International breaks, you’ve got to love them. A team on form hates them and a team out of form wants them - as they have a nasty habit of disrupting a run. Preston came to the Mad Stad with what I believe is the best record of any team in Europe since January, with a hefty 12-match unbeaten run and six away wins in that, so against a team fighting for relegation there was only one outcome, yes?
No. Reading managed something for the first time this season in doing the double over a league rival. Admittedly Preston don’t have the greatest record at the Mad Stad, but even still this was probably put down as a coupon killer as I doubt many people outside of RG2 would have imagined Reading winning this, and fairly comfortably at that.
As said on the podcast, this wasn’t a clinical display, with Reading being fairly wasteful in front of goal. However, they did take some of their chances with Modou Barrow and Yakou Meite causing havoc in the Preston rearguard through an excellent display of pace and guile.
There was something about this game though. The crowd lifted by the returns of Andy Rinomhota in midfield and Nelson Oliveira on the bench (thanks to his miracle doctor!). While Nelson didn’t get a run out, Rinomhota produced a display that has been missing since his injury; he galvanised the midfield and also supported Lewis Baker. While the Chelsea loanee has been getting better, his display on Saturday was probably one of his best since he has been here with the comfort of Rinomhota next to him.
John Swift produced arguably one of the passes of the season, and again gives you head-scratching moments, as why he cannot do this week in, week out (therein lies a truth more on that in the summary).
The Preston fans seemed fairly relaxed about the game on social media, some obviously having meltdowns but on the whole accepted this was a blip. However, their season will be defined in the next three games - all against opposition around them.
Mate you’re better off buying £50 of lottery cards!
Play offs were always a long shot. We're not out of it yet but it's even further away now. But, I'll tell you what, the teams coming down from the Prem are nothing special, so I'm whacking £50 on us to WIN the championship next season if we keep the squad and Alex Neil #pnefc— Gordie Moss (@gordielad) March 30, 2019
Love the PNE police account - TVP take note!
Hard to criticise a team that’s won the last 6 away games and was previously unbeaten in loads of games.......so chalk that one off as a blip.........safe trip home to the 1782 #pnefc fans who made the journey pic.twitter.com/I07kJY9pYT— PNE Police (@PNEPolice) March 30, 2019
And they speak common sense!
A team who need/want to win against a team who’ve turned up thinking they were going to win! #pnefc #poor— PNE Police (@PNEPolice) March 30, 2019
Told you - international breaks kill form
That's now only 1 win in 8 after an international break. Reading are the only team to have done 'the double' over us this season. Big disappointment today, 4 points needed from our next 2 games or it could be season over #pnefc— Michael Norcross (@mnorcross84) March 30, 2019
Not far from the truth
PNE before and after international break ♂️ #pnefc @pnefc pic.twitter.com/j0W5mssWwa— Sean (@seancastillo_) March 30, 2019
Pace, power etc...
Just seen the goals :( #pnefc pic.twitter.com/aPcIKaf9Q7— Holly Illing (@HollyIlling) March 30, 2019
I'm not having the "we should be beating teams like...." crap. This is the Championship, anyone can beat anyone. Reading have been far better than us #pnefc #reading— Gary B (@shabbagaz84) March 30, 2019
Really hope we can carry on from where we left off before the international break! Come on whites!!! #PNEFC— scotty (@Terrythepin) March 30, 2019
This one aged well!
HUGE game today, what’s everyone’s predictions? #pnefc— From the Finney (@fromthefinney) March 30, 2019
You know, I thought this result would get some headlines, but hey we are Reading (I’m starting to feel like a Millwall fan!). Anyway, this section is worth reading purely for the link to Sky Sports’ video of the game, all 1.58 of of it, but really all you need to do is fast-forward to the Swift turn and pass. The report itself I think doesn’t do us justice, being more about Preston’s poor play than our good.
The BBC for once is a little better, saying we created several chances and also mentioning Swift’s pass.
The Lancashire Evening Post’s view on the game is factual - rather than offering any thoughts, they highlight the fact that this was Preston’s first defeat since one away at Rotherham on New Year’s Day, and that in reality Preston were never at their best throughout the contest.
Get Reading have as always a range of topics on the game, however the match report is really hard to find! They also comment on Rinomhota’s return, Paul McShane’s cameo and Warnock (the Stephen kind) saying that this was a huge result for Reading.
Now, they say that one swallow doesn’t make a spring, but there’s no getting away from the fact that, outside the top six, Reading are the form team. Looking back at Saturday and the lift that Rinomhota and Oliveira gave the side by playing and being named on the bench can’t be underestimated.
We are now getting to the busy end of the season and April has six games in it which are coming at a fast pace. It’s massively important that we get something from Hull City as this and Brentford are the two matches where, in reality, the opposition has little to play for. Both are upper-mid-table and, in reality, have little chance of making the playoffs, bar a run of epic proportion. Hopefully, as the saying goes, they’re on the beach already!
What was really annoying is the potential this side has. Injuries once again have hit us this season, but to be fair most teams will get hampered at some point. However, when we look at some of the talent in this team you do have to wonder. Barrow has been hit-and-miss all season but finally looks like himself (and seems to have formed a partnership with Meite). Oliveira if fit is a starter, and the shrewdest bit of business was getting Matt Miazga in and offloading Tiago Ilori who, if I am being honest, hasn’t been missed given the form of his replacement.
Form is a really interesting thing, and players can lose or gain it with ease. Swift is the prime example of this - so many games this season he’s played a misplaced pass, mistimed a tackle or gone missing. Yet for some reason on Saturday he was excellent, not only the pass for Barrow to square to Meite but there were a couple of decent and sometimes meaty challenges where he won the ball.
Maybe as fans we expect too much from the players. As Wimb said on the podcast, in reality if Barrow was banging in the passes to match his pace 7/10 times, he wouldn’t be playing for Reading. Similarly, for Swift, if he were at that level he simply would have offers from better clubs, so maybe we should be grateful for those moments of brilliance and understand the occasional blips.
The problem with this is that, like we have seen with Gylfi - and I have no doubt that Rinomhota will also be on opposition scouts’ lists - that once players regularly start producing performances they get noticed. Then it’s all down to maximising the worth that these players have to reinvest back into the team and producing the next batch - until we are one of those teams that circle around lower table clubs.