After the wonderful opening eight games, a dark cloud had cast itself over our season - and for good reason. Five games without a win, including four losses on the trot, had fans questioning whether the good start was more fortuitous than deserved.
I think this performance answered those questions. With a Royal aplomb.
This wasn't just a return to winning ways by a lucky 1-0 win after being under the cosh for 90 minutes, although I'm sure we would’ve all been more than happy with that considering our recent form. It was a return to the kind of performance that saw us seven points clear at the top of the league back in October.
The first half was edgy to say the least. It was two very well organised defensive teams trying to break each other down - which was reassuring from our point of view considering the defensive turmoil we’ve had the endure since that game at Ewood Park.
However, neither side really threatened the opposition goal throughout the entire first 45 minutes - but we still just edged it. I think the statistics prove that. Bristol City didn't even manage a shot - in fact it took them 60 minutes to do just that.
We had a few half chances that on another day - and probably in any of the first eight games of the season - would’ve fallen for us. Yakou Meite looked threatening throughout and stung the hands of David Bentley twice, one of which an acrobatic attempt that none of us would’ve put past the Ivorian forward.
Lucas Joao also managed to get a shot on target, even though he was anonymous for large parts of the opening 45 due to the impressive structure and organisation of Dean Holden’s back five. It was all square at half time, and probably deservedly so.
Then came the second half - and what a second half it was. We know this team has got a performance like that in their locker, we’ve already seen it on numerous occasions so far this season. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get any sweeter when you see it again.
We were absolutely awesome after the break. We don't get to say that much about our team, but it’s the truth. We were very, very impressive. The defence continued to stay strong and resolute, but where we failed in the first half in terms of building on the defensive structure to look more dangerous going forward, we more than succeeded after Pauno’s half-time team talk.
Meite again worked Bentley (whose performance was the only thing that prevented us from winning the game by four or five goals), which was a sign of things to come for the rest of the game.
Shortly after that, Bristol had their first real chance of the game which they squandered, allowing Meite to break up the pitch and release a quick throw to Joao. Lucas Joao then did what Lucas Joao does. He held the ball up superbly, dancing past two or three Bristol City defenders in the process, before feeding Ejaria, who dispatched past the diving Bentley - albeit with the help of a lovely deflection. Genius assist number one.
We continued to threaten after that with Tom Holmes forcing yet another wonderful save from Bentley with a header from the edge of the box. Holmes must have a head like a traction engine (if you know, you know).
Then came two seriously big decisions that in my opinion the referee got wrong, and which could’ve been costly from a Reading point of view on another day. Both Taylor Moore and Chris Martin received yellow cards for two very dangerous tackles, Martin’s being particularly horrible.
I can probably let Moore’s off as there wasn't any malice or intent to hurt with his tackle - a two-footed challenge that won the ball and missed Josh Laurent. Martin’s on the other hand was purposeful, and Liam Moore is lucky to have his Achilles intact. Luckily for Chris Martin though, the card shown by the ref was all yellow.
Salt was rubbed into the Royals’ wounds when Nakhi Wells (I mean, who else would it be?) bundled home an equaliser out of nowhere, and the clouds began to roll in again over the fans’ mood.
Martin then missed a chance to put City ahead, which he thankfully missed. Then the Royals entered Paradise through a piece of Michael Olise Magic (the Coldplay puns are going to stop now, sorry).
This is why Olise needs to start. The assist against Millwall was good, but this one was Carling. Outside of the foot, perfectly weighted for Meite to run home and slot it past his arch nemesis Bentley. I don't think I need to say anymore about it. Genius assist number two.
As Bristol kept coming forward hunting for their second equaliser, the threat of Meite, Ejaria and Joao on the break was always going to be something to keep an eye on. And it was. Yep, you guessed it - genius assist number three incoming.
Meite picked the ball up from inside his own half, charged up the pitch like a locomotive steam train and fed Joao, who sent Zak Vyner to the club shop to pick him up a Reading FC fridge magnet, before netting a very, VERY, well-deserved goal. Bloody superb.
We needed a win, and we got the most complete one of the season so far, despite Bentley’s Rolls Royce effort in the Bristol City goal. Three superb goals, countless chances created, another more-than-impressive defensive display. Just wonderful.
Now, I'm off to watch Olise’s assist on a loop for the rest of the day.