A magnificent day for Reading in South Yorkshire on Saturday as we moved three points clear of third placed West Ham with a 4-0 demolition of Barnsley.
Royals fan Alex Everson was one of the brave Royals to make the long trip up and here's his account of a day when Reading sent an emphatic message to their promotion rivals.
Reading moved their points total up to 70 yesterday afternoon, stretching the lead over West Ham United in third place to 3 points, whilst also improving their own goal difference with a resounding 4-0 win at Barnsley. A 2nd half performance to match anything seen so far this season was shown from Reading which enabled them to come back to Berkshire with their 9th win in 10 games.
Reading went into the game having been bolstered by midweek loan signing Hayden Mullins and the news that Jimmy Kebe was back in training. With those moves Brian McDermott make 2 changes to his starting XI from the 1-1 draw with Doncaster at the Keepmoat in midweek. Mullins was drafted into to play at right back replacing Cummings, who was not featured in the squad. Kebe was placed back into his usual role of right winger, with Robson Kanu taking a place on the bench. Barnsley also made changes to their line up which had lost last week at Southampton, bringing in Smith and Collins, with Cotterill and Dawson both not making the squad for the Tykes.
The game started brightly for Reading, with Noel Hunt being put through past the Barnsley defence within the first minute, however Luke Steele in the Barnsley goal was quick to react narrowing the angle and parrying the ball as Hunt tried to knock it over him. Reading were quite sloppy with their ball retention during the first half resulting in what was possibly Barnsley's best (and only) real chance of the game as Nouble headed inside the Reading penalty box against a defender with the ball just falling wide and going for a Barnsley corner. However Reading's defence dominated the very blunt Barnsley attack, and they struggled to create any real chance after this.
With 25 minutes gone, Jobi McAnuff was handed a chance on the edge of the area as a poor clearance from Steele fell to him, however he tried to lob the keeper putting the ball over the bar in the process. Reading were slowly tightening the screw, and beginning to assert themselves in midfield more as the game went on, keeping the ball much better than they had for the first 20 minutes or so of the game. Roberts had his first good chance soon after this when a corner fell to him, and on the turn hitting a left footed shot, he could only find the grateful arms of Luke Steele.
After only scoring once all season before last weekend, Leigertwood almost got a 2nd in 3 games as his bending shot from just outside the penalty area was tipped around the post by Steele, this was not his only chance of the half, as soon before half time the ball fell to him after a corner around 10 yards out after a Pearce knock down, but he put his volley wide of the post in what was probably the clearest chance Reading had during the first half.
Reading started the second half at an intense pace and it only took them two minutes to break the deadlock. Roberts made himself some space on the right hand side of the box and fired a low pass in towards Karacan, who saw McAnuff coming in, skipped over the ball and left it for him to side foot the ball into the bottom corner.
Barnsley's heads dropped ever further after Karacan scored a second just two minutes later. The ball had come into the Barnsley penalty area, and they had failed to clear it, trying to tackle Roberts just outside the 6 yard box, the ball dropped backwards to Karacan about 7 yards out who lashed the ball home to make it 2-0 Reading. After this the points were very much in the bag for the Royals, with Barnsley not creating a shot on target throughout the second half.
Reading dominated the remainder of the second half and made Barnsley look very poor. The third goal, the second for Jem Karacan, was certainly the best one of the day, if not one of the best goals Reading have scored this season. A long free kick was played forwards to Noel Hunt (Who had yet another good game, the settled front line he has now created with Roberts is something Reading had missed all season before this pair started playing together). Hunt controlled the ball, and played it into the path of Jem Karacan who was around 25 yards out before stepping forwards and striking the ball vehemently into the top corner of the net leaving Luke Steele with absolutely no chance of stopping it.
Reading didn't stop there, and Jason Roberts made sure he got on the scoresheet in the final minute after he beat the last defender in the box, turning outside of him and knocking the ball over the on rushing Luke Steele to send Reading home with a emphatic 4-0 win.
Performance wise, you cannot really look past Karacan, who after his first goal was getting forwards at every opportunity looking to strike another, the realisation that our centre midfielder was on a hat trick gave Reading fans the impetus to urge him to shoot wherever he got the ball after his stunning second strike. The centre back paring again of Pearce and Gorkss was as solid as ever, with both making some good tackles at crucial times and in all honesty it wouldn't have surprised me had Federici asked them to let one get through just for something to do, with his goal not being threatened the entire afternoon. Kebe was strong with his running especially in the first half. Although he didn't create too much, it is to be expected from Kebe from time to time, and hopefully game time will improve his form. Mullins, was solid but unspectacular on his debut for Reading at right back, though I'm unsure if he's deserving of a place in the first XI once Connolly is fit. What I am sure of it that he'll make an excellent utility player and will push both the midfield and the defence for a starting XI place.
The Big Bad Wolf roams on chasing down the promotion spots come the end of the season. With 9 games to go, and West Ham dropping vital points yesterday at an ever improving Leeds, Reading are setting themselves up nicely for a tough run in. The Royals look forward to their 3rd away game in a week on Tuesday as they travel to Cambridgeshire to take on Peterborough at London Road. With Southampton travelling to a very strong home side in Hull on Tuesday, Reading might be sitting pretty at the top of the table come 10PM Tuesday evening, and with the Royals in blistering form currently having taken 49 points from the last 60 available (Points dropped if you must know are, 3 vs Blackpool away, 3 vs Cardiff away, 3 vs Hull at home and 2 vs Doncaster away), you would be hard pressed to find a fan who hasn't started to think this year might just be actually our year.
Thanks again to Alex and you can follow him on twitter @Readingfanman If you'd ever like to submit a match report or any bit of opinion or writing on the Royals please feel free to drop an email to Thetilehurstend@gmail.com or tweet us @thetilehurstend