We are delighted to announce that Reading manager, Mark Bowen and goalkeeper, Rafael have been nominated for the Sky Bet Championship Manager and Player of the Month awards respectively for December.
After a defeat in the opening game of the month to Birmingham, the Royals have since been unbeaten under manager Bowen's stewardship - earning three consecutive wins in the Sky Bet Championship towards the end of December.
A total of 11 points in December not only saw the Royals climb four places to 14th in the Championship table, but also a whole lot closer to the teams above them.
Superb performances at home to Derby County and Queens Park Rangers were followed up by an excellent away performance at promotion-chasing Preston North End, backed up by two away draws at Barnsley and Stoke respectively for Bowen's men in December.
Here's what Sky Bet had to say about each of the nominees for the award:
Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds United)
Management is easy when things are running smoothly. The mark of Bielsa’s impact came at Birmingham where Leeds had to take the lead four times to end a run of three winless games and make it 11 points from six matches.
Mark Bowen (Reading)
Whisper it quietly but Reading are becoming contenders once more under his shrewd guidance. With 11 points from six games, the Welshman has shored up a leaky defence and is bringing the best out of playmaker John Swift.
Gary Rowett (Millwall)
Made light of a difficult-looking fixture list by guiding his side to 11 points from six matches, including seven from trips to Bristol City, Derby County and Cardiff City, with Millwall choosing attack as the best form of defence away from The Den.
Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough)
Patience has been the key on and off the pitch at The Riverside. Woodgate has gradually instilled in his young side a steeliness to pick up points in adversity, notably a 2-0 win at West Brom which made it 13 points from six games.
For the Player of the Month award, Rafael's heroics between the posts for the Royals have not gone unnoticed either. His contribution in goal saw Reading keeo four consecutive clean sheets in December, and as a result, the Royals defence is now ranked 6th in the Championship for goals conceded.
Eye-catching saves throughout the season have endeared Rafael to the Reading faithful, but stunning stops against Derby and Queens Park Rangers in particular saw him keep the Royals in front in vital moments at home, with his standout performances contributing more than most to Reading's recent success.
Here's the full list of nominees, and Sky Bet's overview of their December performances:
Rafael Cabral (Reading) – goalkeeper
A superb month of shot-stopping from the Brazilian who ended 2019 with four successive clean sheets. His instinctive positioning was seen in a key save at Barnsley, while two spectacular stops at QPR showed off his lightning reactions.
Conor Chaplin (Barnsley) - striker
Diminutive in stature, huge in impact in December with five goals and two assists in six games. His energy and effervescence were matched by his delight in scoring a hat-trick against QPR and the uncomplicated style of his finishing.
Lee Tomlin (Cardiff City) - midfielder
A player reborn since the arrival of Neil Harris. Two goals and four assists cannot fully convey the vision and technique with which he lobbed two Leeds defenders, nor the ingeniously impudent backheeled pass for Cardiff’s equaliser at Elland Road.
Jed Wallace (Millwall) – midfielder
The heartbeat of Millwall’s climb towards the play-offs, Wallace’s dead-ball delivery set up two goals, while a fine individual finish at Bristol City was bettered even by a stunning 30-yard free-kick into the top corner at Cardiff.
The winners of the Manager and Player of the Month awards will be announced on Friday morning, and we congratulate Mark and Rafael on their nominations for these league-wide awards.