Manager gives reaction after Middlesbrough triumphRoyals boss Steve Clarke was delighted to be able to send the home crowd home in jubilant mood as he watched his team were 2-0 victors against high-flying Middlesbrough at Madejski Stadium.
A terrific atmosphere even in the build-up was amplified when Danny Williams got Reading ahead with the game merely 15 seconds old. Boro probed and challenged the home rear-guard – but the defence stood firm and Nick Blackman netted his ninth of the campaign from the spot in the final few minutes.
“I think everyone is satisfied,” said the Royals gaffer. “It was nice to do it at home – it was good for the crowd. We had a big crowd in today, and we got off to a flying start which got the crowd vocal right from the beginning of the game.
“We knew that it was always going to be difficult, but getting that early goal just changed the dynamic of the game a little bit. We have made a habit of it in recent weeks and it’s a very good habit to have.
“Middlesbrough would have been speaking before the game about being solid, inviting us on to them and maybe trying to pick us off on the counter-attack because they have got players that can do that. That goal changed it and meant that Middlesbrough at some stage would have to open up and come out at us.
“To be fair to them, they kept their shape well and kept probing away in the first half. When the game opened up in the second half, we had three or four really good opportunities on the counter to get the second goal. We didn’t make the most of that but eventually we got the late penalty – that probably put a bit of gloss on the performance.”
An injury earlier in the weekend to goalkeeper Jonathan Bond meant that Omani international Ali Al-Habsi was called in for his Football League debut for the Royals. The defensive wall in front of him was particularly watertight against the Boro attack, but Al-Habsi was faultless when called upon to command his area. He also kept the lead intact with a superb save from a low Stewart Downing free-kick midway through the first period.
“I’m absolutely delighted for Ali Al-Habsi – he’s had a little bit of criticism this year,” Clarke continued. “He is a senior goalkeeper and he understands the job, and he knows that he has made one or two mistakes in game. Today there were no mistakes. Perfect handling, one save from a really difficult free-kick in the first half especially.
“The rest of the time when the ball comes in your box and the goalkeeper comes and catches it or punches it with a good connection, it just gives your defenders a bit more confidence. Mind you, Hector and McShane in front of them and the two full-backs don’t need much confidence at the moment because they’re defending really well.”