After spending most of the past two seasons on the sidelines, Brad Jones has suddenly found himself thrust into the action for Liverpool—and after shaking the rust off, the goalkeeper impressed with a strong performance against Reading.
More than two years after signing for the club, Saturday marked Brad Jones' first start in the league for Liverpool. And it's been a hard road at times for the Australian international following his £2.3M move from Middlesbrough, with his lack of first team action often the last thing on his mind given the struggles in his personal life.
Today, though, after the 'keeper stopped Liverpool to only their second win of the season in the league—as well as their second clean sheet in eight tries—it's good news on the pitch that takes centre stage for Jones, who after being largely an afterthought under Kenny Dalglish suddenly finds himself contending for first team minutes under Brendan Rodgers.
"It was a good afternoon," said Jones of Saturday's win against Reading, one that saw him stop all three of the opposition's shots that landed on target while appearing more composed than he previously has for Liverpool. "To come back after the internationals and get thrown in and keep a clean sheet, I was happy with that. I'm happy to get the win. I think the performance probably deserved a bit more than just the one goal, but overall we dominated the game and deserved the three points."
After making two cup appearances in 2010-11 before heading out on loan with Derby County and seeing action a further two times the next season—one a start in the FA cup and another an appearance off the bench in the league against Blackburn following an Alexander Doni red card—Jones has this season made four appearances already. And if earlier games provided cause for some concern amongst fans, especially when it came to Jones' aerial presence, Saturday against Reading saw Liverpool's number two put in arguably the club's strongest performance of the season between the sticks.
"As the game went on and we were only winning 1-0, it was a little bit edgy, but the defenders stayed solid. Everyone chipped in, made sure nothing happened and we came away with what we deserved. It was important to get our first home league win of the season so it didn't end up turning into a big deal, or anything like that. You don't want it to drag and then maybe have our confidence suffer."
Jones still showed a certain roughness in distribution compared to presumptive starter Pepe Reina, a player whose ability with the ball is amongst the strongest parts of his game, and a handful of long kicks angled straight out of play certainly stood out in the negative column. When in came to shot-stopping, though, he looked sharp, while at times Reina has appeared uncertain so far under Brendan Rodgers, managing only 12 saves on 24 goal-bound efforts to date in his seven league starts.
It may be a small sample size, but at the least it was an encouraging performance from Liverpool's backup, especially given that after spending two seasons almost entirely out of action following an unfortunate League Cup loss to Northampton Town in 2010-11, his appearances to date under Rodgers before Saturday often had him looking rusty at best.
"Up to now, our confidence hasn't dropped and we've always believed in what we're doing. But it was good to get it out of the way and we can get on with playing our football [now] and hopefully get more results."
With the club likely to treat Reina's hamstring strain cautiously and—unlike over the past two seasons—with it appearing as though Jones at least plays a small role the new manager's plans, the safe money would be on a second consecutive start on Thursday when Anzhi Makhachkala come to Anfield. After Saturday, that might not seem like such a scary prospect for Liverpool fans. With a few more performances like Saturday's, some might even start to wonder if he deserves to be in the starting conversation when Pepe Reina is fit.