Leeds United secured a vital win at the Madejski Stadium last night as Neil Redfearn’s improving side recorded back-to-back away wins for the first time this season, moving The Whites one giant step closer to Championship safety.

As away performances go, this was as comfortable and as competent a display as they come.

The Whites were rarely troubled by Reading with new signing Sol Bamba – made captain in Liam Cooper’s absence – and Giuseppe Bellusci putting in a commanding display at the heart of our defence, quickly snuffing out almost every chance the home side attempted to develop.

It was a slow start to the game, neither side creating anything of note but Leeds were jolted into life around the half hour mark when Reading enjoyed a brief flurry of half chances. Redfearn’s side responded by breaking up the other end quickly, Lewis Cook once again superb in a move that provided Steve Morison an excellent chance the striker fired onto woodwork.

The game was turning into something of a chess match, both sides a little cagey and seemingly waiting to respond to the moves made by their opponent. Leeds were clearly prepped to absorb any pressure and hit Reading on the counter, but Reading had now seen the coiled-spring like reflexes of Lewis Cook and seemed even less prepared to commit too many men forward.

Both managers faced the same ‘stick or twist’ dilemma at the break. As the away side and having created the best chance of the first half, Neil Redfearn will have been the happier of the two. Leeds were so comfortable in defence, he could afford to play a waiting game, force Reading to twist and make the attacking changes which would likely play into our hands.

And this was the problem for Reading’s manager and why I described the game as something of a chess match. Steve Clarke had already seen how quickly Lewis Cook could turn a game on it’s head in the first half, he’d seen what Byram was capable of on the wing and even if he could keep those two quiet, he still had Alex Mowatt, Luke Murphy and Casper Sloth (who’d earlier replaced the injured Bianchi) to deal with. He was up against a team capable of absorbing anything he could throw at them and waiting to punish him for it.

Clarke decided it best to stick and Reading enjoyed a slightly better spell at the start of the second half but The Whites kept themselves organised, stuck to the game plan and were still looking comfortable.

Then, on 63 minutes and out of absolutely nothing, Luke Murphy struck a low, curling shot from 25 yards out that left Federici scrambling. The Reading keeper managed to get some contact on the ball, but not enough to deny Leeds United’s in-form midfielder the opening goal. 0-1

This forced Reading to react, but Leeds remained largely untroubled  and could have extended the lead further, Sam Byram providing Steve Morison an opportunity he skied over.

Byram himself skied one minutes later, presumably annoyed by Morison missing the earlier chance because the Leeds striker was once again in a great position and should have been played in.

But a moment of carelessness from Luke Murphy almost gifted Reading an equaliser when he was caught in possession, allowing Williams a chance 1-on-1 v Marco Silvestri. The Italian keeper has his faults, but he’s ridiculously good at 1-on-1 situations and once again proved his worth to keep Leeds in front.

By now, Clarke had made his attacking moves, Yakubu was on the pitch and Reading were committing men forward in search of an equaliser. Leeds held firm though and when the opportunity to break presented itself, they did so quickly. Steve Morison looked to have squandered the resulting chance as he shot from close range, albeit at a difficult angle, but the shot rebound into his possession allowing the striker to steady himself and send a perfectly measured cross to a wide-open Sam Byram to head home at the far post. Checkmate. 0-2.

Cue another dive into the crowd celebration, similar to Billy Sharp’s against Huddersfield as The Whites celebrated another last-minute goal and a crucial 3 points.

Ups and downs v Reading

Pfft… no downs here, this was as flawless an away day performance as we’ve seen in years from Leeds. The defending was solid, the team were patient, organised and the game-plan was executed to perfection.

Some may moan about Steve Morison because strikers are judged almost entirely on goals – as they perhaps should be – but his contribution to our recent performances has been excellent. He works tirelessly, always gets in the right positions, links up play and does a lot of valuable defensive work at both ends of the pitch. He needs to be scoring of course, but if he carries on playing like this, the goals will come.

Lewis Cook quite rightly takes a lot of the headlines and Luke Murphy’s goals have got him all the positive attention he deserves, but Sam Byram’s move to RM has been as big a factor in our improved form. He provides genuine, natural width. He commits players, takes them on, never shirks his defensive duties and is improving all the time. He’s been my player of 2015 so far.

Giuseppe Bellusci and Sol Bamba made an excellent central pairing, Casper Sloth capitalised on the injury to Bianchi, putting in a strong performance and Alex Mowatt performed well too. In fact, no one had a bad game, this was an all-round solid performance from the team.

On and on…