After what was a really difficult week for the Royals, it was time to return to the bitterly cold Madejski Stadium in a vital clash against Bolton Wanderers. A win was much needed after the events of the last few days and three points was exactly what we got.
Crucial saves from Ali Al-Habsi kept us in the game early on, but Lucas Piazon scored after a mix up in the Bolton defence and then Danny Williams doubled our lead to put us two ahead before half time. The Trotters scored a late consolation from a penalty.
Steve Clarke’s word of the day was important and he was happy with an "important three points", he told the official club website, "It was a tough game, a difficult game in which we had to weather an early storm. Bolton started really well and my goalkeeper was excellent, making some really good saves for us.
"Ali has been good since he got into the team; Jonathan Bond did well for me early in the season, but he picked up an injury and Ali has grabbed his chance. He’s looked every bit of the goalkeeper I knew he was when I brought him to the club in the summer and he has been playing well – today he made some terrific saves.
"And after that I thought we started to get a foothold and we grew into the game. We got ourselves our noses in front, made it two before half time with two goal, clinical finishes and put ourselves in a nice comfortable position.
"Garath McCleary was causing them a lot of problems down the right, Lucas had been quiet until he got his goal and from then he made a really good contribution for us. And once we got to 2-0 it was important to keep that lead going into the break.
"In the second half, nothing much was really happening, we were seeing the game out comfortably without being spectacular. And then Neil (Lennon) decided to throw on a couple of big ones up front and they went very direct.
"I tried to counter it by bringing on Jake Cooper, but just as I made that change they got the penalty, which made it a nervous ten or 15 minutes. But we saw it through well and we had three or four opportunities to score a third on the counter attack had we done a little bit better."
Clarke was honest about our performance after the game and with this being our first win in six. We still sit just outside the play-off area in seventh with another important game against Nottingham Forest next weekend. He added: "Today the result was all important for us. We weren’t fantastic today, but we hadn’t won in five before this afternoon, so it was just important to get the win today. And the three points were very welcome.
"I think you saw towards the end the team were maybe a little bit nervous because we were so desperate to get the win today. You saw the desire and the commitment of the players towards the end, but ball’s going into the box and we’re getting our head on it, we’re getting there first to the second balls, we’re getting the ball up the pitch.
"They know that in the context of the season, it was an important three points today – we want to stay in and around the top of the table, we want to be competitive and this result keeps us nice and close.
"We knew we had a chance to close the gap on the teams above us and that was part of the pre-match talk today. You always think in this league that somebody is going to drop points up there, today it was Birmingham City’s turn.
"We want to be in the mix and our performances this season have been very, very good. Now I wouldn’t put today’s performance as a very good one, but it was a very important performance. And a very important win."