At half time on Saturday afternoon, being 1-0 down and with the players showing all the signs of a team who had just gone 120 minutes against Sheffield United in midweek, I’m sure a few of the Reading fans were fearing the worst for the next 45 minutes.
However, the players put the sloppy, tired and jaded football of the first half to bed and came out fighting - and within 11 minutes of the restart, the Royals found themselves 2-1 in front thanks to two well taken goals by Matt Miazga and Yakou Meite.
We then defended resolutely, as we have become accustomed to under the reign of Bowen, to thwart the Birmingham City reaction, before Pele rounded off a brilliant afternoon with an inch perfect finish into the bottom corner to ensure all three points got on the bus back to Berkshire.
It wasn't the prettiest performance, but all the players put in an absolute shift and the three points were thoroughly deserved - sending us to within just eight points off the play off places. Here’s how the fans reacted to some of the key talking points...
There was a lot of talk going into the game about Olise coming up against the Birmingham teenage talent Jude Bellingham, maybe to be a marker of where Olise is at in terms of his development. Olise didn't disappoint.
This kid can play and will be an extremely important player for us for the rest of the season and, hopefully, in many seasons to come. He shows maturity and confidence of a player way ahead of his years and in a scrappy game with not much decent football played, Olise was a shining light.
He is definitely a favourite amongst the fans, who let their feelings be known in the mini Bellingham v Olise battle after the game...
With Kane looking to move, here’s a potential #ReadingFC front 3 if we signed him:— Matheus de Andrade (@maffff) March 7, 2020
Miazga has had a bit of a disrupted season all in all. After the success of his loan spell last season, everyone thought that it would be him and Moore who would be have the starting spots for the season.
However, due to injury and tactical decisions, that hasn't quite been the case - but Miazga showed again on Saturday afternoon just what he can do when he does start, more so in an attacking sense however.
After his uncharacteristic error for Blues’ goal, Miazga redeemed himself with a world class finish just after half-time before celebrating with the passion of a player who has been a Reading player for 10 years, rather than just being on loan.
He is certainly a fans favourite, and the goal helped his cause even more judging by these tweets from the fans...
Miazga giveth and Miazga taketh away. Or maybe the other way around. #ReadingFC urrrrrzzzzzz!— Scott from the States (@American_Royals) March 7, 2020
One slip up but other than that he’s a rock— RFC Jonjo (@AmericasBestCB) March 8, 2020
#ReadingFC Matt miazga get in come on URZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ— Jack Betteridge (@JackBetteridge8) March 7, 2020
Game of two halves
As previously stated, this game really was a game of two halves. In the first half we saw a team lacking any real urgency, and a team with a lot of tired legs with Bowen only making the one change from the Sheffield United game.
However, they came out for the second half a completely different team - it still wasn't fantastic, but it was good enough to get three goals and come away with all three points.
It was a testament to the fight that Bowen has instilled in the players because it could've been easy for them to peter out and start thinking about their holidays but now we might just be starting to look upwards a little bit now.
Here’s what the, overall, happy fans had to say about the performance...
Significantly better in the second half, great away win URZZZ #readingfc— Dominic (@domwindle) March 7, 2020
Awful, awful first half. Swift had an absolute mare. Second half they had a mare and we took our chances. We could've been dead and buried by half time. Ejaria, did little, gave the ball away too easily. Olise continues to impress #readingfc— Jon hyde (@JonHyde1871) March 7, 2020
Cracking away win today!— Ben Honeywill (@HONEYWILL11RFC) March 7, 2020
What on Earth did Bowen say in the changing room at half time to those players? Totally different team in the second half.
Brilliant away day. URZ!!#readingfc #Royals #BIRvREA https://t.co/tCtdXZBecI pic.twitter.com/7hMeJ71jEz
Fantastic win. Great turnaround after a lethargic and sloppy first half performance. Miazga did well to redeem himself after his error and everyone was much improved in the 2nd half. We’re now only 8 pts of the play-offs as well ... #readingfc— Oli Bryant (@OliB_RFC) March 7, 2020
Great 3-1 win at Brum for #readingfc after what sounds like a very poor first half performance. Whatever Bowen said at half time certainly did the trick!— Cilla Shaw (@CillaShaw) March 7, 2020
A fantastic three points. Not the best performance, but at the end of the day, you just need to find a way to win football matches - and Bowen, and the players, did just that.
Just keep taking it game by game, and who knows what could happen come May.