Reading won for the first time since football restarted with a thumping 5-0 win over Luton Town, their biggest win on the road for over three decades.
Yakou Meite opened the scoring on 17 minutes, after being played through by George Puscas, before side-footing the ball past goalkeeper Simon Sluga. The Ivorian doubled the lead a minute later following a poor clearance by Luton defender Matty Pearson.
The 24-year-old completed his career hattrick 10 minutes before half-time with the goal of the game. Ovie Ejaria played a delightful through ball in behind the Hatters defence with Meite firing the ball into the far-left corner of the net.
Puscas then got his first goal since February just before the hour mark. Tyler Blackett’s cross found Michael Morrison, whose header found the Romanian with the striker heading in from three yards.
Meite completed the rout on 62 minutes, after being played through one on one by Puscas. The former Paris St Germain player coolly slotted the ball through the legs of Sluga to complete a remarkable afternoon.
Here are five things that we learned from the match.
The intensity was back
One thing that has been lacking since the restart was the intensity and effort shown by Reading, but that all changed once the first whistle blew on Saturday afternoon. The players got in the opposition’s faces straight away, making life difficult for the Hatters.
Manager Mark Bowen brought Pele back into the starting line-up and he was one of the best players on the pitch until he was substituted. He won nearly all of his tackles and won three aerial duels, one behind Tom McIntyre and two behind Morrison.
There was far more urgency shown from the players to get the ball forward and create chances. This performance should be used as a spring board in how the players should perform week after week.
Reading may not win every game, but all the supporters want is effort and that’s what we saw yesterday.
The young players set an example to their seniors on what it takes to play for Reading
There was a bit of surprise when the team sheet came out, with Gabriel Osho coming in at right back for Chris Gunter and Tom McIntyre replacing Liam Moore at centre-back. The captain has now been dropped twice this season.
However, the youngsters that came in were magnificent. McIntyre probably had his best game since breaking through last season as seen by his WhoScored rating of 8.2. He won 100 per cent of his tackles, made seven vital interceptions and won most of his aerial duels.
In fact, no other player made more interceptions (four) and clearances (seven) than McIntyre. The centre-back kept working right up the final whistle and defended well from set-pieces.
Osho was also brilliant getting forward and defended his flank well. He won 75 per cent of his attempted tackles and never stopped running all game.
The Reading academy graduates showed their senior counterparts what it takes to play for the club. As Bowen said after the match, they (Osho and McIntyre) are the future of the club. It would be very harsh on them to be dropped for the likes of Moore and Gunter in the next game against Huddersfield.
Puscas back to his best
The 24-year-old arguably put in his best performance in a Reading shirt since the game against Cardiff (H) where he scored two goals.
Puscas has struggled in recent games after playing up front on his own and not getting any service. However, he got into the match quite quickly on Saturday, had more touches than in the past few weeks and caused the Luton defence all sorts of the problems with his movement.
With two assists and a goal to his name, Puscas looked the player that he was before football was halted and deserved to be on the scoresheet.
Now on 12 goals in all competitions so far, the former Inter Milan man has had a good start to life in English football. Hopefully, Bowen can now get his team to play to Puscas’ strengths in the remaining games.
Clinical in front of goal when it mattered
It was very pleasing to see how clinical Reading looked in front of goal. For many years, supporters have been accustomed to seeing their team dominate games, only for the Royals to miss huge chances, with the opposition punishing them.
Reading had 38 per cent possession, but managed 16 shots on goal with 10 on target. So it was fantastic to see Reading be so clinical in front of goal, taking advantage of the chances being created. It’s not about how much possession you have, it’s all about what you can do when you have the ball.
Going into next season it will be vital for the Royals to improve their finishing in front of goal if they want to move up in the league. All being well, the chances will keep on being created with the strikers being there to finish them off.
Luton all but down
Defeat for Luton means they are likely to playing in League One next season. The Hatters had lost one game going into yesterday’s match beating the likes of Brentford and Swansea, so they had they a real chance of staying up.
But the loss leaves Luton six points from safety with five games left to play.
With a goal difference of -32 and having conceded 78 goals, they have the worst defence in the Championship and are now firm favourites for the drop. They play Barnsley (H), Huddersfield (A), QPR (H), Hull (A) and Blackburn at home in their last five fixtures.