The signs had been present for a while, especially away from home, but sooner of later things were going to click into place. At home, we have stumbled and stuttered to even score a lucky shinner in off the post via deflection from an errant carrier bag. But away from home we are entirely different proposition.
The Enigma, The Team
It's hard to believe but away from home, we've scored at least one goal in every league game since way back in February of last season. Indeed, and this a kicker, we only drew a blank six times last season away from home in the league in its entirety. The wins have been harder to come by, as we are all too aware, yet we do have plenty of tools when away from the Madejski. The contrast between the home and away statistics conjures the obvious point - why can't we play like this at home?
Of course, the problem, if it can be called that, is so deep, so multi-faceted that it's an entire article in itself. Skimming over the surface of issue, we do find it either a) easier to play our 'natural' game away from home or b) that built up pressure of not being able to register a home win since March is now quite palpable.
When putting those two stats together regarding goals and wins, it highlights how much of the game is played in the head as well as the feet.
The Enigma, The Player
Take a bow, Nick Blackman - the very definition of a Man of Mystery. Who knew that he would be our top scorer in the opening month of the season - and indeed, second in the Championship to former Reading product of sorts, Charlie Austin. Who would have thought that he had THAT kind of free kick in his locker? We have sorely been lacking in options for free kicks beyond Oliver Norwood, so to see bend it like Blackman is more than just a thing of beauty in itself, it is also another sign of his development and responsibility as a player.
After the game he explained that he and Norwood had worked on set pieces with goalkeeping coach, Dave Beasant, and celebrated to that end with the former Wimbledon stopper. Again, it's another small sign that the hard work in training and tactics from Clarke and the staff are slowly beginning to pay off. Nick has always appeared to be a little aloof, one of the harder players to feel warmth towards - a rogue maverick that has previously played the game like you would on a games console, with solo runs with maddening end product. One the other hand, his penalty taking is just majestic. Could Nick finally be turning his huge self-confidence and talent into fruition for the team?
He's magic, you know? Better believe he scores goals. I heard that somewhere this weekend, I think!
The clock of convenience can strike in many ways. With the frustrating International break looming ahead, the requirement for Reading to register their first win of the season was tangible. Whether the players see it in the same terms as we, and the manager, is impossible to tell, but nonetheless a boost that improved the league position to within a whisker of 'page 1 on Teletext' is a much needed filip.
Suddenly, from a team without a win, we're a team that's only lost once in five outings.
On the other hand, our potency in front of goal (not often we have utter that!) could this sway against a new striker arriving at the club? Clarke cited after the game that he knew that there's goals in this team. Whether that's enough to placate the fans I do doubt, however. After losing the Big Funded Russian (I had to, sorry...) to Dinamo Moscow in the last week, surely we still need a new recruit in the forward department despite the timing of three wonderfully taken goals.
That striker could have been Rapid Vienna's Robert Beric, but it now seems highly unlikely that he will join the Royals and favouring a move to Saint Étienne. I did say it was almost a perfect weekend!
A couple of little stat gems to sum up the general shift in the right direction.
Firstly, shots per game. Where we top the chart ahead of league leaders Brighton and pre-season favourites Derby County. We're also second in the table for Shots On Target, 5.8, behind Bristol City with 6.2.
But more impressively is the statistic for shots conceded per game. We're streets ahead of the other promotion favourites, Middlesbrough.
With August now in the books, we can conclude that whilst we could certainly be a few points better off after missing a penalty at Birmingham City and conceding late at Sheffield Wednesday, we're in a decent yet with plenty to improve upon, especially at home. Performances are definitely on the up, the new additions are bedding in nicely and generally as a club we are moving in the right direction, slowly but surely, the tide is finally turning.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com