Coming off the back of a brilliant result and last-gasp winner against Preston North End on Saturday, the players would’ve come into Tuesday night’s game in West London with a new-found confidence.
They certainly showed that confidence with a brilliant first-half performance in which they controlled the majority of the game, with Ovie Ejaria and John Swift dictating the game as so often has been the case this season.
The players matched their quality on the ball with intensity and pressure off it. Sam Baldock and George Puscas pressed well from the front with the ever-energetic Andy Rinomhota and Ejaria backing them up from midfield. Mark Bowen has said how he wants to make us a ‘nasty team’ to play against, and we’re certainly beginning to see that.
A good performance was rewarded with a very good point as Puscas broke his goal drought with a beautiful finish - after Ovie Ejaria did some Ovie Ejaria things - and Baldock marked his return to the starting eleven with a deserved goal too.
Here’s how the fans reacted to some of the key talking points to come from a scrappy, nitty, gritty point on the road...
The forgotten men
The introduction of Bowen and the sacking of Jose Gomes has allowed certain players to re-enter the first team scene. Baldock made his first start since April on Tuesday evening, and Garath McCleary - who among others had been banished to the under-23s - also made a return to the first team off the subs bench.
Baldock was very impressive against QPR, never giving the Rangers defence the time to rest or relax on the ball and hassling them for 90 minutes. He linked up well with Puscas and there are definitely signs there of a decent partnership forming.
McCleary came on for Rinomhota as Reading tried to chase the game after going 2-1 down and, to be honest, he looked a threat. McCleary appeared to be in as good shape as I have ever seen while he’s been at Reading, and there is no doubt that he offers something a little different and more dynamic to the team when he plays.
Here’s how the fans reacted on Twitter to the performances of the two so-called ‘forgotten men’...
Mccleary not up to standard anymore? Have a a day off #readingfc— Louie Mitchell (@louiemitch4) October 22, 2019
I’m delighted to be able to take back a lot of what I said recently about McCleary. Maybe some life left in the old dog yet. #readingfc— Andy C #FBPE (@AndyRFCCharman) October 22, 2019
Thought Baldock was excellent tonight worked hard and always a threat #Readingfc— andrew stagg (@staggy68) October 22, 2019
@gmccleary12 and Sam baldock total respect to you both. To come back from the sidelines and both produce performances with such quality takes grit and determination. Always a Royal. ⚪️ #ReadingFC— Ed blythman (@Ed_Blythman) October 22, 2019
Not sure any of us ever imagined a front 3 of George Puscas, Sam Baldock and Garath McCleary, but based on tonight I am all for it #readingfc— Cam (@CamWyper) October 22, 2019
So where has Baldock been all this time? Crazy how much opinions can differ between managers in football #readingfc— Taylor Cornish (@T_Cornish) October 22, 2019
McCleary and Baldock waking up this morning #readingfc pic.twitter.com/tsD8yrXWz1— Harvey Brimicombe (@HarveyBrimmers) October 23, 2019
Nice to have you back #Baldock good to get you back on the goals #readingfc https://t.co/2vHRThUUXK— Jamie Burr (@Jamiepburr98) October 23, 2019
Pffft, what more can we say? He’s just a bit good at football, isn’t he?
Once again, Ejaria was head and shoulders above everybody else on the pitch on Tuesday night. Watching him play football is just a delight.
One thing he has been criticised for is his lack of goal involvement - but he proved those critics wrong against QPR with a wonderful assist to set Puscas through on goal, before zig-zagging his way past a couple of defenders to play a key part in Baldock’s equaliser.
Ever since he rejoined from Liverpool on deadline day, he has been unplayable - and I don’t think there is another player in the league that has the natural skill and footwork of Ovie.
Another wonderful performance which, of course, pleased the Reading fans no end after the game...
