Never Say Die: The Royals finally find Premier League resolve
In my last Superblog post, I noted that Reading hadn't held onto a lead in 4 of their last 5 matches. Sure enough, that was to be the case at Loftus Road as the Royals gave up a 1-0 lead to draw 1-1 with QPR. It was a far better performance than the capitulation against Arsenal just five days prior, which was surely confidence-shattering. But those niggling doubts about where that first Premier League win would come from were mounting into serious worry.
November 26th, 2012
A home game against the Canaries of Norwich City was next on the agenda – another side struggling at the bottom of the table and a team which had serious problems finding the back of the net. A clean sheet was a welcome bonus for Reading – their first in all competitions this season – but failure to properly test John Ruddy in the Norwich goal meant another golden opportunity spurned, as City kept their first away clean sheet in the PL for nearly 40 games. The murmurings were growing.
And so the visit of Everton, a team flying under David Moyes, were not the ideal opponent to face next. Brian McDermott, donning a suit and tie where a tracksuit had been his pitchside attire for the entirety of his Reading reign (save for one play-off final), brought in Adam Le Fondre to add attacking impetus. Yet for the first half, a period where Reading had set out to dominate and usually gain the lead, his charges were totally outplayed. Defensive mistakes led to a 1-0 lead for the Toffees at half-time, but everyone in the ground knew the Royals were lucky to only be behind by one.
The second half came, and Reading were a team transformed. Normally the Royals fall into their shell in the second 45, and invite pressure from the opposition for quick counter attacks. Naturally, that won’t work with a one goal deficit. The game had to be chased, and chase they did. Just as the Royals gained a last-minute point against Stoke in their first game, and twice came from behind to level at home to Fulham, the resolve and passion were once again there. And it was Le Fondre, the man in from the shadows, who netted twice to give Reading an 81st minute lead. Ten minutes to hold on, and they did exactly that, though the Toffees were a post’s width away from levelling the game once again.
Of all the games to finally get a first win, no Royals fan would have predicted we would wait ten games and then beat the flying Toffees. But then this is the most unpredictable of leagues – a draw with Norwich, who beat Man Utd next time out, can retrospectively be viewed as a solid point gained! Next up for Reading is a trip to Wigan, who may have lost their last two but beat Tottenham away a few weeks ago, showing that anything really can happen.
The important lesson gained from the Everton win is that Reading can see games out. Too often had the Royals gained leads and seen them slip away. The ability to score had never been in doubt, but for newly-promoted teams the importance of defence is often underrated and under-strengthened. The last two games have seen Reading succeed at both, but perhaps not in the same game. A trip to the DW could see the most complete performance yet from McDermott’s men, who are proving they can’t be written off just yet.
[photo credit: goal.com]