There haven’t been any occasions this season when the words ‘form’ and ‘momentum’ could be uttered, but – whisper it quietly – we’re close to finding both those things. Three wins out of four at home is something we’ve not achieved in a very long time. We’re not at the stage where it feels like the SCL feels like a fortress but the tide is slowly turning.
Reading need to capitalise when the visitors from the capital of Wales arrive on Saturday. Another home win, and with other results going our way, could almost settle our fate in a positive way for another year in the Championship.
As touched on in the Five Things vs Barnsley, the demise of Ovie Ejaria continued against Stoke City. Rarely has Ovie been dropped for anything other than illness or injury, but the 'midfield wizard that was' is almost sure to be replaced by Tom Ince at the weekend. With Junior Hoilett riding on a Canadian cloud of joy and an assist, and manager's favourite, Ince, now clear to play again after his enforced rest, it would seem certain that these two will feature.
Whilst Ince and Hoilett will likely cause a tactical change by swapping wings, this shift shouldn’t be enough to save Ovie. His drop-off has been too severe to avoid that fate.
The fortune of players has forever fluctuated, but this season for Ovie can easily be regarded as a write-off, save for his performance and goals against Fulham. There will likely be a myriad of matters that could be the matter; we’ll likely never know what’s eating Ovie. Hopefully, next season will open up opportunities for him to possibly play in the 10 spot behind a striker. Maybe then, will we see the return of the player with the magical feet, not the tragical feat of late.
How can you not love Michael Morrison? A player at the twilight of his career sometimes looks like he’s out for the count, sometimes imperious, sometimes statistically morphing into John Swift (if you squint really hard) with a goal and an assist in his last two games – ironically, both from nigh-on identical spots in the box. Both the shoulder into the goal and ‘after you, Claude’ lay-off to Josh Laurent for his goal against Barnsley will no doubt be vital for Reading’s quest for survival this season.
Collectively, we expect moments like these from obvious sources like Swift and João, but when the lesser lights shine bright it makes it all the sweeter. It’s likely that this could be Morrison’s last contract with Reading as a player at least, but a move into the coaching department could be on the cards. Long live Morrodona!
As well as Morrison and Hoilett, the elder statesmen of the group have been coming to the fore of late. Both the form of Andy Yiadom and Danny Drinkwater has been notable in the upturn of our fortunes. While we always require the need for the youth of Tom Holmes, Tom McIntyre and Femi Azeez to excel, having the experience of players many players that are in their 30s is proving essential.
Whether they have played in the Champions League, been previously a part of relegation battles or simply relying on their vast experience, this has armed the team with enough in the locker to draw upon.
A lot of these players may not be with us next season for one reason or another and renewing their contracts would not make much sense for some. The loss of their experience for what is likely to be another very hard season could yet be an important factor if not replaced wisely.
With the number of games dwindling away at a snail’s pace, the current eight-point gap conjures many possibilities. With Barnsley having to play three out of their next four away from home – and their fortunes away from home have been, frankly, appalling – it augurs well for Reading.
If Reading win against Cardiff and Barnsley lose against Millwall and Swansea City next week, then with just 15 points left to play for, Reading’s gap over them could be 11 points.
Another defeat for Barnsley beyond this point would surely see the Lady with the Large Kebab and Chips and Deep Fried Mars Bar clearing her throat in the wings.
Lots of ifs and buts, but one win, maybe two, should be enough to see us Ince-ing over the line.
I’ll get my coat.