesday night probably didn’t do them any favours after failing to create any clear-cut chances – but they will now be hoping their victory can kickstart their campaign after previously going winless in their last four matches before this victory.
Was this Reading surge after their opener a potentially bad sign though? Will they be able to respond better to setbacks when they encounter other poor patches of form later on in the season?
They may need just one of Ejaria or Halilovic
You could easily see both Ovie Ejaria and Alen Halilovic being comfortable, potentially more comfortable, playing in a more central role and that showed at times with the Royals’ lack of width.
The most successful Reading squads of yesteryear have been known for their threat out wide. Glen Little and Bobby Convey were crucial to the 2005/06 record-breaking campaign, whilst Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe were both exceptional during 2011/12.
Modou Barrow was arguably the last player the Berkshire side had who could genuinely terrify Championship full-backs with his pace out wide – and they have failed to adequately replace him since.
To provide them with another dimension going forward on Saturday, Junior Hoilett could potentially be an option from the start after impressing in his cameo in midweek and may be a useful asset during such a tough test with his previous second-tier experience.
Whether he comes in for Ejaria or Halilovic is a tough call though, because it probably has to be one of the two with John Swift in such fine form.
Over-reliance on John Swift
In the first half, it almost seem like they were waiting for John Swift to do something. And although he is a special talent, as shown by his ten goal contributions last season, he can’t do it all on his own.
His injury record last season is also a major source of concern for the Royals. If he sustains a severe injury like Lucas Joao has, it would be a crushing blow and one that could put them in real trouble if others fail to step up in his absence.
In the end, it was his free-kick that sparked Reading into life and you could only guess what may have happened without it. Other players now need to stand up and be counted if they want to get anywhere near the top half of the table. Tom Dele-Bashiru did that in midweek.
Ovie Ejaria is another man who needs to show consistency despite having bundles of ability, along with Josh Laurent who hasn’t quite reached the levels he did in an impressive first season at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
The likes of Scott Dann and Danny Drinkwater could also be a boost, so keep an eye on the new Reading duo.