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Five Things From A Relieving Win Over Rotherham United

Bobbins delves into some of what we learned from Tuesday's 2-1 win over Rotherham United.

Reading v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images


Finally, Reading managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, coming from behind on Valentine’s Day. The collective sigh of relief was palpable, none more so for Paul Ince as his brave half-time substitutions paid off in spades.

The introduction of Femi Azeez once again turned a turgid affair into a watchable one. Tyrese Fornah popped up with the “Mbengue Flick” for the late, late winner. Even Nesta Guinness-Walker appeared and performed markedly better than the stricken Baba Rahman.

The goals were both set pieces, both created by Azeez: the first with a lovely floated free kick to find the BFG, Andy Carroll, to dispatch a trademark header into the bottom left-hand corner. The second was very similar with Fornah sending the hardy few home much relieved.

But did we win because of a change to 4-3-3 in the second half or just because of two tidy set pieces? One could suppose that we felt a bit more confident but equally for some reason best known to Rotherham, they also took their foot off the gas and looked worse for it.


Fans have craved a return to a flat back four for weeks, if not months. In a must-win game, and let’s face it, for Paul Ince himself it probably was just that. He needed to make drastic changes; the first half was unacceptable on every level. The play was squashed and devoid of anything positive. It was truly one of the most dire 45 minutes we had seen this season or any season. A better side than Rotherham could have taken us to the cleaners.

Reading v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Whatever the ultimate reason was, our players seemed to revel in having a bit more space to do their work. The back four was very bold with the full backs (finally) put into dangerous territory.

Femi Azeez made such a difference with his directness. Tom McIntyre eased himself into the game and appeared to be enjoying his stint in central midfield with crunching challenges with a bit of WWE thrown in as he literally threw players around. You love to see it. Tom seemed to revel in just concentrating on tackles and having less to worry about then when he plays in defence. It’s a position that suits him, ultimately.

Andy Carroll probably had his best game in a Royals shirt to date. He won pretty much everything in the air and was an absolute menace in both boxes, scoring one goal and assisting for the other.


But, and it will come as no surprise whatsoever, we know the back three will return against Cardiff City on Friday. The half-time changes happened because it was simply a needs must situation. This won’t be a eureka moment when Ince has had us fooled all along and his philosophy was always to play this way. Nobody is buying any of that.

Because we won the game, Ince will feel that we don’t need to go all out for the win against Cardiff. We can set up just like we always have, and see what we can get by playing conservative and being hard to beat. That will be a great shame as the latter 45 minutes showed that this group can play a lot better than they have managed recently. We didn’t turn into Barcelona by any means, but they looked as if football was fun again for 45 minutes, at the very least.

Reading v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images

The win puts us now 12 points clear of the relegation zone but having played one game more than the protagonists down below. Another couple of wins to keep the downtrodden down should do the trick, but they will have to play much more like they did in the second half here than in the first to make that happen.

Bizarrely, we’re still closer to the play-off picture than the murk at the bottom. Thoughts of this bunch getting into the top six are just fantasy. The focus is still, as it should be, to stay firmly in mid-table. The form of the likes of Blackpool, Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff gives us great hope. That said, Cardiff did win away from home to Birmingham City last night; that will give them some confidence going into the Friday night fixture. Dammit.


However, despite this win, things still don’t make sense. Despite Ince bemoaning the fact that we’re playing three games in a six-day week (for the third time), we remained unchanged from the weekend loss against Sunderland. Some players surely needed dropping or resting, but none of that happened. Tom Ince looked exhausted come the end of the game but will still likely start at Cardiff.

Femi Azeez, despite his assist and a half, will likely start on the bench. Cesare Casadei will likely not start or even appear as a substitute. A change will be enforced as Andy Yiadom joins Mamadou Loum in the 10-yellow-cards club and therefore is suspended. That said, Loum will be available, once again.

As much as this win was vital, not only for the points but to keep the pressure off Paul Ince, the fact that this won’t lead to a mini-revolution of tactics will frustrate the fans. We all want to see a bit more fire and more adventure regardless. These tactical changes were borne of frustration from a shocking half of football. The likelihood is that we’ll revert to more of the same as usual, which will be a shame.