It was a case of six of the best for Reading as already-relegated Peterborough were well and truly put to the sword.
Bouncing back from a rather limp performance in front of goal against the more-ruthless Newcastle in midweek, the Royals put in one of the best displays that Brian McDermott had seen in his many years at Madejski Stadium to destroy sorry Posh. It was as one-sided a game as one could wish to see, so much so that new Peterborough manager Gary Johnson took the extremely rare step of making two tactical substitutions before half time in a desperate bid to get a foothold in the game. The hosts enjoyed two thirds of the possession, had 27 efforts on goal and 15 corners whilst Adam Federici was a total spectator in the Reading goal. With the Icelandic volcano grabbing headlines over the past few days, it was the Royals’ young star from Iceland Gylfi Sigurdsson who was responsible for the eruption of goals. Sigurdsson grabbed his team’s second goal from the penalty spot, then set up the third and fifth goals for Jobi McAnuff and Shane Long respectively with some expert passing. Reading’s top scorer for the season then added his 18th strike of the season, tapping home the rebound after Long had somehow contrived to hit the bar from barely yards out with the net gaping.
With the fans encouraged to vote for their player of the season award, Sigurdsson must surely be the favourite. McAnuff was the main highlight of the Brendan Rodgers era, a bright spark with his exciting dribbling among a dark period for the club. The one-time Jamaica international has seen his billing ebb somewhat in 2010, over shadowed by the resurgent form of Jimmy Kebe, but served up a timely reminder with his well-taken goal. Kebe, who joined his fellow winger on the scoresheet, has been an irresistible force at times since the turn of the year, racking up double figures having previously struggled for goals. The Malian has yet to add the consistency he needs in his game, but will feature high in the voting as one of the most exciting members of the squad on his day. Matt Mills may be missing through suspension at the moment but he has been a rock at the back since being handed his chance in the side by McDermott. Adding much-needed pace at the heart of the defence, Mills has been a commanding presence and a huge factor in Reading’s brilliant form. Long and Simon Church have both been among the goals and are growing in confidence, whilst Federici has made some crucial, and sometimes stunning, saves.
For all his teammates’ contributions, it is Sigurdsson who has earned this writer’s vote, going from the player with the least expected of him to the performer who has achieved the most. Penalty takers will always get a few extra chances to add to their goal tally, but he has consistently tucked away some high-pressure spot kicks late on in games. Sigurdsson has done more than just take penalties. His free-kicks have added a significant threat, both from direct strikes and crosses for his colleagues. His passing ability has boosted the number of chances Reading have created, aptly demonstrated against Peterborough as the Royals went goal crazy. The centre of midfield is one area where McDermott finds his squad oversubscribed so it is of great credit to the young Icelander that he has made a spot in the side his own. With several academy graduates tipped to make a big impact this season thanks to the club cutting their cloth accordingly having missed out on a return to the top flight, Sigurdsson’s name was not one of those mentioned too often. Yet having smashed home a stunner in the League Cup against Burton from long range, he has gone on to stamp his authority on what has been a topsy-turvy season for Reading and has established himself as the star billing on the Reading teamsheet. Keeping Sigurdsson at the club will be of huge importance for McDermott and Nick Hammond, and if he stays, he could go on to be the next unexpected hero following on from the bargain of the century, Kevin Doyle.
The play-offs are highly unlikely for the Royals thanks to the continued good form of the current occupants of the qualifying spots, so little is riding on Tuesday’s rearranged trip to Scunthorpe. McDermott can still be expected to treat the game with as much respect as he has all his others in charge, and will be particularly keen to show that the wonderful display against Posh was no mere flash in the pan. Whilst it will be hard to dominate so much on opposition turf at Glanford Park, the Royals are capable of coming away form Lincolnshire with the points and a few more goals.