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Saving the Best Until Last – Reading Reflections
Here are my reflections on the Birmingham City v Reading game.
1) Saving the best until last
It’s easy enough to say “Reading were on the beach” or some other similar cliché but the fact was Blues played bloody well. Not only did they beat the title-winners, but they did so comprehensively. Despite clearing three off the line and saving a penalty Blues looked comfortable and the last twenty minutes was at times brilliant – flowing passing moves pulling the Reading team one way or the other, toying with their defence to create an opening. And all this despite not having the two highest scorers out on the pitch at kick off, and losing the third highest scorer within 19 minutes.
2) Redmond and Townsend
Nathan Redmond was awarded the man of the match award at the ground but it could have easily gone to the on-loan Spurs winger. Andros showed why he is rated so highly with some excellent runs, some neat dribbling and skills to get away from defenders and some decent crosses. Whilst Nathan did that he also showed something that proves his progression this season – he was strong, holding off defenders and not allowing them to bully him off the ball. I like him a lot in the middle and I think it gave him more freedom to express himself – and if he can do that without worrying about some hulking centre back stomping on him because he can hold them off then his promise just ratchets up another notch.
It was one of the shortest midfield duels I’ve ever seen; Morgaro Gomis and Jay Tabb going at each other like jockeys scrapping after a tough race. However short in stature Gomis may be, he was like a lion in the middle and once again he impressed me with his work rate, his tackling and passing. The lob over the top for Redmond to run onto for the first goal was just class; it was perfectly weighted for Nathan to run on to and caught the Royal backline off guard. With his compatriot Guirane N’Daw looking a bit off-colour at times Gomis has to be on his game to ensure that the midfield didn’t get over-run, and he stuck to that manfully.
I feel for Rooney sometimes; he’s only been a bit-part player at times yet has a one in four record in all competitions for the team. He’s never moaned, always tried his hardest when he’s come on and he’s scored some good goals. At the supporters club forum on Tuesday Rooney was spoken about in glowing terms by Steven Caldwell for his work ethic – often the first one into training, and one who works hard afterwards on things – and I was delighted to see him take his chance. He played well; linked up really well with Redmond and gave us the attacking thrust we seemed to be missing at the start with Zigic.
5) A Clean Sheet!
I thought the defence played well, and deserved to have a clean sheet to their names – but it didn’t come easily. Two off the line from Pablo Ibanez, one from Curtis Davies and a pen saved from Colin Doyle show that it wasn’t an easy day for the backline boys. However, I thought that they played well – Pablo in particular seems to have grown into the team and he can’t have picked a better time to hit form. I have to admit, I didn’t think Reading would score that pen; it was the fifth they’ve not scored this season and the fourth penalty save from five for Doyle. It bodes well for the playoffs.
6) The Fans
I wanted to mention quickly how much I enjoyed today’s game; I feared that there would be a massive backlash against the board because of the delayed accounts but barring one rendition of the “Carson song” about half way through the first half, there was nothing of that. Instead the fans got behind the team, sang loudly and proudly – and the slow rousing chorus of “Keep Right On” was just glorious.
Blues go into the playoffs unbeaten in nine – five of them wins – and with a team that is scoring goals, has confidence and good spirit. I believe we can do it, I hope we can do it – let’s see if we do do it.