1) Jamie Mackie's having a party...
Saturday's game against Blackpool was hardly a classy performance from anyone on the pitch, but Jamie Mackie showed why he's such a valuable player for Nigel to have. As I've seen noted by various people since the game, he lacks a quality to his end product that the likes of McCleary or Blackman can offer. That being said, his experience at this level and very admirable work-rate assure him of a 6/10 or 7/10 every week.
Against Blackpool, he showed a level of passion that was missing in the rest of the team, despite being part of a squad that hadn't won in half a dozen games. With Nigel seeking to renovate a side full of young players, the likes of Jamie Mackie could be crucial not only in the short term, but also in the long, albeit in a less than obvious way.
2) Nigel deserves our support
Having not heard it on the day, I was shocked to hear later on that some fans had booed the manager. A man who took charge of a team with promises lavished upon him that were never followed through, he's steered us remarkably well through what is, without doubt, one of our most troubling periods in recent history. Since taking the hot seat in 2013, the likes of Kebe, Gorkss, Mariappa, Hunt, McCarthy, Le Fondre, Roberts, Morrison, McAnuff and Leigertwood have all departed the club, many of them Championship title winners, with few replacements coming in.
To be in that position and still keep the club competitive is no mean feat. When you consider that players like Hope Akpan and Nick Blackman were written off by many last season and have been crucial this season (through necessity), the work that Nigel Adkins has done for this squad of players becomes more evident. If you boo the manager on a day that your team wins 3-0 after a poor run of form, you really need your head checked.
3) Things get easier from here on in
The last couple of weeks may have seen Reading struggle to pick up points either at the Madejski or away from home, but it's important to note that we faced some really good sides in that period. That isn't to excuse those poor performances - some of the defending I've witnessed in recent weeks has been unjustifiably abysmal - but the fixture list does now grant us the opportunity to get some points on the board. Upcoming games will definitely be a building period for the team, with injured players returning and a squad recuperating from shell-shock. With tricky matches against the likes of Derby (title challengers) and Bournemouth (8-0 winners at St. Andrews at the weekend) out of the way, upcoming fixtures at home to Charlton and Rotherham look much more palatable.
4) January can't come soon enough
On a more negative note, the squad looked even more threadbare on Saturday. Some fans were, before the game, calling for changes to a back five that had simply conceded too many goals in too few games. But with Stephen Kelly and Jake Cooper the only viable options, it's obvious that we don't have the luxury of competition. Even with the trio of McCleary, Williams and Karacan soon to return, the squad looks wafer thin. Injuries to Glenn Murray, Simon Cox or any of the defence that started against Blackpool could do serious damage to this team. It is imperative that Nigel Adkins is allowed to strengthen the depth of the squad in January even if he doesn't have enough funds to improve the quality of it. A new left back, centre half, left winger and striker are all needed if future injury storms are to be weathered.
5) Could be worse, could be Blackpool
Saturday's game was a stark reminder of how bad things can get when you've been relegated from the Premiership, but for a different reason that you might think. Since impressing the Premiership with attractive, attacking football, Blackpool have been bled dry as a club, sinking from being very real play-off contenders (only missing out to West Ham in the 2011/12 final) to starting a season with less than a dozen senior players. When you consider what we've gone through as a club in recent years, both on the pitch and off it, be thankful that we've done as well as we have. Realistically, we're only likely to finish in a dull lower mid-table position this season; other teams in situations similar to ours have fared much, much worse. We managed to get rid of an ownership that threatened to derail the future of the club. Blackpool are still very much living the Karl Oyston nightmare.