Reading FC Match Report: 2023/2024 Season - League One


READING 3 BLACKPOOL 2

Reading: S Smith (45), H Knibbs (68), F Azeez (71)
Blackpool: K Dembele (4), J Gabriel (90)

Reading rounded off their season with a more convincing victory than the scoreline suggests. This defeat ended Blackpool's run of four consecutive wins in a late charge for a play-off spot. The Seasiders had the perfect start when Dembele took advantage of the time and space allowed by the Royals defence in a typically sluggish start. Reading took control of the game and finally levelled the scores in stoppage time at the end of the first half with a Smith header.

With Blackpool desperately needing all three points to have any chance of a top six finish, the game the second half was predictably more open that the first. As Blackpool pushed forward chances came at either end but ultimately the quality of Reading's passing, movement, and finishing produced the goals required to secure the points.

An astute substitution after sixty-six minutes by Ruben Seles, replacing Ehibhatiomhan with Camara, contributed to Reading's crucial second goal two minutes later. Smith nodded back a long ball into the path of Knibbs who instantly pinged a ball wide to Camara. The substitute's first touch brought the ball under control, and with his second he found Knibbs, who had continued his run into the box. Knibbs wasted no time in finding the top corner of the net with a delightfully composed finish. It was a moment of quality which proved to be the turning point.

Blackpool lost their composure and three minutes later Reading ruthlessly took advantage. Surging forward they won possession in midfield, Camara slipped a ball to Knibbs on the left, and his cross was headed on to the far post where Azeez was lurking. Renowned for his ability to strike a ball with awesome power, in complete contrast, Azeez looked up and hit a perfectly measured left-foot finish past Blackpool 'keeper Grimshaw.

There was still nearly twenty minutes left of the ninety, but Reading were now in complete control and deservedly ahead by two clear goals. Blackpool had little to offer apart from some penetrating runs from the lively and skilful Dembele. He was encouraged by the referee, with benefit of some dubious decisions in his favour following a couple of perfectly executed tackles, to run at the Reading defence.

Numerous substitutions and delays for treatment of injuries resulted in an additional seven minutes of stoppage time during which Blackpool were treated to a comedy goal courtesy of Pereira. Inexplicably with the entire pitch to aim at with his clearance he whacked it straight at the onrushing, and probably surprised, Lawrence-Gabriel causing the ball to rebound into the Reading net. With deficit reduced to one goal, anyone expecting a late flourish from Blackpool were disappointed.

There was still time for young Reading striker Wareham to make his mark as substitute in stoppage time. Having found himself confronted with an open goal somehow he managed to hoof the ball over the bar and then picked up a yellow card for a clumsy challenge. No doubt he will make a more positive impact in the future.

The 'lap of appreciation' and presentation was a fitting and happy ending to a difficult season. Lewis Wing deservedly picked up the fans Player of the Season Award for his significantly growing influence as the season progressed. It was also pleasing to see the enthusiastic appreciation of the contribution to the club of the departing Tom Holmes. He clearly loves Reading and will be missed, but everyone no doubt wishes him well at his next club.

Hopefully Reading will be able to retain the nucleus of the current squad and the fans can look forward to a more successful season under new ownership.

John Wells

This League One game took place 23 days ago in the 2023/2024 season.