With Derby County and Barnsley both playing before Reading and both failing to grab their respective three points, the pressure was on. A rare situation and opportunity lay before them; while a win was always the requirement, knowing the result of all the permutations before even a ball was kicked could have added to the already palpable tension. With the carrot dangling in the golden sunshine it was up the Royals to take advantage.
In fairness, in the first half the added pressure did not seem to phase them even despite the opposition clinging onto a play-off position. The game could have easily been out of sight in the first half if Reading taken their numerous chances.
While it took Reading a little while to get into the game, it was the return of Reading’s star man to really kick them into life. After a spell with Covid, he returned to the bench and soon back into the fray replacing the stricken Andy Rinomhota. It was not long before Swift’s guile and skill brightened up our attacks.
Swift played his part in one of the best first-half showings at home, or anywhere by Reading in honesty, but the chances from João (x2), Yiadom and Josh Laurent were all spurned. In the second half, Swift’s influence was not quite as prominent but he soon had a hand in match-defining matters. Returning for this fixture was a bonus. Reading, as we know and will likely to have get used to, without Swift are Reading are considerably poorer.
OH. MY. JOSH
By the middle of the second half the game had started to get a little bit sticky. In the warm sun the game the players from both sides seemed to wilt. Passes pinged around bouncing off shins and limbs, second balls more often than not ending up at the feet of Blackburn players. All those chances in the first half looked like they could be rued.
Just when we thought we had seen one of the goals of season from the left boot of Tom Ince versus Bournemouth, the tag was surpassed by the winner from Josh Laurent. And what a strike it was. Swift offered a hopeful ball into the box but this was duly cleared. Lauren took a stablising touch, before caressing the ball with a deft wedge into the top right-hand corner. Cue pandemonium!
Such a finish would be fitting to win any game, let alone one of such importance. Often Reading have tried to walk the ball into the net, perhaps too often, but goals like we have seen in the last two games show that by speculating to accumulate a bit more can often reap its own big rewards.
Quietly Ørjan Nyland has slipped into the Reading team and contributed nicely to the four points won last week. With the experience that neither Luke Southwood nor Karl Hein could call upon, Nyland displayed the assuredness and know-how that we have missed so very badly since the exit of Rafael Cabral in January. Not only did he produce some top-drawer saves, he showed there’s more to his game than just simple shot-stopping.
For much of this season, we have cried out for better game management, to be able to show the ugly side, or even a bit of a casual sh*thousery. Nyland showed he was very adept by eking out vital seconds in added on time by letting the ball roll lazily past him into no-mans land before eventually retrieving it on the other side of the box.
It’s the little things sometimes that add to the big saves – they are also highly amusing to watch! Nyland maybe well be an acquisition that has gone under the radar somewhat but may be one of the most rewarding for Reading ultimately.
Mind the gap
Having taken the pressure of knowing the earlier results and all three points at home with their first clean sheet since October, Reading now have a five-point margin between themselves and Barnsley. Depending on your school of thought, the international break could be a blessing or a curse. Momentum in football is often key; when you’re winning the next game can’t come too soon. However, at least we go into the break with four points from a very tough week and a decent gap to Barnsley below.
As it is has been for most of the season, this gives us a another chance to rest players that have been recovering from injuries and illness, niggles or battle weariness. We will likely have Baba Rahman to return at left back, as well as further time for some others to improve their fitness. This is the time to savour a massively important win, enjoy some well-earned relaxation before the commencement of final excruciating onslaught.