Happy New Year Royals fans, and it started in excellent fashion with a 3-2 victory against fellow strugglers Exeter City at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
Reading took the lead in the first half through Harvey Knibbs and, less than 10 minutes later, the visitors equalised. The Royals then went in ahead at half-time through an own goal. Exeter then equalised again with 20 minutes left, but Femi Azeez scored to secure an important three points and continue our good run of form.
Reading picked up eight out of a possible 12 points over the Christmas period, and have moved out of the relegation zone. Overall, a good start to the year!
Here is what manager Ruben Selles had to say; he spoke to the official club website and Reading Chronicle.
Selles on the victory
“It was a very challenging game, and I think the fatigue was showing as we came to the end of the festive period. With a heavy schedule and coming into a game of such importance, there were a lot of emotions attached to today, so the commitment from the group was amazing.
“The way we got the result today, suffering two setbacks, but to keep fighting and pushing for the winner has shown our ability to compete against anyone in really challenging circumstances, so we can be really happy with today and how we’ve conducted ourselves over the last nine days.
“Always in games, there are ups and downs, and we’re not capable sometimes of dominating games from start to finish. We know we need to navigate moments better, both in attack and defence. We’ve shown how clinical we can be on the front foot, so it’s just ensuring our all-around game is as good as it can be.
“We saw either side of half-time the good and the not-so-good, putting ourselves ahead, then not starting the second period in the way we’d want to and let Exeter back into the game. But after the goal, we began regaining possession, dominating key areas of the pitch, and in the end, Femi [Azeez] again was really clinical with his chance.
“Now we can look ahead to some days away to recover, celebrate what we’ve achieved in this period, but know that the job is not done yet. We need to ensure this level of performance doesn’t drop and continue to pick up points.
“When you compare the team now to where we were even just nine days ago, the confidence is coming back into the dressing room, and we’re putting fear into teams who come up against us. We still need to work on the balance and connections, which are putting us on the back foot, but again that’ll come.
“Finally, I think what you saw today is everyone is 100% committed to the task at hand. Players, staff, everyone in the club has done an unbelievable job in supporting us, and I have no doubt this good run of results can continue and ensure 2024 can be a good year for us, and today it got off to the best possible way.”
Selles on player mentality
“It is not only today, but it was also Cheltenham too after a very bad start to come back and have situations in the second half to win it. The mentality of being nasty to beat and to always be in the games.
“If we are in front, I think we need to be more robust in our defensive moment, but when we are back we know we can score against any opponent so we need to find some balance.”
Selles on moving out of the relegation zone
“It has been a long period there and a lot of talk about us. I think it took time for us to find a way to compete and win football matches. We still should have more points, and the point deduction didn’t help.
“It was a small step today. It is more in the mind. We know the job is not done and we need to win a lot of football matches if we want to stay in League One next season. We have those weeks with three games that we won back from 10 points, it can come back if we are not at our top. We need to fight to get points.”
Selles on Tom Holmes injury
“After the game against Cheltenham, he felt some discomfort in the calf. At the very beginning of the warm-up, because we tried to keep him yesterday, he felt discomfort, so he was not available for today. It is normal for everyone to play with fatigue, hopefully it is nothing. Tomorrow he will have the scan and hopefully, it is nothing.”
Selles on the upcoming nine-day break
“It is what it is. If we needed to play on Saturday then we would do it, but it is what it is. We need to get some space to recover the body and mental space, then go again.”