Bobbins examines a resilient performance on the road, demonstrating turnarounds for a few previously criticized individuals.
At some point during the second half, which seemed to last eight hours, I checked my fancy smartwatch and noticed that my heart rate was 110. I hadn’t felt like this in months, if not years, while watching the Royals. Looking back, Reading has rarely delivered such a thrilling performance, with the added element of aerial menace and heated, real expectation.
Many away games over the years have felt like hiding from nothing, going through the motions till the home team scored and that was it. There are zero points. Perhaps we can win our next game at home? That is exactly how we have felt during our road trips. However, something is slowly shifting, and confidence is gradually increasing. We can see the throbbing heart of this great squad, quietly, intentionally, and peacefully.
Just days after a hard-fought point against the triangles over the road, this next test against high-flying Stevenage may appear to be too much. With only a few days’ gap, undoubtedly
Could legs not withstand the odds arrayed against them? By jingo, no! Far from it!
We were working in conditions that never let up from the first to the final minute. The tempo was there, the bite in the tackles was there, and we were able to play some football against Stevenage’s aerial onslaught time and again.
It felt like Cheltenham Town away, but with worse conditions and a higher level of player at Stevenage’s disposal.
Given that our back four had never played together before, the opposition, and the circumstances, it was a nearly faultless defensive effort. We did not seem to
Flappy, we deliberately marked their guys, never giving them an inch. Nothing felt panicky, and everything was under control. Given the players who were unable to play or are no longer with us, this made it much sweeter.
Previously derided players like Amadou Mbengue and Clinton Mola delivered outstanding performances that demonstrated maturity and poise. Mbengue’s usual chaotic whirlwind appeared calm and measured under the tornado-like conditions. Despite Mola’s earlier performances, in which he appeared out of place simply being on the pitch, he eventually fit in like he’d been there forever. It was a strange thing to see.
But all of the defence to a man deserve a huge amount of applause for sticking to a task that is a handful for most sides in the division. It’s the type of football you don’t necessarily like to see but the effectiveness is undeniable.
You have to work hard to come away with anything here. Stevenage had not even conceded the first goal at home since Good Friday last year. Only one other side had beaten them at home this season prior to our visit. These majestic three points earned had to be well and truly earned.
Ruben Selles is now proving himself as a manager and leader. Despite everything this season has thrown at him and his players, to drag themselves out of the bottom four with such a showing is a testament to himself and how he carries himself. How he has galvanised this unit to fight and not be outfought is quite incredible.
We all thought he was out of his depth, too stubborn in his ways, too set on something that was never going to work. But he’s learned and adapted as the season has progressed and the players clearly will run through walls for him now. He’s stood by them while everything else has crumbled and still has proven that we can go toe-to-toe with those at the very top of the standings.
There’s no doubt that he deserves a huge amount of credit for motivating this group of players that has been flung together to be better than the sum of its parts. The fight, the sheer desire – all the things we want to see in a Reading team – he’s pulling it all together in such difficult environment to thrive in. If the Great Escape is achieved in April then this result will go down as one of his finest.
Attitudes, togetherness and a spirit that’s becoming unbreakable of late is something we can all get behind and be proud of. It’s not over yet, nobody can be complacent, but the turnaround from abject performances such as Port Vale away to this fine win in dreadful conditions at Stevenage proves that we’re on the right track. Selles can be one proud manager, very proud.
Onwards to the SCL to face Charlton Athletic, which appears to be a clear conclusion on paper given the visitors’ dismal streak in their last 12 games, with their most recent victory coming in November. However, we all know that will not be the case now that the visitors have a new manager, Nathan Jones. Hopefully, his philosophies will take a bit longer to take effect, allowing us to continue their horrible run.
If Reading wins and other results go our way, we could move up several places in the rankings, reaching the lofty heights of lower-mid-table. Imagine that! As the saying goes, this result is meaningless if we don’t cash in against a team that is clearly out of form.
There’s nothing to say we can’t win, but we’ve all seen enough football to understand how fate can work against you. However, we can enjoy the soggy afterglow of this result. Our first midweek away victory in literally years and years. It was wet, strong, and pure bliss.