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Aston Villa 1-3 Reading FC: Match Report

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Our match reporter Jack Simpson gives his verdict on a fantastic display for the Royals.

Aston Villa v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Reading bounced back from their miserable 7-1 defeat at Norwich last week to claim a brilliant 3-1 win at Aston Villa on Saturday. The result puts Reading within touching distance of confirming a play-off place.

Striker Joseph Mendes, who was making his first start for the Royals, got his first goal of the season on six minutes after getting on the end of Lewis Grabban's pass to finish smartly past Sam Johnstone into the bottom left corner.

James Chester then levelled on 14 minutes for the home side, after being left free in the box to head home past Ali Al Habsi.

However, the game was turned on its head one minute into the second half, when Mendes got his second of the match. The Frenchman connected with a low cross from Grabban to slot home past Johnstone from six yards.

The three points were then sealed when Grabban converted a 79th minute penalty to round off an brilliant display from the Royals.

The decision to start Joseph Mendes proved to be an inspired one

Let's be honest: who was surprised when the starting line ups were announced? Joseph Mendes certainly wasn't fazed by his shock inclusion, with the Frenchman brilliant throughout the game. He caused the Villa defence all sorts of problems with his pace and his strength.

Mendes' goals were nothing short of top quality, especially for the first where he calmly slotted the ball past Johnstone into the bottom left corner. This was then followed up in the second half, when he got on the end of Grabban's cross to make it 2-1.

Furthermore, Mendes could have had a hat-trick had he taken his chance mid-way through the first half: Grabban's low ball found him a few yards out, but his shot was off target.

The 26 year old also played his part from a defensive point of view by making excellent tackles to break play up. But the brilliant performance from Mendes will mean one fan will be heading to the megastore very soon.

And it looks like one fan will be walking to the Madejski and back on Easter Monday for the game against Rotherham, rather than using the usual the means of transport.

Anyway, Mendes' performance was exceptional and he was rightfully given a standing ovation by the 2000+ Reading fans when he was substituted.

It now gives Jaap Stam something to think about.

Grabban had his best game in a Reading shirt

Lewis Grabban has come in for a lot of criticism from some of the Reading fans since he joined in January. However, he went a long way into getting the fans onside with a good attacking display.

The man on loan from Bournemouth caused a lot of problems down the right hand side with his pace. This was then followed up with his pinpoint crossing and passing which found its target nine times out of ten.

His impressive performance, in which he got two assists, was rounded off by converting a penalty in the last 11 minutes of the match, to get his first goal for the club.

Hopefully this display will give Grabban the confidence to push on and help cement Reading's place in the play-offs.

There is a real togetherness and character from this team

It would have been easy for this team to feel sorry for themselves after last week's drubbing at Carrow Road. However, once again the Royals showed that they have character to bounce back after a terrible result with a fantastic performance.

The character was demonstrated right to the final whistle through the passion and desire shown by the players.

The togetherness was also shown during the celebrations at full-time, when the players celebrated with the travelling fans in the away end and Jaap Stam having a huge smile on his face.

Stam's team know how much of a big win that is, in terms of reaching the play-offs.

The early goals helped

Reading first two goals came very early in each half. This helped Reading massively as it meant Aston Villa had to come at them, which left space down the wings for Reading's attackers to pick apart the Villans' defence.

In his post-match interview, Stam mentioned this, saying: "By scoring that early goal they needed to come and attack."

The early goal in the second half shell-shocked Villa, with the home side rarely threatening after it went in. That said, Jonathan Kodjia and Scott Hogan had good chances.

Early goals have proved to have been so vital in Reading winning against the better teams away from home this season. The 2-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday is another prime example of this, when Yann Kermorgant scored within the first 20 minutes.

This allowed the Royals to sit back and counter attack effectively, which is similar to what happened on Saturday.

Set-pieces need improving

The only criticism I would say from Saturday's game is that set-pieces need to be improved. During the game Reading had six corners but, only one found a Royals player in the 18 yard box. Instead most of them were easily dealt with by Villa's defenders.

This is something that has to change soon because a goal from a set-piece could make a difference - especially if we do make it to the play-offs.

A goal away at Leeds from a set-piece (our opponents as it stands) could be the difference between being knocked out in the semis and reaching the play-off final.

The delivery has to be better in order to make life difficult for opposing defences. If this is improved and if Reading can build on this impressive display, then a special end to the season could lie in wait for the Royals.