A third straight win without conceding, and a fourth clean-sheet on the spin overall.
For Royals boss Mark Bowen, the 2-0 victory away at Preston North End was well earned after another solid defensive display – the basis of any positive result in the Championship.
“The most pleasing thing for me, as an ex-defender, is a fourth straight clean sheet,” said Bowen.
“We came here today against one of the sides with the best home records in the league, and scored two excellent goals. Slick, quick passing – that’s been a theme of the past few games when we’ve been trying to get the likes of Swift, Ovie and Charlie on the ball, which we did.
“We took our chances well. And when we spoke at half-time, I said to the lads: there’s no need to go pressing too high up. Be tight, be compact. And no disrespect to Preston, but I felt that if we did that, they would give us the ball back and we could spring our breaks from there – which we did.
“It may have looked like we were soaking up a lot of pressure, but that’s what’s we spoke about at half-time. We felt comfortable doing that. I knew that if we got our positions right, we could enjoy defending. It worked well for us.
“Liam Moore and Michael Morrison were blocking shots, and Rafael pulled off a few excellent saves again. His reflexes for those point-blank saves are excellent. Those clean sheets are so pleasing for me.
“There is more than one way to win a game and we have shown over the last few weeks that we can mix when we have to, be compact when we have to, and be expansive when we have to. I’m delighted – it’s been a good Christmas.”
Two first-half goals for the Royals ensured they could afford to absorb pressure from the Lilywhites, who had to go and chase the game. They were two excellent goals too, both assisted by Tyler Blackett, as John Swift and Lucas João hit the net in turn.
“The first goal was a fabulous move,” Bowen continued.
“A fantastic pass by Charlie Adam, and a great effort by Tyler to get forward on the overlap. And John Swift made it look like an easy finish, which it certainly wasn’t.
“And a special mention for Lucas João. He was playing on his own up there, more so than when we played against Queens Park Rangers, as he was left up there on his own to plough a lone furrow. He did it excellently, with no complaints, and got a goal as well.”