And... breathe. But not for long, because even though Monday afternoon’s win over Derby County was the dictionary definition of a must-win game, we are by no means out of the woods just yet in terms of our play-off hunt.
However, we deserve to celebrate victories like this when we can, and the fans certainly did that after the game - showing a lot of love for the three goalscorers in particular. The first was a magnificent strike from magnificent talent Michael Olise, the second a proper poacher’s finish from George Puscas and the third a much-needed, confidence-boosting striker’s goal from Lucas Joao.
As the title of this Fans Verdict suggests, the overriding emotion was definitely relief. If the outcome to this game had been anything other than a win, it would’ve left our play-off charge in tatters - not necessarily because of the points difference, but it would’ve left the players’ confidence in bits. But, thank God, we don't have to talk about that today.
It was a win, a crucial win, but that’s all it was. We still have six monstrous games left in our run, starting with a trip to Vicarage Road on Friday night. *Gulp*.
However, the fans had chance to be in a cheerful mood before that crunch fixture, as they showed on Twitter...
I’ve written my fair share of ‘love letter’ style pieces for TTE in my time - most notably for John Swift, Liam Moore and Jose Gomes. I am now 100% sure that Olise will be getting one in the near future.
I am also 100% sure that his career path will not include Reading for very much longer; it is such a shame that the odds are we may never watch Olise play in the blue and white hoops in person again - but it’s been such a pleasure even watching from afar.
His cryptic signature celebration caught the eye of a few hopeful Reading fans, but it was the finish that preceded it that really wowed the Reading faithful: a sweet strike that nestled into the top corner at a key point of the match.
It was the latest of a long line of moments that show what a player this kid is going be, and the fans are in utter awe of him...
That's why it's hard to stay annoyed at Michael Olise. #readingfc— Greg Double (@Dubstep1988) April 5, 2021
Wish I was in Y26 when Olise hit that, huge goal #readingfc— Reading Talk (@RoyalReading106) April 5, 2021
Pauno had a huge decision to make in his starting eleven for this one: Puscas or Joao? There was large debate among the Reading fans over the weekend - whether they thought it would be best to drop the out-of-form Portuguese striker or not. Pauno ended up opting with the Romanian, and what a decision it was.
In what was always going to be a nervy second half, we needed a second goal to calm down everyone sat at home watching. Puski was the man who popped up with just that, reacting quickest after Marshall parried out a ferocious strike from Yakou Meite.
Yes it may look like a tap-in, but it’s a much harder finish than that. The ball was at an awkward height and came at the Romanian at quite a speed, but Puscas managed to react to poke it home. Not a natural finisher, eh Mark?
The fans seemed to be more than happy with Puscas’ contribution...
Puscas did exceptionally well today. Harried the Derby defence, held it up nicely when required and reacted really well to score when the GK spilled the ball.— Robin Hinton (@Ro6inHinton) April 5, 2021
Joao scoring was the icing on the cake tbh - some healthy competition up front will benefit us hugely.#ReadingFC ⚪️
Feel like Puscas needs more credit for the goal here.— Lewis Radbourne (@lewisradbourne1) April 6, 2021
Yes it was from close range, but with the ball bouncing high and at speed he reacted quickly to get his leg just high enough to get it in.
Puscas is working HARD this afternoon. He is taking the opportunity he's been given. #Readingfc— Niall - Guilty, I support Reading. (@Reading106) April 5, 2021
Puscas showing Joao how to score a tap-in, love to see it ⚽️ #readingfc— Ewan Sparrow (@ewan_sparrow) April 5, 2021
Puscas doesn't score as much as other strikers like Toney or joao , but he scores when we need him most! #readingfc— Daniel Whiteside (@Dan_Whiteside_6) April 5, 2021
The last goalscorer of the afternoon, but arguably the most popular. We were all angry at Joao after the Barnsley game - ‘angry’ being the biggest understatement I think I’ve ever used. But I for one was absolutely delighted to see him bag with his first touch, as were his team mates, and as were (I hope) the rest of us fans.
Lucas could’ve easily gone into his shell even further after being dropped - it was a tough, tough balancing act that Pauno had to play. But the Portuguese showed no signs of that when he came on in the 80th minute, bagging himself the goal that wrapped up a huge three points - only for all 10 of his team mates to join him in celebrating. Wonderful.
As much criticism as he got over the weekend, it looks like the fans were just as happy as the players to see Joao bounce back at the first time of asking. King Joao...
YESSSSSSS KING JOAO IS BACK!!!!! That is what I call redemption! We deserved ⚪️ #readingfc— Luke (@Luke1871_) April 5, 2021
Let’s go joao what a confidence boost for the whole team #readingfc— Jacob‼️ (@RFCJacob) April 5, 2021
Lucas Joao has just scored to put the game to bed. The reaction from his teammates is suitably adorable. #readingfc— Greg Double (@Dubstep1988) April 5, 2021
People are too quick to forget how good Joao is, you don’t score 22 goals in a season being a “bad player”. Everyone goes through rough patches #readingfc— Harry (@hrryjnes) April 5, 2021
Joao just proved he’s worth over £20m with that. Just a blip #ReadingFC— Marlin28 (@Marlin2811) April 5, 2021
As I said before, this was a vital win in the biggest game of the season so far. But that’s what every game will be from here on out: the biggest one yet. And we’ll need our fair share of those to finish in the top six.
It brings confidence back though. A solid defensive display - most notably from Rafael and Tom Holmes, another typical Josh Laurent and Andy Rinomhota performance from our dynamic midfield duo, more magic from both Michael Olise and the dazzling Ovie Ejaria, an influential afternoon from Meite and goals for both Puscas and Joao. You can’t ask for a better 90 minutes than that.
Onwards and upwards. URZ.