With Vito Mannone and Sam Walker both out of contention for our game against Millwall, the door opened for Anssi Jaakkola to make his first appearance of the season.
And what a performance it was! Some terrific stops – perhaps none better than the one which denied Jake Cooper on his Madejski Stadium return – helped to ensure that the Royals would take the points.
“It shows his fantastic professionalism; he’s been training hard every day,” Clement said.
“It’s the first time he’s played this season, and it can be difficult when you come in. But to come in and produce a performance of that level shows how professional he has been, the work he has done day to day in training.
“Sam Walker got a whack on his knee in training, the Thursday before the international weekend and he’s not trained since then. We thought Mannone would be available for today and he actually trained all the way up until Friday and pushed really hard to get back in, but didn’t feel comfortable.
“He came to me and said that, which was the right thing to do - although he really wanted to play, you have to be 100% and he wasn’t. He was very honest about that and he needs to get that ankle right. So Jaakkola came in and did a fantastic job – I thought he was immense.
“If two goalkeepers get injured, you need to be able to go to another good one – they’re all good goalkeepers and they’re all pushing hard.
“Credit goes to Anssi – he went in and did a fantastic job. It just shows how professional he’s been in training, preparing himself physically, mentally, technically, for his opportunity.”
It also marked a first senior appearance in 2018-19 for Garath McCleary – indeed, his first involvement since picking up an injury in February.
Another big display from our flying winger on his return!
“Garath has been desperate to get back in,” Clement continued.
“The size of the squad has really prevented that. But he waited for his opportunity, he’s been frustrated but he’s been professional and shown a good attitude.
And today he and a lot of the fans were pleased to see him in the starting line-up. He started really positively. It’s really good to see him back in a Reading shirt after a long lay-off.”