Back in the XI, and helping his hometown club to consecutive clean sheets… Tom McIntyre is loving life back out on the pitch.
Stepping into the defence alongside Gabriel Osho for the last two fixtures – a teammate since the age of eight in the Royals’ Academy – the youngsters have been staking their claim for a regular berth.
“It’s been great,” said Tom. “I knew I needed to take my chances when they came, and all you can do as a defender is try to get that clean sheet. So to get two on the bounce is really good, and encouraging.
“As a young player, you have to wait for your opportunities – and when they do come, show that you’re ready. If you come into the team off the back of a bad result, the manager has to rely on you to lift it bit or make a difference.
“This is what Gabe and I have wanted for years – to be in the same team, playing in the first team together. That adds a specialness to it – not that you need any more! We’ve come through the age groups together, and come through many years playing together. So to come out at the top end of it is great.”
Their youthful exuberance is well complemented by some of the more experienced defenders in the side – Tom had a special mention for his centre-half partner for the evening, Michael Morrison, as well as club captain Liam Moore, who was on the bench.
“I’ve watched Morro throughout the whole season – I’ve been trying to pick out little things that he does to try to bring them into my game,” Tom said.
“I hope that when I play with him, I can pass off some of the things I know too and that I’m good at – so that we can bounce off each other. I really enjoy working with him, and he’s a great guy.
“Liam is great – he’s always trying to guide me and help me out in the best way that he can. He has done that ever since I’ve been in the first team, and I really thank him for that. He has always supported me and tried to help me in any way he can.”
The game itself... not one for the ages. Both teams' attacks snuffed out by the other's defence in a goalless affair - from the point-of-view of central defender Tom, job done.
“It did feel a bit flat at times – but sometimes out on the pitch as a defender, that’s alright. You’ve just got to be switched on for the whole game. Those are the kinds of game where you can lose concentration for a second and they can get a chance.
“As a central defender, you’re just looking for clean sheets. So to get that for us was the main thing.
“In the first 20 minutes, they came out and pressed us high, passed the ball well. It was challenging for that period, but once we got into the game, we killed their flow a bit. It’s about matching whoever we were up against.”