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Reading 2-1 Preston

Preston came into the away game at the Madejski on a well-reported run of six straight away wins. Less reported was that none of their opponents - QPR, Stoke, Bolton, Millwall, Blackburn, and Middlesbrough - were in particularly good form; nor that their last league defeat was actually to 22nd place Rotherham on New Year's Day. It was, nevertheless, a little surprising that they were so poor.

Rinomhota's return to the team added some much needed stability in midfield, Ejaria recovered from his groin strain, and there was a further boost to see Nélson Oliveira's name, inexplicably, on the bench. Barrow started up front, with Méité reprising his now familiar role out wide.

In the first half Reading were outstanding. Every time they won the ball back they looked for a pass in behind. Barrow has played up front a few times since Gomes came in and it seems like we've finally learnt how to play the system. He had the beating of the defence on every occasion, and was key to both goals. Admittedly the first wouldn't have been possible without a quite magnificent, outside of the boot, through ball from John Swift. It left Barrow with a relatively easy pass across the box, and Méité with an even easier finish.

Gomes talked post-match about how nice it was to see a training ground move come off, though I'm not sure all of Barrow's goal was necessarily planned. Ben Davies won the race to Méité's flick on, but the Preston centre back underhit his back pass. Mo stole in and touched it round the keeper before finishing into an empty net. It's nice to see that not only are Modou and Yakou forming a strong partnership, but they're also popping up with crucial goals. Five in the last five between them is a solid return.

The second half saw the home side more on the back foot, but Preston failed to really threaten. They started brightly, the introduction of Jayden Stockley let them go more direct. A couple of dangerous positions early on were wasted, and on another afternoon Paul Gallagher may have connected better with a half-volley. Instead he shanked it almost to the corner flag.

The change to a back five did negate Preston's own tactical switch; Stockley became less influential while Moore and Miazga were in imperious form. Shame you couldn't say that of Paul McShane. The skipper has been out all season, so it was more than likely ring rust, but he burnt his bridges back in August and no longer gets the benefit of the doubt. Seán Maguire drifted in behind him in stoppage time, and hit the post from a narrow angle. The rebound falling to that-man-Stockley to strike home.

I think the main difference between before Gomes took over and now is there's no sense of dread every time the opposition are on the attack; The defence don't feel like they're about to capitulate at any second. That and the fact we're actually winning games. A four point gap, with seven games to go, is a much better position than I thought we'd be in at this stage. Realistically it's unlikely we'll get anything out of the next two matches, but I'm excited for Brentford to arrive in town because all of a sudden I'm expecting a result. What a feeling that is.


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