Aside from Tyrese Fornah’s formidable strike, one of the pleasing aspects of the latest home win against Boro was in how it came to be. In contrast to the high-octane, heavy-metal pressing that Blackburn could not cope with, this performance was much more measured, calm and, at times, anti-football.
This was the kind of win that most fans would have said “couldn’t have happened under Pauno” and that would be a very understandable view. There is no doubt that we appear stronger in every sense than under the previous regime.
As pleasing as it was to blow Blackburn away with skill and style, it was just as satisfying to see us grind out the win with a unit that was organised, that could shuffle the depleted pack and still be unpassable. In the past, we would have folded like a fitted sheet, but this group seems to have galvanised. The belief is back.
In Tyrese Fornah, we have found a very tidy little gem. At times he has a lot of the hallmarks of Royals legend Mikele Leigertwood. Close ball control, similar gait and he can also strike a football very well indeed. The technique to hit the ball into the ground but still keep it under control was a sight to behold, worthy of winning any game.
His overall performances are growing in stature week by week. From a shaky start, which is completely understandable for a 22-year-old playing for the first time in the Championship, he is forming a grand partnership with Mamadou Loum. Whilst Loum appeared to be struggling with what could have been a dead leg in the first half, Fornah stepped up to carry the load along with Jeff Hendrick. That showed great awareness for one so young. Take a bow, Little Ledge!
Although many fans of Boro would be ruing their loss on Reading’s defensive tactics and “11 men behind the ball”, opposition manager Chris Wilder was a lot more sanguine.
“Reading sat deep and made it difficult for us. They’ve got experienced players and the shape of their team was really good. I should imagine Paul was delighted.”
High praise from a manager who knows that there’s many different ways to win a football match. Defensively, the collective group all (almost) worked tirelessly to ensure that shape and organisation never faltered, and Wilder would have recognised that as a well-respected coach in this division.
Ince should be very proud of his tactics and the application of them. Knowing that this season would be one when we would not have the biggest or most talented squad, he has set out to make them to be highly organised in defence, where everyone understands their importance and their roles. When the manager in the other dugout appreciates the application and takes defeat graciously, that is testament to what Ince has managed to achieve despite all the obstacles.
Another pleasing aspect of this season has been the education and evolution of the slightly more nefarious parts of the game. Often Reading have shown a naivety and softness in games or even in seasons gone by. The mental side - game management, killing time, drawing fouls, general sh*thousery - has been clear to see.
No doubt this is another aspect where Paul Ince and Alex Rae, both combative imposing midfielders in their day, would have toughened the group to be savvier at how to get inside the opponents’ heads. Whilst we’re by no means a dirty side, we are drawing more than our fair share of yellow cards this season. Ince will accept this as a necessary evil as it shows we are now harder, competitive and bold.
It also shows that the players are now fully concentrated and switched on. They understand the importance of holding onto a lead is not just by scoring one more goal than the opposition, but how you can control the match in various forms whether they be fair or foul. Apologies to my multitudinous cats, but we’ve learned that there’s many ways to skin them!
But we do have to remember that these are very early days in the season. No Reading fan will have predicted that we would be third in the division after just five games, but it is just that - five games. We may have (approximately) 20% of the points in the bag that we need for survival but we cannot feel we’ve cured all evils and are sailing on a sea of joy.
The backroom staff will keep their feet on the ground and one would doubt that this group have any delusions of grandeur. They fully deserve a rest after two wins in a week that will have pleased the fanbase not just for the points, but also for how both games were won.
Whisper it quietly but we are possibly seeing the dawn of a new form of Reading FC. Galvanised.