On the whole, 2020 has to be deemed a progressive year for Reading, and that was typified by the fact that the Royals would end the calendar year in the top six of the Championship regardless of the result at the Liberty Stadium, after starting the year in 14th spot.
The result against Swansea was a very hard-fought 0-0 - one that I don’t think any fans will really complain about when you combine how good of a team Swansea are and the amount of key players we’ve still got on the injury table.
I was staggered when Sky put up a graphic which showed that, since the end of the seventh game of the season, we have the joint-worst defensive record in the entire Football League. But the defence looked back to their early-season best against the Swans, even without Liam Moore and Omar Richards.
The star of the show though was of course Rafael, who lost out on Sky’s man-of-the-match award to Andre Ayew - a player he thwarted throughout the game with a number of impressive saves...
Anyway, here’s how the fans reacted to the key talking points.
He’s made more than his fair share of mistakes this season, including one last time out against Luton Town when he let Lua Lua’s long range effort through him. There were even rumours developing in the run-up to Wednesday night saying Rafael would be dropped, allowing Southwood to get his long-awaited chance.
However, Pauno stuck with Rafa, and he’ll be glad he did now. We all know Rafa is a terrific shot stopper and he showed that once again on Wednesday night with a string of superb saves, the pick of the punch coming from a flying Ayew header in the second half.
The fans were impressed, and they will be hoping that this is a corner turned for the Brazilian ‘keeper...
I think rafael was the right decision #readingfc https://t.co/mPT4Ympjs7— _olly_drew (@ollydrew1) December 30, 2020
Rafael made a couple of mistakes this season, that game makes up for all of them. Some absolutely ridiculous saves. MOTM Rafael. #Readingfc— Ollie (@OllieRFC_) December 30, 2020
Assume no one is calling for Rafael to be dropped now? #readingfc #SWAREA— Lee Richards (@Lee_Richards1) December 30, 2020
I think Rafael deserves plaudits for tonight's performance. Without him it could have been a completely different game, keeping one of the best players in the league in Andre Ayew at bay was always going to be a hard task, but be did so by making some fantastic saves. #readingfc— Lewis Radbourne (@lewisradbourne1) December 30, 2020
Also brilliant to see Rafael back to his best tonight, some big saves. He's had his critics in recent weeks but he's still a top keeper #readingfc— Tom Maynard (@ttmaynard) December 30, 2020
Now that’s the Rafael I like to see #readingfc— josh (@joshhunt7_) December 30, 2020
Sky sports giving motm to Ayew instead of Rafael #readingfc— Trenchcoat (@AdamHumphries96) December 30, 2020
Definitely a step up from Rafael today, he was excellent #readingfc https://t.co/V1tm2ta6W2— Dave (@shakefon) December 31, 2020
The entire back four were superb on Wednesday night. Esteves showed signs of improvement, Morrison did what Morrison does and McIntyre slotted in effortlessly at left back and was arguably our biggest attacking threat too.
However, the fans had particular praise for one individual in particular: Tom Holmes.
He’s been Pauno’s Mr Reliable this season at right back, but has made the move back to his preferred centre back role in recent games, and on Wednesday night he looked seriously good against two talented forwards in Ayew and Lowe.
The fans are certainly loving what they’re seeing from Tom Holmes...
Tom Holmes was praising the likes of McIntyre and Osho here back in July. The man himself deserves huge credit for his performances this season @ReadingFC. Superb again last night. #Readingfc https://t.co/BPNCnPpq2L— Matt Smith (@RustyRoyal) December 31, 2020
Tom Holmes my Player of the season so far. #readingfc— Brad Ray (@BradSRay) December 30, 2020
Get Holmes to sign a new deal right this minute. I don’t care if his deal doesn’t run out until 2022!— Adam GC Jones (@ajonesrfc) December 30, 2020
What a performance at CB again tonight - he has stepped up to the plate big time this season when we have really needed him.
Oh, and he’s an academy lad ⚪️ #readingfc
Tom Holmes is brilliant at centre back. So good to see more academy players making a mark #readingfc— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) December 30, 2020
Tom Holmes is going right to the top, absolutely quality #readingfc— Dan (@rfcfrostie) December 30, 2020
Tom Holmes is excellent. Future (C) #readingfc— austin_j_powers (@austin_j_powers) December 30, 2020
Holmes been our best player today!! #readingfc— Dan Hindmarsh (@DanHindmarsh9) December 30, 2020
Holmes man of the match for me, superb tonight. #ReadingFC— Michael Edwards (@Ted2theE) December 30, 2020
The last game of the calendar year gave the fans a chance to reflect on what has been, as ever, a topsy-turvy 12 months at the Madejski. But it’s a year that, ultimately, has given us the chance to be optimistic and excited going into 2021.
Ending the year in the play-off positions after struggling with injuries to key players for the majority of the season is a fantastic return, and it’s laid the foundations for us to be in the play-off picture come the end of the season.
The fans were in a reflective mood, but also an optimistic one as they braced themselves for the New Year...
Well done #readingfc. A real team performance! A good end to 2020. 6th in the league. Good luck for 2021!— Tom Jordan (@tomjordan332) December 30, 2020
Great to be going in to 2021 in the @EFL Championship top 6. I’m sure we’d be higher if we would have kept key players fit. #readingfc— Neal Hussey (@NealHusseyUK) December 30, 2020
We have to take that.— Daniel Whiteside (@Dan_Whiteside_6) December 30, 2020
But just imagine in 2021 having a fully fit squad of Rafael,McIntyre,moore,morrison,yiadom,Richards,laurent,rinomhota,olise,swift,meite,Joao,puscas just to name a few
What a time to be a Royal
Things you love to see! (Part 22/46)— Jon Gould (@JonG0uld) December 30, 2020
Really solid performance. How good it is going into 2021 in the playoffs with half the first 11 to come back into the team next year. Pauno doing a fantastic job with this side. Must be such a good dressing room! pic.twitter.com/eZXR0vXnMp
Going into 2021 in the top 6, honestly who’d of thought that this time last year #readingfc— Hann ⛄️ (@royalshannx) December 30, 2020
First time in a few years we go into the new year with a genuine chance of achieving something positive. Some turnaround by Pauno and his staff. #readingfc— Rob Molloy (@Dobchecks) December 30, 2020
6th place going into 2021, with everything to play for. I’ll take that. #readingfc— Andy W (@Lazy_sunbather_) December 30, 2020
Top 6 at new year, I'll take that. The best is yet to come.... #ReadingFC— Steve Poole (@TheRealStavioni) December 30, 2020
A very good end to a tough year, both on the pitch and off it. Hopefully 2021 brings brighter days. On a positive note, we have a club we can proud of again, a group of players who aren’t going to let us down and also have the quality to be near the top end of the table come May.
It’s going to be exciting.