AS fans filed out of the Madejski Stadium on Saturday evening, they might just have caught the opening guitar strings to a particularly poignant song.

The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper classic “Getting Better” was probably directed to Reading fans - who had booed at half time, moaned at full time – in an effort to cheer them up.

But it was much more applicable to a team who 11 months earlier had collapsed in the most spectacular way possible on that very pitch; more so that they were led by a man named Lennon.

This was the very antithesis of the sloppy, wasteful defending shown in that 7-1 defeat, a defining low point in Dougie Freedman’s tenure, which already feels a very long time ago.

Six of the team who started the “Madejski Massacre” were out there from the start, each almost unrecognisable.

Andy Lonergan produced another couple of stunning saves to add to his growing highlight reel while Chung-Yong Lee glided around the pitch in a free role which suits him to a tee.

Tim Ream – terrorised by Garath McClearly in January - now looks at home in the left-back slot while Neil Danns buzzed in front of the back four with purpose.

Eleven months ago Matt Mills looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him whole – this time he was walking on air after a commanding display at the back, just 24 hours after his wife Jade gave birth to his first daughter, Lyla.

But of all the changing men in the Wanderers camp Darren Pratley must be the prime example.

Dragged off before he was sent off in January, this was a midfield performance of perfectly-directed aggression.

Wanderers fans have been slow to accept Pratley, who freely admits his loose grip on a first-team place under previous managers has done nothing for his consistency. But under Lennon the powerful former Swansea City man has been withdrawn into a deeper position in front of the back four , and he’s in serious danger of winning over a few of his doubters.

With Pratley and Danns as insurance in front of them, very little Reading offered got through to trouble the back four.

Set pieces were a different matter, though, and there were plenty of questions posed to the defenders as the Royals bombarded the box with a stream of free-kicks and corners.

It wasn’t always comfortable but by hook or by crook, Wanderers held out.

Neither side created much in the first half, although the space Max Clayton was finding on the left wing would give a good clue to how influential he would be later in the game after switching wings.

Chung-Yong Lee should have had a penalty after being hauled down by Oliver Norwood on the edge of the penalty box – one of a handful of decisions from referee Keith Hill which had Lennon swiping out in anger at any inanimate object lying around his technical area.

Reading will feel they should have grabbed the lead just before half time, however, as Jordan Obita’s corner found Glenn Murray and his goal-bound effort bounced off team-mate Garath McCleary before being lifted over the bar by Michael Hector.

It has been a frustrating season for the Royals thus far, summed up by the reaction of home fans as the players trudged off the pitch. Wanderers have certainly been there, and it was nice to have a neutral perspective.

And things did pick up for both sides after the break. Tim Ream has waited 98 games for a Bolton goal and has rarely gone closer than an angled header tipped over athletically by Adam Federici.

Reading hit back. Chances continued to fall for defender Hector from set pieces but Lonergan was earning a bit of luck – with one particularly impressive one-handed stop to repel Murray’s snapshot.

Clayton grew into the game after moving on to the right wing and put in a string of tantalising crosses.

Had Eidur Gudjohnsen got international clearance, you wonder whether someone with his experience would have filled his boots. But thanks to the Belgian FA being otherwise indisposed on a Saturday morning, the number 22 shirt which was hanging in the dressing room prior to kick-off won’t need to be laundered until next weekend.

Pratley came close to capping off his performance with a goal, whipping a shot just wide of the post.

Craig Davies was withdrawn, it later transpired with a hamstring injury, for Conor Wilkinson. And had the young striker shown a little more composure he would have celebrated a new contract with a goal after being picked out by another delicious ball from Clayton.

For a 20-minute spell midway through the second half the football was flowing as freely as it ever has for the Whites.

That promise stopped as quickly as it started, though, and it was Reading who nearly snatched it at the end as Danny Williams’ low drive was pushed aside by a full-stretch Lonergan. By then it was definitely a case of next goals wins.

It would have been harsh on Wanderers to lose it at that point, such had been the effort expended to protect a third clean sheet in five games.

“Satisfied but not ecstatic,” was Lennon’s considered view and it is clear the Northern Irishman has got to add a bit of cutting edge to his side if they are going to be anything other than also-rans this season.

You sense, however, that mediocrity is not a word with which he is familiar.

This group of players – many of whom were dubbed “not good enough” at that very ground 11 months ago – are finally looking galvanised.

“I have to admit it’s getting better,” sings Paul McCartney. “It can’t get no worse,” answers Lennon.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.