What a way to end 2019 and the decade with a superb 2-0 victory against Preston North End at Deepdale.
John Swift scored his second goal in three days and Lucas Joao made it two shortly after to make it a fantastic Christmas. Four clean sheets in a row, we’ve won the last three and are unbeaten in five - a great way to end what has been an interesting year at Reading Football Club.
Bowen on the victory
“The most pleasing thing for me, as an ex-defender, is a fourth straight clean sheet. We came here today against one of the sides with the best home records in the league, and scored two excellent goals. Slick, quick passing - that’s been a theme of the past few games when we’ve been trying to get the likes of Swift, Ovie and Charlie on the ball, which we did.
“We took our chances well. And when we spoke at half-time, I said to the lads: there’s no need to go pressing too high up. Be tight, be compact. And no disrespect to Preston, but I felt that if we did that, they would give us the ball back and we could spring our breaks from there - which we did.
“It may have looked like we were soaking up a lot of pressure, but that’s what’s we spoke about at half-time. We felt comfortable doing that. I knew that if we got our positions right, we could enjoy defending. It worked well for us.
“Liam Moore and Michael Morrison were blocking shots, and Rafael pulled off a few excellent saves again. His reflexes for those point-blank saves are excellent. Those clean sheets are so pleasing for me.
“There is more than one way to win a game and we have shown over the last few weeks that we can mix when we have to, be compact when we have to, and be expansive when we have to. I’m delighted - it’s been a good Christmas.”
Bowen on whether this was his best win as manager
“I think so - only because coming out of the game against QPR and the emotion. Maybe 24 hours later I was thinking I wanted to go with the same side but was also thinking was I doing the right thing because you’re looking at the energy of the players.
“But it’s paid off, we have to wipe ourselves down now and go ahead to Fulham. The lads are getting more and more confident in everything we are doing and we’re moving up the table and that’s all that matters.”
Bowen on end to the year
“For me it’s about clean sheets as I’m an ex-defender! You get to the last few minutes and I was screaming I want that clean sheet because successful sides are built on that. They deserved it for the work they put in so I am delighted with that.”
Bowen on facing Fulham on Wednesday
“It’s going to be a difficult afternoon. They are a really accomplished side so it’ll be difficult. We can’t get to far ahead of ourselves and if we know it’s going to be really hard then that focuses the mind a lot better.
“Our biggest danger today was our mentality. We had had three clean sheets and two wins so it was easy to say if we had got beaten it was still a good Christmas but that’s not good enough.
“We have a lot of catching up to do and we have to push on now and try and get something out of every game we play. If my players are fearing going to Fulham then I am happy with that because we have to be focused and ready.”
Bowen on making changes for Fulham
“I’ve got the opportunity to pick the same starting 11 but whether I will or not depends on a few things because you have to have one eye on the energy of the guys. Most teams around this time are making a lot of changes but we went with the same one. We’ll have to see where we are in a couple of days.
“Baldock is potentially an option. He’s back in training and hopefully he will be available for Fulham. Puscas was on the training ground yesterday doing some work on his own so he won’t be far away.”
Bowen on our second game in three days
“I wasn’t happy with the first five or 10 minutes - I thought they had too much possession. We were a little bit sloppy but then the goal came from some really slick play. Adam driving through midfield is something I haven’t seen in many a year! I’m pleased with what we put in, it was a professional away performance.”
Bowen on Tyler Blackett’s assists
“Going to a back four, I went with him in the side for more of a physical presence. I just wanted him to sit in there. His confidence is growing game by game and it (the LB position) is a good problem for me to have.
“Richards wasn’t even on the bench today bless him and it genuinely breaks my heart because of the work he does. I know he is the future of this club and he’s a really talented left back. But when the team is winning and keeping clean sheets he has to be patient.”
Bowen on being in touching distance of the play-offs
“We are getting there and still have a game in hand. It’s narrowing down the distance between us and the top six and we just have to keep going.”