December was Reading’s busiest month of the season yet - eight matches were crammed into 28 days, allowing for plenty of entertainment but even more injuries. Fans returned to the Madejski Stadium for three games, only to be shut out again as Berkshire moved into tier three...and then tier four.
In terms of results, it was a rather middling period for Veljko Paunovic’s Royals. They lost to promotion rivals Norwich City and Brentford and also suffered a disappointing defeat to Birmingham City, but picked up victories against Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers and on Boxing Day against Luton Town. The month was bookended with a pair of draws - against Sheffield Wednesday and then Swansea City. It leaves Reading entering the new year in the playoff places. Not bad at all.
But which players stood out the most? In alphabetical order, the nominees for December’s best performer are...
Average rating: 5.88 / Man of the match awards: 2nd (Swansea A)
Reading’s injury problems may have left them a little short in areas at times this season, but they have allowed for Tom Holmes to make his mark on the first team - first at right-back and now at centre-back. For someone who is only 20 and was playing in the Belgian second tier last season, he has looked assured in the Royals backline and his performances in December have led to suggestions that he could even keep his place when absentees such as Andy Yiadom and Liam Moore return.
Average rating: 6.00 / Man of the match awards: 1st (Sheffield Wednesday A), 1st (QPR A), 1st (Brentford A), 1st (Luton Town H) 2nd (Nottingham Forest H), 2nd (Norwich City H)
Josh Laurent has been one of Reading’s star performers all season long and December was no different - if anything he was even more impressive and finishing in the top two of six of our eight man of the match votes says it all. He has formed a crucial partnership with Andy Rinomhota at the base of midfield, and commands the middle of the park with ease. His driving runs forward have become a trademark and representative of his remarkable energy levels.
Average rating: 6.00 / Man of the match awards: None
The fact that Michael Morrison didn’t receive any man of the match awards in December isn’t as much of a slight on the defender as it may seem. In fact it is a representation of his consistency and reliability in the backline that he simply does his job game after game without fuss. Last month he netted his second goal of the season with an excellent header against Nottingham Forest and captained the side to four points against Luton Town and Swansea City in Liam Moore’s absence.
Average rating: 6.14 / Man of the match awards: 1st (Nottingham Forest H), 2nd (QPR A) 3rd (Sheffield Wednesday A), 3rd (Norwich City H)
In the month in which he turned 19, Michael Olise continued to show ability beyond his years. He may not have started every game, but he was Reading’s key creative spark whenever he stepped onto the pitch. The highlight was a superb 89th minute winning goal from outside of the box against QPR on his birthday, but he also registered two more assists to take his tally for the season to seven - the most in the Championship. Reading may have a job on their hands to keep hold of him in January as rumours of a release clause continue.
So those are the four candidates, but which of them impressed you the most over the course of December? You can vote for your choice in the poll below, or if it doesn’t show up on your device, go through this link here.