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5 Things: Reading v Middlesbrough

Tuesday night saw the Royals claim their first home win since late January, ending a poor run of form that had seen them drop out of the Play-Off places. Bucks Royal brings us his '5 Things' from the match.

Richard Heathcote

1. Atmosphere really does make a difference...

As has been noted since the game by fans and players alike, a positive atmosphere inside the Madejski gives the team a massive lift when they really need it. With the Royals protecting a two-goal lead for most of the game, things could have gone very differently if Middlesbrough had been able to get one back. Luckily, the crowd backed the players to the hilt, particularly in the second half, and the visitors never really came close to threatening Reading's lead. On other days at the Madejski, every little mistake has been criticised, and it's predictably led to the team being low on confidence and unable to play as they really can do. Even when we've led before, the fans haven't always played their part - I'm thinking about the game at home to Charlton last December where, if memory serves, some booed the players off despite coming away with a scrappy 1-0 - three points and a clean sheet. Which leads me into my next point...

2. Getting all the basics right...

Tuesday night's match was no classic, and in comparison to the home games against Bolton and Blackpool back in January, it might have seemed a little dull to some (the Royals only managing four shots on target). However, getting a clean sheet against a team like Middlesbrough, a very capable side, is a good achievement - that's coming from a side that had only won four clean sheets in 2014 before Tuesday's fixture. Throughout the match, the Royals were organised and got all the basics right - the passing was no carousel of Tika-Taka wonder, but it was effective and at times, dare I say it, quite Adkins-esque. That was certainly helped by the central midfield partnership of the two Dannys, one which we've sorely missed since we last saw it in action against Charlton (not coincidence that it was our last win and clean sheet). On the subject of team selection...

3. Consistently inconsistent...

...This wasn't actually a vastly different starting XI to the one we've seen for most of the season. First team regulars McCarthy, Gunter, Pearce, Obita, McAnuff, McCleary and Le Fondre all started in the 4-4-2 formation that we've arguably had most success with under Nigel Adkins. Hal Robson-Kanu and Danny Guthrie also started the game but, due to injury (my laptop will probably explode if I have to write that word once more this season...), were unable to finish the match. As such, the team that finished the game looked even more similar to the one that lifted Berkshire spirits at the start of this calendar year. A midfield partnership of Akpan and Williams, with the two Jamaicans either side, all playing behind the little-and-large duo of Le Fondre and Pogrebnyak. If nothing else, that shows just how frustratingly inconsistent this team is. More or less the same XI can hammer weak teams at home yet then lose/ draw to other ones, and pick up three points at promotion chasers QPR but then get mauled at Bournemouth and Wigan. Make of that what you will, but it's certainly led to an unpredictable season. Who knows how it will end..?

4. Obita creativity from set-pieces...

That's now two home games in a row where the Royals have scored from a Jordan Obita set piece - both from similar positions. Some fans will inevitable moan when we don't score from open play, but every goal's a goal - the league-winning side of Brian McDermott utilised Ian Harte's deliveries to Alex Pearce and Kasparss Gorkss incessantly, and it worked. Having not had as much of Danny Guthrie and Royston Drenthe as we would have hoped this season, it's great to see others stepping up in their absence, especially young Jordan (I'm here inserting the now obligatory reference to the fact that he came to the academy). On a similar note, did anyone else notice Garath McCleary taking set pieces on Tuesday night?

5. The Championship is actually a really good league...

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>The new <a href="https://twitter.com/UEFA">@UEFA</a> Benchmarking Report ranks all 3 Football League divisions in top 15 in Europe on aggregate attendances: <a href="http://t.co/Kp9YyHt6NC">pic.twitter.com/Kp9YyHt6NC</a></p>&mdash; The Football League (@football_league) <a href="https://twitter.com/football_league/statuses/458981353212477440">April 23, 2014</a></blockquote>

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An interesting stat that came out this week is that the Championship is, in terms of overall attendance, the fourth biggest league in European football, only finishing behind the Premiership, the Bundesliga and La Liga. That puts it ahead of every other European second division, not to mention the likes of Serie A and Ligue 1. Although the Championship does have more teams in it than its competitors and as such can fit in more games and therefore a bigger overall attendance, that's a massive achievement for English football. For us, that means that, in the grand scheme of things, Reading will realistically only ever play in a massive league - not being in the Premiership makes it easy to forget that, but the Championship is, in my view at least, dearly underrated.