Easter is a time of rebirth. It's when, however religious you are, we celebrate the arrival of new life coming into the world: nature blossoming at Spring time or Jesus returning on the third day - Easter Sunday.
Well, on the fourth day it was Tom McIntyre's turn to enact a revival. For the second time in a mad bank holiday weekend, he put the final touch on a resurrection that came after Reading had looked dead and buried. First a late winner on Good Friday and then an even later equaliser on Easter Monday.
I'm struggling to make sense of this game. At 4-1, you'd have put your house on Swansea City going home with the points. If any more goals were to come, they were likelier to be scored by the Swans. Perhaps Reading would grab a consolation, but anything more than that was a pipe dream.
After all, the visitors had made getting to 4-1 look pretty easy. They didn't appear to be at the very top of their game, but still did an impressive job of controlling the contest, whether with the ball (they dominated possession) or without it (an organised press shut Reading down effectively).
The Royals' midfield, set up in the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation, was all too often overrun and bypassed. Josh Laurent pressing higher up left the double pivot of Danny Drinkwater and Tom Dele-Bashiru to cover the space behind, but the lack of an obvious ball-winner in that duo was a gaping flaw. Accordingly, the Royals were second best for an awful lot of the contest.
Things started off well though, with another early home opener. This time it came via Lucas João from the spot after Drinkwater had found Laurent, who was then fouled in the area. However, the Swans had turned things around by the 12th minute. They found it far too easy to create and exploit space around Reading’s area, sending two well-placed finishes past Orjan Nyland to go 2-1 up: one from Hannes Wolf, another from Joel Piroe.
The Swans would then control the contest pretty easily until around half an hour in, at which point Reading started to fight back. A much more aggressive, proactive period reminded us that Swansea could be vulnerable when pressed, and that period almost led to an equaliser. Junior Hoilett was only a matter of inches away from making it 2-2 with a screamer from range, akin to his opener at home to Derby County, but the crossbar had other ideas.
The result was very much in play... until Swansea won a penalty (Hoilett fouling Michael Obafemi) and Piroe scored it. The spot-kick’s timing (just before half time) and significance (it was the Swans' first spot kick in a year) made you think it would just be one of those days for Reading.
The next goal looked like it would be crucial. However, the second half began in much the same way the first had left off: with Swansea in control. Paul Ince probably should have at least changed shape to counter the visitors' setup, but held firm with the 4-2-3-1. To be fair, with all of his bench options being either outright defensive players or forwards, there was no obvious alteration to rejig the midfield.
On 58 minutes the game was apparently 'killed off'; the Swans produced their best moment of the match to cut through Reading in a free-flowing move capped off by Michael Obafemi. 4-1, night night, cue home fans heading for the door. Game over.
...or perhaps not. Just a few minutes later, Hoilett's inswinging cross was converted by Tom Ince - somewhat reminiscent of the delivery and finish for Jimmy Kebe’s close-range goal that kicked off the 3-2 comeback against West Bromwich Albion in 2013.
We couldn't, could we? Well, when João popped up for his second of the afternoon, scrambling the ball over the line after McIntyre’s shot had been blocked on it, the game was back on. And when the home crowd realised how close the Royals were to a comeback, boy did the stadium rock. When Reading have their tails up and are trying to hold onto a lead or in this case hunt a goal, the SCL is a special place to be.
With 20 minutes to go, the Royals needed a sub to add fresh ideas, and had a few options to do so. Femi Azeez would add pace, Alen Halilovic guile and Yakou Meite goal threat. However, Paul Ince again held firm, opting to keep things as they were. It wasn’t until the 84th minute for the first (and last) change when Yakou Meite replaced Hoilett, thereby pushing Tom Ince out to the left wing.
Meite's arrival didn't have the desired effect though. Reading stalled in the closing stages and, if anything, it was Swansea who looked most like scoring. They could very well have done too, were it not for a few counters that didn't quite end in a contest-killing goal.
It seemed as if Reading would be lucky to get one last chance, but it would have to be hit-and-hope. In 95th-minute desperation, Danny Drinkwater whacked the ball into the box from the left wing with his weaker foot... João met the delivery and headed it down... McIntyre applied the finish... and I'm pretty sure I half blacked out from the shock of what had just happened.
From 4-1 down Reading had done it, and there was absolute pandemonium in the stands - 50% exhilaration, 50% bemusement at the drama which had just unfolded in front of our eyes. A left-footed long ball into the area, headed flick-on and close-range finish to seal the comeback. Hang on... was this game a replay of the West Brom one?
Certainly, the spirit shown today was enough to rival what we saw against the Baggies nine years ago. Sure, Reading were second best for much of the game and on another day would have been well beaten, but today, the Royals refused to accept that. Reading kept plugging away and got a thoroughly deserved equaliser. It may have yielded just one point, but the manner in which it came is so much more significant than a mere result.
The lack of a never-say-die attitude has been Reading's undoing far too often this season, but its revival - for which Paul Ince can take full credit- has brought the Royals to the brink of safety.
'Tis the season for rebirth.