Just as a couple of starters, I’m really happy that I get to write about a win for the first time this season! I almost didn’t go to the game knowing my Mum wouldn't be attending (it was really weird without her!) and being on a run of 4am starts at work, but only living 30 minutes from Brighton I took the risk and went along. It was a really long shift on Wednesday morning, but the win made the tiredness much more bearable.
The significantly reduced rail service (big shout out to Southern Rail), combined with the cancellation of the club’s usual park and ride services put a bit of a sour note on the build up to the game. To add insult to injury, it cost an eye watering £15 to park the car a good 15 minute walk from the Amex Stadium, which was more expensive than the actual price of an adult match ticket.
I appreciate the expected attendance was a lot lower than an average gate for a league game, but with the awkward location of the stadium and the fact it was an EFL Cup third round game I think Brighton as a club could have assisted fans a bit more in terms of transport. The car park charge has meant I've had to skip a takeaway this week; the things I sacrifice to follow Reading…
Anyway, enough of me complaining, I'm sure you've come here to read about the game. I know the tie wasn't the one that the vast majority Reading fans (or Brighton fans for that matter) were hoping for, but it turned out to be successful night under the floodlights on the Sussex coast for Jaap Stam's team.
As expected, the Royals team that started at the Amex on Tuesday night was a complete overhaul to the one which courageously won at Barnsley on Saturday, with only Tyler Blackett, John Swift and Liam Moore keeping their places. However, the game started in a very similar way to what we have come to expect from Reading this season; dominating the possession without really troubling the Brighton 'keeper. It was a deserved lead that we took in the 32nd minute, when captain for the night Stephen Quinn quite literally smashed the ball home from about 5 yards.
Now, about that red card... After seeing it again I can see why referee Lee Probert gave a straight red card. It looks like a bad challenge in real time but I'm convinced that there was no intent from Blackett. I personally feel that he probably slipped or his momentum took him forward. Belgian defender Sebastien Pocognoli did no favours for Blackett in his reaction to the challenge; if he'd rolled any further I'm pretty sure he'd have ended up in Brighton Marina.
It was a shame to lose him as he had a good partnership going with Moore at the back, and it ultimately meant Dominic Samuel was subbed to sure up the defence. The academy graduate had a good first half in his first start for the Royals.
I travelled up to Barnsley on Saturday and haven't felt so nervous as I did during the second half. We soaked up the pressure for 45 minutes and I was expecting the same thing to happen on Tuesday, but it really didn't. We came out in the second half and continued to press Brighton, making clever passes and it was difficult to see that we were actually a man down.
I too am extremely guilty of the Swift hype. He once again scored a cracking goal after good work from Callum Harriott, Joseph Mendes and Quinn and showed why he has quickly become a fans' favourite. It's exciting to watch him play; he has a confident presence in midfield and has great awareness of everything that is going on around him. It's amazing to think that he was a free transfer in the summer. The fact he scores brilliant goals is an added bonus.
After the addition of Tomer Hemed and Jiri Skalak for Brighton caused Reading a few problems, and Anssi Jaakkola made a couple of good saves from former Reading men Glenn Murray and Oliver Norwood. Hemed scored a consolation goal in the 85th minute, but the Royals held on for the rest of the game (and the nervy 6 minutes of added time) to leave the Amex with a place in the 4th round of the EFL cup and stretching their unbeaten run to 7 games.
We had a lot of defensive changes on Tuesday, with Danzell Gravenberch replacing Samuel to play in central defence in the second half, and Chris Gunter coming on for the injured Moore to play out of position at centre back too. I think we coped with this well, and full backs Jordan Obita and Tennai Watson also gave good, solid performances.
I tweeted after the Barnsley game that it was good to watch Reading at the moment playing the way that they are. It was bloody good to watch on Saturday and it was bloody good to watch again on Tuesday. I love the fact that we seemingly have a team together now that want to play for each other and want to play for Reading. The fight and spirit we have showed in the last two games has been admirable, and two games we would have most probably lost in recent seasons.
I'm enjoying watching Reading play again. Yes I know there's going to be more disappointing results to come, but it's just great seeing the players perform with confidence and also noticing improvements on a game by game basis. Huddersfield at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday will be another test with their decent start to the season, but hopefully our strong, improving performances under Jaap Stam can continue in the league.