I do not hate any team (although Leeds come close) but a win, indeed a double, against the team supported by many old friends in the town has to be enjoyed to the maximum.
Reading had an upset during the warm-up when Guthrie incurred a tight calf and had to be replaced in the starting 11 by Robson-Kanu. Eddie selected the same team that beat QPR on Saturday apart from the enforced replacement of the suspended Arter with O’Kane rather predictably coming in. This meant that we could keep the basic 4 4 1 1 formation which changes to 4 4 2 or even 4 2 4 when we are on the attack but this does not include the overlapping full-backs, particularly Francis.
Reading had the better of the first 5 minutes with Obita’s 20 yard shot being saved relatively comfortably by Camp and Gorkss header over from a cross after the corner being what they created. The match then took a drastic turn. Steve Cook put a ball over the top for Lewis to run onto. This he did with ease with Gorkss trailing in his wake (as he was to do many times in the match). Lewis advanced with the ball and showed the improvement of his game as he looked up for options. Surman and Ritchie were sprinting in as support and the ball across the box deliberately missed out Surman for the better placed Ritchie to thump a left footed shot into the left side of the net from just inside the box. After the kick off Reading came out looking for the equaliser but as soon as they lost the ball we were off again. There is not the space to describe each of our attacks so all I’ll do here is say that Lewis spent the majority of the half loitering in the vicinity of Gorkss (as alluded to above) and he left him for dead numerous times. The attacking six, in fact the whole team, rotated the ball with pace and precision. Kermorgant with deft little flicks and lay-offs, Ritchie and Pugh probing down the flanks, not worried about passing it back or infield if that was a better option, Surman and O’Kane swapping the holding role with telepathic ease to provide the links in midfield all added class to proceedings.
The ball was being zipped around a bemused and lumbering Reading team with ease. When they got the ball their passing was slow and with our midfield pushing up high on the pitch the recipient of a pass often received a red and black striped opponent as well. The biscuitmen did actually have one opportunity but Drenthe was selfish and tried his luck against Camp (and failed) when a simple ball to Le Fondre would have created a much clearer chance.
Within minutes we were two up. Lewis beat Gorkss to a ball that the defender should have dealt with with ease but his shot was blocked. Somehow he got to the loose ball first and laid it back to Surman who took a few paces forward before slotting a lovely ball through to Ritchie who controlled it with his right before passing into the net with his left almost from the exact spot as his first.
If Reading thought that we would now slacken off they were in for a nasty surprise as we in fact upped the ante and continued marauding forward. There were a few moments of slack as the players got their breath but these were only brief. Approaching half time we upped the ante yet again. Lewis fed Ritchie who played the ball forward for the overlapping Francis. Simon sprinted past a past it Wayne Bridge but the ball appeared to be beating him to the line but somehow he got to it to put in a delicious cross. Yann was attacking the near post and I saw him adjust his feet to ensure that he got the timing of the header just right and with a flick of his neck muscles the ball crashed into the net. Three nil at half-time but it could have been five, six or more. It was a shame that the half and the entertainment had to come to an end it was that special. The noise from the home supporters throughout the half was immense…..Dean Court in either form has always been an electric place under lights.
I mused at half-time how we would play the second half, would we stick or twist. In a way we did both. With the ball we passed it around with ease again but at a much slower pace and still created chances. Grabban and Pugh had the best of these but did not take them. Reading had much more of the ball this half but mainly in their own or the middle thirds and looked a better side but still mediocre at best. They did not create much and it was a surprise when Rodson-Kanu thumped a shot passed Camp who was probably unsighted by the challenge of Francis on the striker. This made no difference to the course of the match as Reading were just not good enough to get back into it and indeed any further goals could have been scored by us. Fraser replaced Pugh and was booked for a rash foul, Pitman came on for Lewis, who picked up a knock, and McDonald replaced Yann in added on time to really block up midfield. 3-1 final score.
The first half was, after the first 5 minutes, a blistering display of attacking football played at the highest tempo yet that I have seen from this team, Eddie agreed with this assessment in his post-match interview. Despite the pace of our play nearly all the decisions made by the players were correct and the application and execution of these mainly a delight to watch. On top of this the movement was so good that the player in possession always had a number of options. The Reading team, and I suspect Nigel Adkins, just did not know what to do. They seemed to arrive expecting a cagey affair….had they not reviewed our previous 4 matches? As the match was to all intents and purposes over after the first half there was no point in going all out in the second although we again controlled it. The official stats of the match indicate that Reading had 52% of the possession. I’m not sure how they define possession if this is the case as I do not remember them having so much. It maybe that it was in their own half so did not register with me.
Naming a man of the match is a very difficult decision as every player would get at least an 8 out of 10. I’m not going to cop out and give it to the whole team but will list the main contenders. Simon Francis over-lapped with abandon, just as the DC faithful demand, and this is worth the entrance money on its own for me, Matt Ritchie caused the Reading defence no end of problems with his runs, passing and of course his goals, Lewis Grabban scared the life out of Gorkss and probably Pearce (the other centre back (and ex AFCB loanee)) as well with his pace, persistence and strength but my man of the match is Andrew Surman. In the last month he has reached the levels of play that we expect from a player on loan from a premiership club. His passing and positioning to make interceptions is a joy to watch. The arrival of Yann Kermorgant has, no doubt, helped him (and the rest of the team) as we now have 2 strikers that the opposition fear. Surman controlled midfield and the pace of the match in each half.
The signings of Camp and Kermorgant have been masterstrokes. Camp has given the defence confidence and has probably had an input on the way that we now defend and this has produced a very solid unit at the back. Kermorgant has added the aerial threat that we were missing up front plus he is no slouch on the deck. He is a master of the one two with advancing players and makes good flicks and lay-offs plus he has very quickly built up an understanding with Lewis Grabban who must be very relieved that he no longer has the pressure of being the sole striker.
You may have noticed that I have made no mention of the P Offs. Until recently I did not want to risk going up as I feared that it would tear the heart out of the side and club as the pressure of losing regularly would be difficult to bear for even the most ardent of fans. As Eddie and the players seem to think that you have to take your opportunities when they arise I am wavering. The argument that should we make the play-offs and then win them taking the £90m, or more, parachute payment after relegation would enable us to strengthen the team to have another go. It is all still a long way off and exceedingly unlikely but hey lets go for it!!
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Harte, Ritchie, Surman, O'Kane, Pugh, Kermorgant, Grabban
Subs: Allsop, Smith, Ward, Rantie, Fraser (for Pugh, 73 mins), Pitman (for Grabban, 85 mins), MacDonald (for Ritchie, 93 mins)
Phil Nesbitt, Cockfosters