Reading FC Match Report: 2016/2017 Season - Championship
READING 3 BLACKBURN 1
Reading: Y Kermorgant (14), Y Kermorgant (29), G McCleary (78)
Blackburn: E Bennett (77)
Reading started the game with a confidence and swagger which comes from successive wins against good opposition and raced into a two goal lead within the first half an hour. Rovers looked a beaten side and the Royals appeared to take their foot off the gas. With nothing to lose Rovers made changes at half time and with a more offensive formation put Reading on the back foot. A superb long range strike from Bennett brought the visitors back into the game with around fifteen minutes left to play. Any hope a comeback were immediately extinguished when a minute later McCleary drilled the ball into the corner of the net. With Leeds and Fulham losing ground with defeats at Brentford and Derby respectively Reading's chances of reaching the play-offs took a significant step in the right direction.
Jaap Stam made changes to his starting line-up bringing in Popa, Oxford and Mutch, leaving McCLeary and Williams on the bench, and Obita to recover from an injury picked up on Saturday. The changes in no way disrupted the flow of Reading’s play. They picked up where they left off on Saturday. The quality of Yann Kermorgant’s finishing was again the key feature of the second home win in four days. His two headed goals were executed with the power and precision which can only be achieved with exceptionally good technique.
The first came from a delightfully diagonal ball by Blackett to the far post. In spite of having to backpedal to get the ball he still managed to generate sufficient power to send the ball back across goal and over Steel’s outstretched arm and into the net. The second was the product of a typically flowing move. Beerens flicked on a perfectly timed and weighted ball inside the full back for Swift to run onto and knock a simple but accurate near post cross for Kermorgant to finish with a textbook downward header giving Steel no chance. Reading’s football was delight and we seemed set for more goals, but with Rovers showing very little appetite for the game the pace slowed and Reading lost their momentum. Popa having conceded an entirely unnecessary foul in stoppage time at the end of the half must have been relieved to see the referee’s assistant raise his flag when Rovers put the ball in to the net following the resulting free kick. It was sign of things to come.
Tony Mowbray introduced the tall and powerful Joao and Emnes to provide a more potent attack and put Reading under pressure. It worked well and Reading struggled to get out of their own half, but as was the case on Saturday, they limited their opponents two a couple of strikes on target. Joao looked menacing every time he got anywhere near Reading’s penalty area. With Rovers attacking constantly the game opened up and Reading had a string of good chances to wrap the game up. Bennett’s goal was an outstanding strike giving Al Habsi no chance but McCleary immediately restored Reading’s two goal lead and the game was won. Beerens set up Williams but Steele was out quickly to smother the chance. Swift should have scored but hit his shot straight at Steele and McCleary having struck his goal beautifully scuffed a shot dreadfully from close range soon after. I am sure Jaap Stam will have concerns about McCleary’s temperament as well as his form at the moment. Once again he failed to finish when sent clear of the defence. His head dropped and he seemed to simply stop playing. The goal should have restored his confidence but he continued to make the wrong choices.
There was a time when McShane's absence would leave the team lacking in leadership but Kermorgant and Moore have taken on that mantle and are an inspiration the rest of the team. Kermorgant not only leads the attack with authority but works hard for his team defensively all over the pitch. He certainly is not playing like a man due to retire at the end of next season. Moore won everything in the air again and his positional sense was outstanding. He was always in the right place break up Rovers attacks with well-timed challenges. He has the ability and awareness to know how and when break out of defence to launch attacks. He was even seen making a run down the right wing late in the second half! This team has grown in stature since the start of the season to the point where they not only look capable of reaching the play-offs but going on the win them. Now who would have thought that at the beginning of the season.
This Championship game took place 353 days ago in the 2016/2017 season.