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Five Things From An Impressive Win Over Bolton

Bobbins analyses an excellent performance and win over in-form Bolton.

Reading v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images


Football. How can you not love this game? Despite everything that’s going on with our beloved club off the pitch, on the pitch we took matters into our own hands in spectacular fashion.

And that’s the most impressive thing about this victory: it was won despite the uncertainty that Dai Yongge has created, despite the essential protest of tennis balls that were launched into play, despite going a goal down as a result, despite a referee that seemed to be in his own time zone. Despite all of that, we won a game of football. It was a beautiful thing.

There were so many pleasing aspects, but for 45 minutes it looked anything but as an in-form Bolton Wanderers looked every bit the part of promotion contenders. We did well to stay in the game, in truth. But, there are muchos cojones with this young bunch; that cannot be disputed.


Of course, we were the victims of our own doing by losing concentration after the projectile protest. Most teams would indeed struggle to get their heads back in the game after such an event. It’s not every day that any other kind of ball other than the larger, less fluffy version appears on the field of play.

Charlie Savage seemed to be much aggrieved by it, while Harvey Knibbs channelled his inner Andy Murray by launching a pretend serve.

While the protest was essential for many reasons, it undoubtedly had a hand in the opposition’s goal. In hindsight, if we knew we’d still win the game, regardless, we’d do it all over again. Even if we had lost the game as a result, the protest and actions that will run because of it are still vitally important. But we sit here with very smug faces and proud of our efforts, on and off the pitch.


For a whole host of reasons this win is important. But sticking to the on-the-field reasons, we won after going a goal behind. We won against one of the very best sides in the division. We won with some very astute use of substitutions. We won by being bold, going for the win when previous teams would have sulked, shrugged and given up. For all of these reasons they can be very proud indeed.

The tenacity of this bunch of young lads continues to be ever so refreshing. Sure, they looked a bit leggy and chased a lot of shadows in the first half, but they hung in there. The display of willingness to learn and to play for each other is such a far cry from seasons before. Maybe it’s the innocence of youth and a young manager who actively encourages and actually believes in his players and his own philosophy? Who’d have thought that that kind of man management would reap benefits?

Savage showed us what he’s all about with his first goal at home in a Reading shirt, and what a beauty it was! With the entire crowd baying for him to SHOOOOT, he duly obliged with a sumptuous strike that cannoned in off the post. He also showed a great level of maturity by heading straight to the centre circle to get the game going again. It’s a small thing, but it’s an insight into the mentality that this group has. They may be young, but to a man they are showing themselves to be very committed and sensible professionals.

This was after an odd period of play when Bolton, sitting pretty with a one-goal lead, appeared to just… stop. Whether it was over-confidence, tiredness or that we’d managed to play ourselves back into contention after a couple of excellent substitutions, they couldn’t influence the game anywhere near as close as they did in the first half.

Suddenly, we could find space and time on the ball. This was largely due to the influence that Ben Elliott had on the game. While Paul Mukairu had opportunities to open his legs and show his class, it was Elliott that shone with his vision and ball control. This in turn allowed Femi Azeez to grow into the game after an indifferent first 45.

Reading v Stevenage - Sky Bet League One - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

If we have learned anything from what Ruben Selles is adept at, making substitutions appears to be his forte. Replacing Sam Hutchinson with the energy of Amadou Mbengue was very good. The aforementioned Ellliott drove us further forward and has a fine knack of playing the right pass more often than not.

Azeez laid on the assist for Savage to fire home before fine work by Elliott and Mbengue provided the ball for Caylan Vickers to stroke him the close-range winner. You absolutely love to see it when a manager makes bold decisions and they unanimously pay off. This after taking off our top scorer, Kelvin Ehibatiomhan, too.


A special mention, a rare one in this series, for the referee. While we were all used to the officials at the Championship level being a wee bit rubbish, at League One level, Lee Swabey really excelled in his craft of being inconsistent. At times he couldn’t make up his mind what a bookable offence was. Dom Ballard was booked for a dive in the first half, then Dion Charles was adjudged to have dived when he tangled with Tyler Bindon and Nelson Abbey. A free-kick was given for Reading but no booking for Charles. Huh?

When Bolton had won free-kicks (before we had equalised), they appeared to have all the time in the world to take the free-kick, with no admonishment from the official. At times he seemed to be facing away from play in a world of his own, not even looking at the player who was waiting to take a free-kick. Then came the inevitable flurry of yellow cards. It was so predictable by the end of play. I guess this is something we’ll have to get used to!


But despite everything, we can be nothing but supremely proud of our players and the staff of our club. A win was not essential or expected but it certainly was important and, ultimately, well deserved against a side that is a genuine contender this season.

Managers often cite moments in a season when their actions and philosophy pay off. They become important markers and can be used to define the days and months ahead. It is moments like this when belief is sown, when the roots of confidence can begin to grow. In a week that off-field events yet again put the club in a bad light, the joy of seeing a new process, a new system, a new hope paying off is a much-needed relief. We won despite what our owner has done to our club, not because of him.

In addendum, kudos to the fans of Bolton Wanderers in joining our fans in support. Fans are better when united.