clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Five Things From An Away Win That Was So Worth The Wait

Bobbins’ take as the Royals break their away-day curse with a 2-1 win at Wycombe Wanderers.

Shrewsbury Town v Reading - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Banished

FINALLY!! WE DID IT!! Reset the clocks, put that filthy monkey back in the cage. We won a game of football away from home in the league! And boy, does it taste ever so sweet. For every Reading fan that has suffered and toiled on the road, by car, rail or even air, this win was worth it and we never, ever want this kind of run to be repeated.

Other than winning honours, a standard win away from home is the best of feelings. It’s unexpected, against the odds, a victory in someone else’s backyard. It’s something that a normal side tends to achieve on a semi-regular basis, all things being equal. But, as we all know far too well, the slide of our club as a whole has mirrored our on-the-field performances. The quality, the effort, the standards required to win away just seemed to sink in a shit synchronicity like drunken divers from the top board at the swimming pool.

Pick a nightmare, any of them, we’ve all hoped that just one thing would unravel to be banished forever. It’s hard to avoid the feeling that this could be a turning point. A mental shackle has been removed, it had to be done and finally, it’s been done. Maybe now, in tandem again with off-the-field matters, we can start to believe again in a better future.

Responsibility

The elements that gave us this hard-earned victory could be summed up by the efforts of one man: Sam Smith. Since his return from injury his influence has grown and grown. He’s now consistently scoring and able to finish games, even though he ploughs a lonely furrow up front. He epitomises everything that we need to survive: hard work, honesty, responsibility and pride.

Whether his goal was actually his goal is one that will be up for debate for a whole five seconds - it really doesn’t matter (but it was his goal). He was there in the right place at the right time and the ball went into the net. Oh, and we won the game too, did I mention that?!

Neatly this brings us to the provider of his (or Smith’s) goal, Femi Azeez. While Smith has been the standard bearer for Reading, Azeez has or was the opposite: he summed up all the nervousness, misplacement and deep lack of confidence that has besieged the club for months, if not seasons. But not on this day.

In truth, it wasn’t a performance that was markedly different from many other Azeez performances: he worked hard, he got into good positions, he pressed well when we decided to press. But this time, things paid off for him. He finally had some end product that justified his selection.

He is selected week in week out because of his high energy and staying power, but the assists have eluded him. He can chalk this game down as one where he finally had the end product to match his physical output. Hopefully he can now store that feeling, recall it when needed and build upon it.

It would be remiss not to mention the injury that Dom Ballard received early in the game. It looked pretty bad, possibly an ACL. Whatever the injury is, it looks to have probably ended his season and, even more likely, his time as a Royal. Best wishes and a speedy recovery to him.

Ballard’s replacement, Paul Mukairu, also put in a very decent shift, including the pre-assist, if such a thing exists, for Azeez to find Lewis Wing, who pinged home against his former club. While Ballard and Mukairu are very different players, both were capable of doing the work that is required of them. And that’s becoming a feature of the new 4-1-4-1 formation that Ruben Selles is employing. Everyone understands their roles and they are beginning to feel comfortable in doing so.

Confidence

The oft-maligned 4-2-2-2 looked clunky, uncomfortable and had more gaps than Shane McGowan’s teeth. In the 4-1-4-1, more often than not, the spaces aren’t so obvious and less likely to be exploited. While Wycombe weren’t great (arguably even worse than Shrewsbury Town), we still did our job well in making sure that we were never isolated. Jeriel Dorsett looked more comfortable at left-back and the same applied for Tyler Bindon at centre-back, too.

The biggest praise is for Michael Craig, who stepped in for the suspended Sam Hutchinson. Despite losing his man for Wycombe’s only goal, he’s growing rapidly as the holding defensive midfielder. It’s a difficult position for a 20-year-old to pull off, but he’s stepping up to the plate and, again, taking on the responsibility. Some might say that it’s his position to lose now as he’s not so erratic as Hutch. Sam’s recent incendiary comments may too have put him on the naughty step. We shall soon see the outcome of that on Tuesday.

The system as a whole just feels more at home for these players. They are starting to feel comfortable playing this way, it suits their natural positions better and they are gaining confidence from knowing that someone is around to pick up the pieces, if necessary, and there’s still an attacking edge going forwards too. Despite our recent form, we’re scoring consistently now. We have finally found a way of being resolute but still being dangerous in the final third. It’s a fine balance, but there’s something to build on, finally.

Comfortably

And that’s one of the reassuring aspects of this win: it wasn’t a fluke or contrived via a red card or a penalty to bolster the chances of winning. This was a consistent, level performance during the entirety of the game. Sure, it was still a bit scruffy at times, but this is to be expected, all things considered, and there’s a lot to be considered.

For once the reasons for defeat were for the opposition to swallow. For us, we can take pride in a thoroughly enjoyable win that didn’t have the usual heart-in-mouth moments at the end of the game. We saw this one out quite comfortably.

If we can believe, as we fans often do, that matters off the field are reaching their endgame. If the pressure and anxiety that have held everyone associated with the club hostage, for what seems to be an eternity, are finally releasing, then maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of the end and the start of something fresh, new and exciting.

Opportunity

Just as players want to right the wrongs after a loss, they also want to keep a run going as soon as possible. Luckily for us that next opportunity is just a few short days away against Carlisle United at the - what is sure to be - baltic SCL.

A win against the Cumbrians could reduce the gap between ourselves and Exeter City, who are in utter freefall, to a mere four points before the FA Cup tie against Eastleigh to distract matters.

What a week it could be if we rack up another three points at home on top of this stupendously good away win, plus the possible news of a new owner of the club. Imagine the mood we could be in!

The players and the fans felt reunited once more. We need moments like this to believe in ourselves again. A belief that can change many aspects. Dare to dream, folks, dare to dream.