Well, that was a lovely afternoon, wasn’t it?
To be honest, Paul Ince’s team selection bamboozled me a little. I wasn’t so sure on having Andy Carroll and Lucas Joao as a partnership at all. It’s a pairing that lacks flexibility in my opinion - if you play those two up top together you have to play a certain way. Luckily enough though, today we played that certain way pretty well.
We were effective going direct and, particularly in the first half, Carroll was a real threat in the air and linked up play really well. The two wing backs were full of energy and threatening all afternoon. I was particularly impressed with Nesta Guinness-Walker, who was a handful from the first minute.
In the first 45, through a combination of us being pretty good and the visitors being pretty woeful, we were the only team who looked like scoring, or even threatening the opposition goal. And about half an hour we got our just rewards through a Tom McIntyre header.
Then goalscorer became provider(ish) as McIntyre threaded a beautiful pass into the path of Jeff Hendrick, whose cross was bundled home by a Huddersfield defender via the back of ‘keeper Nicholls (who had a bit of a stinker all afternoon).
Half time, 2-0 up, looking defensively sound and threatening going forward - all was dandy. But not for long... oh, actually, turns out it stayed pretty dandy. Sorry, I’m probably still not used to writing about comfortable wins.
The second half followed the same pattern as the first, pretty much. Yes, Huddersfield improved and got into a few promising positions, but anything they threw at us we managed to bat away with a high degree of ease.
They threw crosses into the box, we headed them away, they tried to play through the middle and Hutch was there to mop things up. I’m still struggling to decide whether it was more of a case of us being good or the Terriers being not good, but either way the players deserve praise.
Huddersfield’s afternoon was summed up with 10 minutes to go when their centre back gave the ball away cheaply to Ince, whose through ball towards Meite ricocheted off the defender, through the mits of the keeper, leaving Yaks with a tap-in from about half a yard. It's the kind of goal we’ve seen Reading concede countless times in recent years, so although we can sympathise with the Town fans in a way, it’s nice to be on the right side of goals like that for once.
We didn’t blow Huddersfield away today, we didn’t have to. But we were professional, confident and assured in getting the job done. As I was walking away from the ground, I was thinking to myself that it’s been a long time since we were a winning team. And it’s days like today, when you don’t necessarily play amazingly well but just get the job done, that make you a winning team.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting carried away. Our first priority is to stay in the league this season - of that there is no doubt. But I guess I just like the fact that we’ve had a low-key, comfortable, under-the-radar kind of win. It’s a nice feeling.
Of course, Ince and the players will be annoyed that we didn’t manage to keep hold of the clean sheet. However, I actually think it was worth it to see Sorba Thomas make himself look a bit silly by celebrating in front of Club 1871, having just assisted a consolation goal in the dying minutes. It was a bit of a weird moment I have to say.
All in all it was just a lovely win. A simple afternoon’s work, another three points, three goals, impressive performances all round, confidence growing, positive vibes keep flowing, what more can I say?
Next up, the visit of Norwich City. Although the vibes are good at the moment, and we’re coming off the back of a good win, there will be that niggling feeling in the back of all of our minds that we have the ability to capitulate. And if there’s one team you don’t want to capitulate against, it’s Norwich, as they have the ability to put us to the sword.
We’re not expected to get anything on Tuesday, but it’d be such a boost for everybody - fans, players, staff - for us to show the league we can tango with the best of them, or at least hold our own.