First win for Clement
The 1-0 win Reading earned on Friday against QPR at the Madejski Stadium was a massive three points for a side which was playing their first game under new manager Paul Clement since parting ways with Jaap Stam. Stam’s Reading had been on a much-maligned run of one win in their last 18 and Clement was undoubtedly desperate to arrest that slump and had the perfect start to life at Reading with Sone Aluko’s outstanding strike separating the two sides.
Reading’s last league fixture prior to the international break was a loss to Norwich which, thanks to other teams picking up points around them, halved Reading’s gap above the relegation to just three points. Despite Birmingham winning on Saturday afternoon, the gap ultimately increased to five, giving the Royals some much needed breathing space with just seven games to go.
Moore back to his best
Centre-back Liam Moore was one of the players at the heart of Reading’s promotion push last year but he has unfortunately not been as consistent this season. However, the 25-year-old was back to the high standards of performance that Reading fans have come to expect of the former Leicester man against QPR.
Moore made five blocks, seven clearances and three interceptions (the most combined of anyone on the pitch) as he led Reading’s attempt to hold onto their slender one-goal lead. He is one of those players who has always struck me as a natural leader and he proved that once again on Friday as he marshalled the defence and helped guide the Royals to an important win.
Yann Kermorgant’s red card
After such a heroic season from the Frenchman last year where he netted 19 goals and finished as the Royals’ top-scorer, it seems sad to say that he has had a truly woeful follow-up season. Kermorgant missed the start of the season due to injury and since returning has been unable to rediscover last year’s form, scoring just the once this year and being relegated to mostly substitute appearances (eight of his 12 appearances so far have been off the bench).
Against QPR, Kermorgant had his worst display of the season, making two rash challenges to earn two yellows and get sent off with ten minutes of play to go. The challenges were completely unnecessary and made a nervy end to the game even worse as the Royals had to not only desperately try and hang on to a slim lead but also do so a man down. Kermorgant is incredibly lucky that his sending off did not end up costing Reading the three points.
As the bad results piled up, attendances inevitably dropped at the Madejski Stadium and the atmosphere as well soured with chants for Jaap Stam’s sacking audible in his last game in charge. However, against QPR the atmosphere was much improved with many players commenting on it on Twitter after the game was over, including Dave Edwards and Vito Mannone. It is obvious that the players enjoyed the great atmosphere at the Madejski and hopefully it will continue in these last few games.
Play football to live moments like those tonight.terrific win and team https://t.co/yBjRLdwyQr fans fought with us every minute of it.thanks for the amazing atmosphere ⚪️i want to dedicate the pen save to my mum up there #GodIsGreat pic.twitter.com/9Av3DwRd0r— Vito Mannone (@VitoMannone88) March 30, 2018
Huge win for the whole club and a teriffic atmosphere in the Mad Stad— Dave Edwards (@_DaveEdwards) March 30, 2018
Well done @sonealuko on the ⚽️ and THANK YOU @VitoMannone88 for allowing me to be able to sleep tonight!#URZZZ pic.twitter.com/abbbJ5vjF6
Vito Mannone’s penalty save
I have been calling for Vito Mannone to return to the starting line-up for weeks now and he finally has with new manager Clement reinstating the Italian as the number one goalkeeper. Mannone justly rewarded his manager’s backing with a game-winning penalty save after Dave Edwards fouled Pawel Wszolek in the area. QPR left-back Jake Bidwell stood up to take the spot kick in the 92nd minute and it looked as though the Royals were about to be denied an important win before Mannone dived to his left and kept out not only the penalty but the rebound as well.
It was of course a massive moment in the game but it could also turn out to be a huge point in the season as well. A few weeks ago I was lamenting Reading’s inability to hold on to winning positions and it looked as though this game would be yet another three points that they let slip through their fingers but, thanks to Mannone, it was not and hopefully will help put Reading on the road to Championship survival.