A goal down, into the final quarter of an hour, staring a potential third straight defeat in the face. But the Royals do what they do best – stuck to their task and made it happen against Wigan and turned the match on its head.
A five-minute hat-trick from George Pușcaș – levelling and then overturning an early Joe Garner goal – sent the Royals back to Berkshire with three points in the bag on an ice-cold afternoon in Wigan.
It needed a tactical switch, maintaining the grit and a bit of quality in the right areas to turn things around. And that is precisely what happened. A turnaround that owed itself to the spirit of the side.
“I went in at half-time and I wasn’t happy at all – I was quite angry,” reflected manager Mark Bowen after the match.
“We had a fair amount of possession in the first half but our real quality on the ball was missing. Our ball retention, our final pass was a bit sloppy at times.
“I said to them, ‘we’ve got to be braver on the ball, more confident on the ball’. I’ve been banging on in the last few weeks about the endeavour and application. That is important, but we have to start playing better. In the past couple of games we have been battling to stay in the game against Brentford and Leeds – but we need to make sure we try and play.
“Missing John Swift and Ovie Ejaria was a blow, and maybe one of the reasons we weren’t too clever on the ball in the first half. Our two ball-players, our creative players were out. Ovie was missing with a stomach bug and Swifty will be out for a couple of weeks.
“So we talked about it at half-time about going to a 4-4-2 and try to get more bodies into that area. We stuck with the system for the start of the second half, but when we changed it, it worked for us. We wanted to see that bit more quality in the final third.
“Lucas João came on – really nice to see him back and we began to retain it a bit better. That is the way forward for us. We need to maintain that endeavour and grittiness about us, but get that quality in the final third.
“I knew these boys would be driving to the end. We have had a tough week – Brentford, Leeds and then coming here to Wigan.
“So to finish on that note, with that last 15 minutes, it shows we are in a good place.
“It’s games like today, when you’re behind, that you have to show those qualities and try to get something out of every game.
“At a goal down, I might have taken a point. But the spirit of my players shines through every day for me.
“Any away trip is difficult, and this place is no different with the way they go about their business. So it’s great for the players to get the rewards for the work they put in.”