Knowing how important this game was to our season, all week I was alternating between faith and optimism to gut-wrenching nerves. And when I woke up on Friday morning it was the nerves that had won that battle, and I'm sure I wasn't the only Reading fan in that boat.
Yes it’s only January, and yes there was nothing directly riding on the outcome of the game, but the opportunity to go seven points clear in the play-offs with a win over one of your fiercest promotion rivals was a mouth-watering prospect. And the players duly delivered.
What a performance. In the first half we saw Pauno’s relentless, clinical attacking style in full flow as we dominated the visitors all over the pitch, and managed to bag three goals, the third of which being particularly dreamy. I don’t think I’ve stopped watching that ball roll from Lucas Joao since.
And then in the second half, we saw something that maybe wasn't as aesthetically pleasing but just as important, and potentially even more satisfying as a fan. The fight, spirit and aggression that we defended our penalty box with in that second 45 was outstanding.
There were a couple of stand-out individual performances, but other than that I’ve decided to ditch the key talking points method and just show you the best tweets from the ecstatic Loyal Royals...
It’s been said before I know, but it’s just an incredible feeling watching one of your own fulfill all of our dreams. After a rocky start to the season, McIntyre has really stepped up to the plate recently and on Friday evening he was the best player on the pitch.
He not only bagged himself a goal, but also kept one of the most dangerous set of players in the league desperately quiet, with help from the rest of his team mates.
The fans love him, he loves the fans. Please, Dai, just give him a new contract...
So happy from Tom McIntyre in getting man of the match tonight.Come a long way since that poor defensive performance against Preston. You could see how much it meant to him from his post match interview.A Reading fan through and through.Give him a new contract Mr Dai #readingfc— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) January 29, 2021
YESSSS MCINTYRE!!! 2-0 UP! I knew he would score today!!!! ⚪️ #readingfc— Luke (@Luke1871_) January 29, 2021
I’ve always said McIntyre is our best footballing defender by miles but defensively a bit dodgy but lately so good #readingfc— Nick Houlton (@Houlton11) January 29, 2021
This might be known as The Tom McIntyre Game. So aggressive in duels on Solanke, tracking him 40+yards across the pitch. Lovely on the ball, involved in the first two goals. Unbelievable performance #readingfc— calum (@caldini4) January 29, 2021
Tom McIntyre is quite possible my favourite Reading played for a long time. Great performance great win! #readingfc— Matthew Cuthbertson (@mjcuthy) January 29, 2021
After last week’s disappointment, we were all eager to see how Joao would react - it was a huge game for him. And after a few half chances that he didn't make the most of, you feared that it may be another frustrating evening for the big man - but then he popped up the kind of magic moment that we’ve all become accustomed to this season.
The composure from Richards to fool Billing, the interplay between Ejaria and Swift, the pass from Ovie and then the filthy footwork from Joao and a finish to match. Wow.
It was a goal that certainly pleased the Royal fans...
Lucas Joao makes football look easy, what a player #readingfc— Danny Morgan (@DannyMorgan0698) January 30, 2021
this team is just getting better and better - and still with Yiadom, Meite and Moore to come back.— Al (@dadros70) January 29, 2021
That Joao goal was something else#readingfc
Third goal as good as it gets. Sensational from Richards to keep the ball, Ejaria moving the ball quickly - which he does at his best - and the finish from Joao is absolutely phenomenal #readingfc— P_GMedia (@P_GMedia) January 29, 2021
Lord give me the confidence of the mighty Lucas Joao to botch that intended run/piece of skill against Steve Cook, only to pull it off perfectly just minutes later, leave him on the deck and bury the third goal. Just absolutely outrageous! #readingfc— George Flood (@GeorgeFlood24) January 30, 2021
It was very, very close to the perfect performance from Pauno’s men - with only the failure to keep a clean sheet letting us down.
Everything else though was sublime. The attacking in the first half, the defending in the second, the spirit, the fight, the will and want to win. This team is just special, and if the fans didn't realise it before Friday night, they certainly do now...
There’s something really special about this team, full of quality players playing for the badge #readingfc— Henry (@HenryStacey3) January 29, 2021
Such as a shame no fans could be allowed at the Madejski tonight. Goodness knows what the stadium would have been like with 24,000 fans in attendence #readingfc— Jack (@thesimpsonRFC) January 29, 2021
I tell you what that promotion party night at Popworld is gonna be one hell of an night. #ReadingFC— corbss (@WillCorbishley) January 29, 2021
So the only question now is will we have fans back for the trophy parade? #Readingfc— Ollie (@OllieRFC_) January 29, 2021
Should we be looking at top 2? Genuinely after tonight i think we should. What a feeling, what a night! ⚪ #readingfc— Dean Bennett (@DeanBennett1993) January 30, 2021
Anyone else woken up and still feeling good about last night result?— Kezza (@RKezza25) January 30, 2021
I love you Reading#readingfc
Couldn’t really sleep last night cause I was buzzing from the win, been a long time since I’ve felt like this #readingfc— SamL0)))max (@cvltrunner) January 30, 2021
Whatever ends up happening, just feels great to really care again. #readingfc— Louie Burton (@burts89) January 30, 2021
Last nights game really has made me miss being at football that bit more #readingfc— Hann (@hannlou9) January 30, 2021
I'm still buzzing from the match last night. Imagine being in the ground last night URZZZZZ #ReadingFC— Milo (@MiloRoyal1871) January 30, 2021
The performance of the season so far in the biggest game of the season so far. I don't have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe how special this team is and how much I bloody love them. Also, does anyone know if Veljko Paunovic is single? Asking for a mate. What a bloke.