After an eventful weekend, the Royals needed to steady the ship and continue their good burst of form in Paul Ince’s first game in charge, with Birmingham City the visitors to the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
After a goalless first half, Lucas Joao gave Reading the lead in the 67th minute. John Swift then doubled our lead in the 73rd from the penalty spot. Birmingham made it a worrying last few minutes with a late consolation goal but the Royals held on for another three points. Reading remain in 21st, and are now eight points ahead of Derby County in the relegation area, but Derby and Peterborough United both play this evening.
Here is what Paul Ince had to say after the game; he spoke to the official club website and Berkshire Live.
Ince on the game
“We’ve only just got through the door. I was here on Sunday; Alex didn’t arrive until Monday after an eight-hour journey down from Glasgow. So, we haven’t been able to do much work on the training pitch. But to come here and win at home in front of the Reading fans, is a great feeling.
“At times we played well, at times we looked nervous. And that’s understandable, when you’re fighting to stay in this league, you will get nervous. And at times we rode our luck. But we looked comfortable at 2-0. It looked like game, set and match. And we made a mistake and all of a sudden you can sense the tension and apprehension in the crowd.
“But they dug in and worked so hard. The desire, the fight they showed to hold on to the three points tonight.
“We have looked too open at the back before tonight, but the lads got back into shape well today. Another day, this team might have capitulated, been ragged and left gaps galore. But they weren’t. And they deserved the win.
“I want us to play good, entertaining football. But we have to flip that switch and know that when we haven’t got the ball, we’ve got to defend properly.
“Silly mistakes have cost us. But by working with these players, working with them, working with them, working with them, they’ll get used to being in their shape and they won’t panic.”
Ince on the journey ahead
“There’s a long way to go. It’s going to be a long journey. We’re down to the bare bones injury-wise, we had kids on the bench and four defenders fit to play today. So it’s a tough gig here. And if we can keep this team up it will be a great achievement for us.
“This team have got so much to give. Offensively we’re a very, very good side. Defensively we still need to be a lot better. But at this stage, it’s just about getting three points. People are looking at the table and saying it’s three from four teams. But if we can keep picking up points, we can drag other teams into it.
“But we’ve got to stay calm, don’t get carried away. It’s only one win. Tonight, it’s just nice to send the fans home happy.
“That last 15 minutes, I thought ‘I’m getting too old for this! But football is in my blood. It’s always been my passion. So it was nice to be back in the dugout. It’s was nice to get that blood pumping again. And it’s nice when you get a result off the back of it.”
Ince on being back in the dug out
“It’s better with a win! It’s been a few years since I’ve been back in the dugout but I’m 54, it’s not like I’m 84, I know how to manage. I’ve done it before and my CV is as good as anyone’s. We hadn’t won at home in four months which is madness given the quality we have here.
“We rode our luck at times - Lee Bowyer’s side are a good side and they were playing with no pressure. We did have pressure as we are trying to stay in this league so to play the way we did and get the three points was great for the lads and the fans.
“But there is a lot of work to do. If you look at the team and the bench, we had three kids on there so we were down to the bare ones. We had 17 players, we only had four defenders who all played, any players who we bring in have to be free transfers. We know the Championship is demanding and these players are playing week in, week out and they were on their knees at the end.
“It’s a tough challenge for me but it’s one I’ve done at Macclesfield and Blackpool, hence why I am here to help so if we keep picking up results and show the mental toughness that we showed while under pressure, then we’ll have a great chance of staying up.
“It’s nice being back, I like helping people and if I can help this club stay in the league then I’ve done a job. How long that lasts and how long I am here for, I don’t know. I was asked to help, I am here to help and it’s great to get off with a win.”
Ince on the Swift and Joao partnership
“When you look at the finish last year - seventh - the majority of the squad is still here. Paunovic did a fantastic job but something has gone wrong down the line.
“To see the quality of players - Lucas, Swifty, Thomas, Junior, Yakou... they are good, good players. The problem with this team is they are always going to score goals. But we have a -23 goal difference so that says it all. It shows we’re not defending, not getting in shape - it’s all about getting forward and creating chances.
“Unfortunately, football is not like that. The best teams all get back into shape and this is something we need to instil into the team because they’ve had this mentality just about going forward and playing football.
“We did that and we rode our luck but we are not there yet. We’ve got Blackpool on Saturday so haven’t got any time to work on the training ground. That’s the most pleasing thing, we haven’t done any work on the training ground, are down to the bare bones but they took it on board.
“We are going to be under pressure because we are not safe yet. But if we can stop conceding as many goals as we have done, it gives us a good chance of staying up, especially with Joao and Swifty up front.”
Ince on belief and the relegation battle
“There has been doom and gloom but Reading weren’t in the bottom three. There is quality in the side and when you have that you’ll always score goals and create chances. When you win games, the belief grows, it’s like anything. The fans are so important. We’re not going to win every game.
“It’s going to go down to the wire, let me tell you that. We’ve got a nice little gap but teams still have to play on Wednesday night. We talk about Barnsley and Peterborough... and Wazza is doing an amazing job at Derby. People seem to think it’s just four teams but it’s not.
“If we can keep winning games then we’ll drag others into it. We’re building confidence and that’s two wins on the bounce now. Blackpool won’t be easy but at this stage of the season, it’s not how you play but what you pick up.
“We did that and we showed our mental toughness when we had to and it’s a great start.”