Tonight was all about getting three points. After the ridiculous high of Saturday’s win, we simply had to get a result against Carlisle United. It would’ve been by no means beyond the realm of imagination for us to completely mess up the opportunity we gave ourselves on Saturday by losing though.
We needed to capitalise and take the chance to start building a bit of momentum. And we did. With aplomb.
Look, the performance was by no means perfect. But we scored five goals and, in the end, showed our superiority. It was nervy at times, frantic pretty much all the time, but as I said the three points were all that mattered this evening.
One fan's tweet I saw summed the game up pretty well in my opinion, describing our style of play as ‘chaos’ and that the team had a ‘lack of chill’.
The lack of chill in this team is frightening.— Greg Double (@Dubstep1988) November 28, 2023
Whether we’re defending or going forward, the energy is just absolutely mental.
No faulting the work rate, but our style of play is basically chaos. #readingfc
The ‘chill’ bit probably rests on Michael Craig as the deepest midfielder. He calmed the game down really well on Saturday against Wycombe Wanderers, but tonight even he was far too frantic in possession and none of his team mates could play that role either.
I don’t really like saying things like this but the pitch really didn’t help. It looked very bobbly and a nightmare for trying to get the ball down and string a few passes together. That being said though, there were so many instances when we could’ve and should’ve taken one or two touches and calmed things down a bit, but decided to quickly go long or rush a pass that wasn't necessarily on.
Hey, maybe I’m nitpicking a little bit here. But essentially what I’m trying to say is that the performance as a whole left a lot to be desired. I was going to title this match report ‘five-star Royals’ or something along those lines, but we weren't that good overall.
What we did do well though is turn it on going forward enough to put Carlisle to the sword. Let’s be honest, the visitors weren't that great, and I feared at times that we were playing into their hands a little with the frantic, chaotic football, but we showed our superiority when it mattered and, because of that, fully deserved the three points.
And please don’t mistake me for a pessimist when reading the above. I still think tonight is a really, really good result and there are several positives that we can take going forward.
On paper we have some really good attacking players for this division. The likes of Sam Smith, Lewis Wing, Femi Azeez, Harvey Knibbs and Paul Mukairu - not to mention Caylan Vickers, Ben Elliott, Dom Ballard and Charlie Savage etc - are talented players at this level.
We obviously haven’t seen that anywhere near enough this season, but in the last three or four games (and yes I’m counting the Shrewsbury Town and Portsmouth capitulations in that) we have started to look like a threatening team.
There is no coincidence between our switch in formation and our change in fortune going forward. We have lambasted Ruben Selles regularly so we have to praise him for this - not just for the tactical tweak but the personnel changes too.
Bringing Knibbs into central midfield, as well as moving Ballard out wide (before his injury) and putting Wing into a more attacking role were all brave moves - ones that could have backfired - but they’ve worked really well.
And they worked really well again tonight. Knibbs showed energy and tenacity in midfield all evening and grabbed two goals - the second of which was really smartly taken - and Wing, again, showed signs that he is a really good player at this level with a wonderful strike from 25 or so yards out.
And then, to cap it all off, a great moment for Azeez who finally broke his goal drought with a really good finish. He had a chance really early on which he should’ve taken, which had me thinking it was going to be another one of those days for him, but he showed really assertiveness with his goal - which will hopefully have lifted a massive weight off his shoulders.
So, yeah, a bit of an iffy performance when you look at it holistically, but in moments we really showed our quality, and look, beggars cannot be choosers. With the run we’ve had you’ll take any win you can get.
I’m just praying now that we can start to kick on. It’s been a really good few days or so for everyone at the club: fans, players and the manager. We now sit just five points from safety, when two games ago we were 10 points adrift - that’s how quickly things can change if we just start to string a few good results together.
And who knows, with rumours swirling around exclusivity possibly being offered to Genevra Associates in the takeover process, we may have some good news coming our way off the pitch as well.