Royals run continues with Latics win
Saturday 5th November 2016
Three wins and three clean sheets in a row? What is happening?! Our purple patch of form continued, as Gareth McCleary's early double gave us a comfortable win over struggling Wigan.
Stam made two changes from the team that won against Forest last week, as George Evans came in for Joey Van der Berg, which was probably justified after his solid cameo performance. The second did raise a few more eyebrows, as Callum Harriott was selected ahead of the ever-present Roy Beerens, who didn't even make the 18-man squad - injured or rested? Who knows?!
However, it was the winger on the other side that got the headlines and rightly so, as Garath McCleary scored the fastest Championship goal of the season so far, in just 57 seconds. Evans came under pressure in midfield, so opted to go more direct and his superbly-weighted ball got GMac through on goal, who dinked it past a hesitant Bogdan.
A superb start and it got even better minutes later, as McCleary worked his magic again. Liam Moore carried the ball out of defence very well and laid the ball into the winger, who jinked and weaved his way past a few Wigan players before striking low past Bogdan from the edge of the area. A wonderful individual goal, that put us firmly in the driving seat, as early boos ringed round the DW Stadium.
The hosts looked completely out of sorts, who had their first game under the stewardship of new manager, Warren Joyce, who wouldn't have enjoyed his first outing as Latics boss. Kermorgant could have added a third about fifteen minutes later, as Blackett's lay off allowed the striker to fire in a half-volley, but was deflected just wide of the post.
Yann was unlucky again just moments later, as superb play from Swift set up the Frenchman again, but his effort was this time deflected onto the top of the net.
Wigan rarely troubled us throughout the half, with Jordi Gomez having their only shot on target in the first half, which was easy for former Wigan fans' favourite, Al-Habsi, to gather comfortably. The home side did put up more of a fight into the second period, as the introduction of Boro loanee Yanic Wildschut seemed to help the hosts come onto us more.
Former Royals favourite Adam le Fondre was fairly anonymous in the first half, but nearly got on the end of Wildschut's cross, then had an effort from the edge of the area soon after, but didn't have enough direction to trouble Al-Habsi. Alfie came the closest to scoring for the hosts around the hour mark, as his goalbound effort was deflected wide, thanks to the double act of Liam Moore and Al-Habsi.
The game was still in the balance with Wigan coming back into it, so a penalty award to the Royals with half an hour to play was an appreciated call. Harriott made a good, bursting run down the left, putting in a good low cross which Swift would have attacked if it wasn't for a shove from Max Power. It looked soft admittedly, but Kermorgant stepped up to make no mistake from 12 yards.
Will Grigg and Yanic Wildschut had efforts late on which came close, but it was Reading who ran out comfortable winners in the end. Substitute Yakou Meite thought he had his first Reading goal when he converted superbly from Gunter's cross well into injury time, but the linesman's flag brought an end to his eccentric celebrations - poor kid!
The victory takes Stam's men into fourth position going into the international break, with a third win on the bounce with three clean sheets, which we haven't managed to do since September 2013. Our strong progress continues, but will be halted for a few weeks until our next game against Burton at the Mad Stad in two weeks time. Onwards and upwards.
Wigan - 4-4-1-1: Bogdan; Burke, Buxton, Burn, Warnock; Jacobs, MacDonald, Perkins, Power; Jordi Gomez; Le Fondre.
Subs: Jääskeläinen, Morgan, Garbutt, Byrne, Davies, Wildschut, Grigg.
Reading - 4-3-3: Al-Halsi; Gunter, Moore, McShane, Blackett; Evans, Williams, Swift; McCleary, Kermorgant, Harriot.
Subs: Moore, Watson, Obita, Kelly, Van der Berg, Meite, Samuel.