Mark Bowen is keen to start looking up the table rather than over his shoulder after Reading’s 2-0 win at promotion-chasing Preston.
The result represents the Royals’ fourth clean sheet on the spin as first-half goals from John Swift and Lucas Joao moved them ever further from relegation strife.
Bowen was quick to point out the gravity of the achievement that going to Deepdale and emerging with three points represents.
“I’m delighted, it’s the fourth clean sheet in a row,” he said.
“It’s the third win in a row, and the manner of it is good, coming to a really difficult place with the best defensive record in this league. I thought the goals we scored were through really slick, crisp passing.
“We had a game plan in the second half to let them have a lot of possession, make sure we were compact but then when they came into our box and played those balls, we could be really aggressive and play from there.
“Tyler Blackett made a 40-50-yard overlapping run (for the first goal). I wanted Tyler to sit in, but we’ve come to Preston away from home and he’s bombing on after 20 minutes.
“It’s a sign of his confidence and the team and we’re in a really good place at the moment.
“You can’t do without the players buying into the information we are giving them.
“You can do work on the training ground with them but if they don’t take on board that information then you are going to have a problem.
“But these players are a group of players who are ready to work and push up this table.”
The Royals opened the scoring with just 12 minutes on the clock when Swift got on the end of Blackett’s pull-back to put the finishing touches to a flowing move.
Four minutes later and the lead was doubled, Joao firing past Declan Rudd in the Lilywhites’ goal.
And that was to be how it would stay – much to the annoyance of Preston boss Alex Neil.
“The only difficulty that we had was that we couldn’t score,” he said.
“I think if you look at the statistics and the way the game was played it was a smash and grab. They have come here and made themselves hard to beat.
“We had two opportunities to get the first goal and we didn’t take them. We then played two sloppy square passes in the middle of the pitch and to be fair to them they were clinical.
“We dominated the ball, we dominated the game, had a lot of chances in the game but goals change games.
“We probably created more chances today than any of the games that we have played at home.”