Another top individual performance from a goalkeeper who’s now racked up four straight clean sheets. He commanded his box really well and made some top saves to deny the home side, not least an acrobatic stop early in the second half when he flung himself to his right to keep out a long-range shot destined for the top corner.
If I had to fault anything, it’s his kicking. It’s generally not as accurate as that of other Reading goalkeepers in recent years and was again a big patchy against Preston, but I’m splitting hairs really. Top job Rafa.
Chris Gunter: 7
He had to be solid defensively against Preston - rather than putting in the more attacking performance that he did against QPR - but he made the adjustment well. Protected Reading’s right flank admirably, although his distribution was sometimes a bit rushed and he didn’t have the same impact going forwards as Blackett (hence one mark lower).
Michael Morrison: 8
Commanding, no-nonsense Morrison was exactly what Reading needed in this game. He marshalled the defence really well, led by experience and provided that presence at the back that the Royals have often lacked in recent years - and as a result let leads slip. Made a goal-saving challenge in the first half to keep it 2-0.
The distribution was noticeably more direct too - although not completely as we did play out from the back a few times - and that suited Morrison. We’ve not conceded a goal since his error at Oakwell gifted Barnsley a goal.
Liam Moore: 8
Similarly commanding as Morrison. When there was danger to be snuffed out, Moore snuffed it out. They’re forming a really good partnership at the moment, and Reading are reaping the rewards.
Tyler Blackett: 8
One of his best performances in a Reading shirt, he was strong in defence and created both goals. For the first, he charged down the left, got in behind the Preston defence and pulled back a sharp low cross that Swift converted, and for the second he drove through the middle before playing in Joao - who could then slot home.
I don’t think he offers that much as a pacey wideman when pushing forwards, but Blackett’s strength and ability on the ball are both still excellent assets for him to have. After nipping in ahead of Omar Richards and Jordan Obita, it’s now on him to keep that left-back spot his.
Quiet but effective, Pele’s settling in as Reading’s destroyer in chief without any fuss. He again protected the back four really well and was composed in possession, even playing some nice passes too, but on the whole I’m delighted by the ‘no frills, no fuss’ attitude we now get from him.
Charlie Adam: 7
As with Morrison, his experience shone through. He knew when to keep it simple, how to keep possession and when to play forward, and as a result Reading had much more control of the game. With Adam it’s not just about his passing range - it’s his footballing brain too.
Yakou Meite: 6
Not that involved in the final third bar some long-range shots in the first half, but he still worked very hard down the right to help Reading out defensively.
John Swift: 8
Took his good really nicely, finding space in the box before tucking home from around 10 yards. Bright, creative first-half performance, he’s enjoying playing in a more advanced role with Pele and Adam deeper in midfield.
Ovie Ejaria: 7
Marauding in the first half, defensively important in the second. Ejaria was sharp on the ball throughout and helped Reading break on Preston really well, and could have had a couple of goals himself before the break. He hit the post with a long-range rocket that Joao tucked home from an offside position and later fired just over - again from range - after winning possession in the middle.
But his work-rate off the ball makes him an effective wide player who protects his full back - even if that role makes him less involved going forwards. Tracked back well and nipped in for some interceptions too.
Lucas Joao: 7
Pretty isolated at times in his lone striker role, with Preston dominating possession for much of the game, but he still put in a good shift. It’s a big boost for the whole side that Joao’s developing nicely into an all-round target man, capable of giving us presence up top and being a threat in front of goal, meaning Bowen can afford to put an extra body in midfield.
Took his goal really well after some good movement, and had another ruled out for offside.
Andy Rinomhota: 6
Came on for Adam on 65 minutes and helped Reading see the game out well.
Garath McCleary: 6
Replaced John Swift as an attacking midfielder in the second half, worked hard defensively but didn’t have any opportunities to do anything in the final third.
Jordan Obita: N/A
Filled in as a left wingback with Blackett moving centrally and looked really composed, although he wasn’t on long enough to get a grade.
Who was your man of the match against Preston? Vote below or through this link.