Great spirit from #readingfc— Gary Fleming (@garyfleming14) October 22, 2019
Ejaria is a baller, pass it on
Dear Merseyside police, I’d like to report #readingfc’s theft of Ovie Ejaria from #LFC— Gordon Hawkes (@GordonDJHawkes) October 22, 2019
Ovie Ejaria is just too good that pass to Puscas #readingfc— James Gavin (@jgavin1993) October 22, 2019
Take the draw. Ejaria class as always! #ReadingFC ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/lVF5gEm4op— Stoneey (@Stoneey_33) October 22, 2019
I’d just like to take a moment to thank @LFC for letting us have Ejaria for the whole season on loan with an obligation to buy him at the end of it for THREE.FIVE MILLION POUNDS!!!!!!!! #ReadingFC— Samuel Kailus (@SKailus) October 23, 2019
Ejaria producing a motm performance and eze goes missing, imagine my shock #Readingfc— Ben Brown (@benbrown__) October 22, 2019
There is not a better player in the league than Ovie Ejaria. #ReadingFC pic.twitter.com/mI65j25QHI— alf (@Alfie_Eaton01) October 22, 2019
When someone tries to tell you Ovie Ejaria isn’t the best player in the league. #readingfc pic.twitter.com/RbQoFdoAqb— Louis Stagg (@dinglouis_) October 23, 2019
Reading showed a side to them on Tuesday night that we haven’t seen often all season - in fact, we haven’t seen it for a very long time. We looked like a nasty team (maybe taken too far sometimes *cough* Matt Miazga *cough*) and a team that wasn’t easy to break down or play against.
And that is something that certainly pleased the fans post match on social media, and rightly so. Bowen said it after the Preston game: we, for far too long, have been too easy to play against. But against QPR, and against Preston on Saturday, we were the complete opposite.
Our performance and attitude was rewarded with a well-deserved point. If we can continue to be tough and no-nonsense at the back and then getting Ejaria and Swift on the ball in dangerous areas further up the pitch - then I think that’s a recipe for success...
To be fair, it sounds like he's going to ensure that effort levels will be much greater now. Players will actually show some fight, which is what happened yesterday #readingfc https://t.co/UcuCwytatk— Cam (@CamWyper) October 20, 2019
Good performance, especially first half. Impressed with Baldock, potential in the partnership with Puscas. Ejaria class as always. Fair play to Bowen, the players seem to have some fight in them. #readingfc— Melvir (@Melvir88) October 22, 2019
Good point. Draw probably a fair result. Showing more fight and looking harder to beat so far under Bowen #readingfc— Ryan (@1871Ryan) October 22, 2019
Great point away home, especially when going behind twice. Love to see the determination and fight from the players. Really good to watch, lots of positives as well. Really tough game on Saturday but got a chance if we play like that #readingfc— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) October 22, 2019
Best thing from tonight? The fight and physical nature of the team. Quality still lacking in areas, but so pleasing to see players not shirking from challenges. Been missing recently. #readingfc— Olly Allen (@OllyAllen_) October 22, 2019
A bit of that fight and doggedness combined with getting the likes of Ejaria and Swift on the ball in the right areas and we're more than capable of causing teams problems, just need to balance right #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) October 22, 2019
Really great performance from #readingfc tonight. Full of fight, full of energy, getting the ball forwards and attacking a good side away from home for 90 mins. Especially pleased to see @gmccleary12 back in the side and doing his talking on the pitch with the assist.— RoyalRobin (@RoyalRobin18) October 22, 2019
Fight energy and commitment was all there tonight! Great to see! Never say die attitude. #ReadingFC— Dean Bennett (@DeanBennett1993) October 22, 2019
Another good performance and another good result for the team and Bowen. The fans are happy and long may it continue. We look nastier, more dogged and more determined so far under Bowen and that is something that the fans love - as shown by the reaction after the game against QPR.
A huge game on Saturday against another team at the top end of the table, but if we play like we have done in the last two games - with a bit of guts and fight, paired with the quality of Puscas, Ejaria and Swift - we have a good chance of a result.