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The Payne game: A right Royal slice of clinical football from Reading

Rover-joyed: Reading celebrate the third of their goals against Blackburn PICTURE: PA

THERE can’t have been too many people outside Reading, or even inside the Berkshire commuter belt, who could have envisaged their side being seven points clear at the top of the Championship after eight games.

Their Serbian boss Veljko Paunovic has undoubtedly found a winning formula since replacing Mark Bowen in the summer and yet a look at some key statistics makes their early-season success even more difficult to fathom.

Reading’s shot-per-game tally is the lowest in the division at seven. Only Huddersfield have spent more time in their own third of the pitch, no team has spent less time in the opposition third.

It’s not as if the Royals have spent particularly lavishly either. They may have splashed out £3.5million on Liverpool left-winger Ovie Ejaria but he was the only permanent summer signing while nine senior players left the club.

Muscle fatigue meant Ejaria did not even feature on Tuesday night when they secured a stunning 4-2 victory at Blackburn.

Paunovic has stressed a desire to start matches on the front foot and his players certainly heeded that to the letter, taking the lead after eight seconds — Yakou Meite scoring the quickest goal in their history with their fifth touch of the game.

They were 3-1 up after a crazy opening 18 minutes. To say they are clinical would be something of an under-statement. All of their four shots on target found the net.

They only had five attempts in total compared to Rovers’ 13.

Reading’s start might not quite have matched 1985-86, with 13 straight wins, but in this unusual season they boast one of the two remaining unbeaten league records.

The cynics among us, who see a trip to the Madejski as one of the least appealing in the Championship, may feel Reading are thriving behind closed doors because a lack of atmosphere is nothing new.

But ignore them at your peril because, right now, they are setting a formidable pace.