On Saturday, we saw the team that Jose Gomes wants us to be - minus that killer edge that has been missing for a long, long time. We saw glimpses of it at Millwall, but at Loftus Road Reading dominated the game, especially in the first half. John Swift and Yakou Meite were both guilty of missing good chances in a half that saw Reading have 72% of possession.
QPR grew back in to it in the second half, missing some very good chances. However, Reading will look at this as two points dropped after that first half performance. It was free-flowing football that the Reading fans haven’t seen in a very long time; a small throwback to Jaap Stam’s first season in charge in the way Reading looked to keep the ball and play their way out from the back. Expect that to be a theme to continue throughout the Gomes era.
There were some key talking points that got the fans talking on social media after the game and - for a change - there was a very positive feeling throughout the fanbase about what’s to come...
The starting line-up
The Royals are going through a bit of an injury crisis at the moment, especially at centre back. Combine that with the suspensions for Tyler Blackett and Leandro Bacuna, and the fans were certainly curious over who Gomes would start.
At 2pm, all questions were answered as the teamsheet was released, and thankfully Tiago Ilori had found a way back from injury to partner John O’Shea at the back. Furthermore, it was revealed that Sone Aluko was starting, something that hasn’t been so popular with Reading fans since his arrival from Fulham, and his introduction was greeted with frustration yet again on Saturday.
Here’s a recap of the reaction from the fans to Gomes’ starting lineup...
Very attacking line-up Aluko’s last chance but also another fresh start for him, good to have Ilori back #readingfc— Nick Houlton (@Houlton11) December 29, 2018
I mean... I'm happier seeing Aluko in the ten role than on the wing but...— Stephen Noakes (@Stephen_Noakes) December 29, 2018
Aluko why— Alex (@AlexLeFondre) December 29, 2018
My heart sinks every time i see aluko starting #readingfc— Jon (@JayAyEffBee) December 29, 2018
There is no doubting his natural ability, and I honestly believe on his day he’s up there with the best in the league, and he showed that on Saturday. Everything went through the former under-21 international; he absolutely ran the show playing a little deeper due to the suspension of Bacuna.
His best position is still in that number 10 role just behind the striker, but evidently he can play that deep lying playmaker position just as well when needed. It looks like Swift is going to be central to how Gomes wants to play and, if Reading are going to get out of this mess, they will need Swift firing on a consistent basis.
The fans were certainly impressed by a fantastic performance from the former Chelsea man. They just hope it isn’t a one off...
I said it once and I'll say it again, once John Swift turns up for good it's game over. He's getting his mojo back. Our surge up the league will mirror his form & it won't be a coincidence. #readingfc— Imran Escőbar (@razor5edge) December 27, 2018
You have the talent and ability to push onwards and upwards JS, just need the belief! I think José can give you that.— Didcotmassive66 (@Didcotmassive61) December 30, 2018
Great first half today, best performance in a long time. Swift, Rinomhota and alouko outstandingly. Long way to go. Fingers crossed for tuesday #ReadingFC— Dave Roberts (@LaughingLima) December 29, 2018
Swift played well. One of his best performances #ReadingFC— Razak Malik (@razzy9) December 29, 2018
Optimism heading into the New Year
2018 has been a year from hell for Reading; the least amount of wins in a calendar year in the club’s Football League history and twice as many managers as away wins just sums it up. But somehow in the space of just over a week, Jose Manuel Gomes has managed to inject a little bit of optimism into the fanbase for the first time in a very long while.
Yes, he is still to find a win and of course the fact of the matter is is that we still lie in 23rd in the Championship, however the last two games have showed huge signs of improvement. The January window will be massive for us, maybe the biggest transfer window in the club’s history. Hopefully the owners will back Gomes, he gets out some deadwood and brings in some real quality.
The fans showed signs of optimism and excitement post game on Twitter, and hopefully that will continue into and throughout 2019...
If that’s what Gomes can get from this team in just a few days then I’m very optimistic of what’s to come. Although we couldn’t find a winner, we played some lovely football today, stroked it around with confidence and purpose. Roll on Swansea... #ReadingFC— Ben Greenwood (@benjaminGfilms) December 29, 2018
All sounding much more positive at #readingfc. Hopefully results start to match the increase in morale and performances. For what has been a woeful year, I'm happy to take a clean sheet and a point into 2019.— Anthony Kendrick (@AJKendrick) December 30, 2018
Absolutely buzzing after that, would have been perfect for Loader to score late on but cannot conplain after the team played that well.— Calum (@caldini4) December 29, 2018
Gomes has put his stamp on this team and got Swift and Aluko playing great football in a WEEK. Makes me very excited for future #readingfc
I know it’s only been 2 games, but I’m starting to *unexpectedly* warm to José Gomes.— Jake (@JakeMoore87) December 29, 2018
Has provided encouraging signs on the pitch, and speaks very well off it. Genuinely excited to see what happens after his first major clear out. Potentially exciting times ahead! #readingfc
There were certainly signs of improvement, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we are 23rd in the league heading into the New Year. A lot of work still needs to be done if we are to stay up but let’s have confidence in Jose Gomes, the owners and their plan.
First impressions have been very good from the former Rio Ave boss, let’s hope 2019 continues in the same fashion.