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Blackburn 0-0 Reading - All quiet on the Ewood front

One half of The Two Unfortunates and TTE podcast guest host Rob Langham rounds up a rather dour draw at Ewood Park that saw Reading slip out of the top six.

Chris Brunskill

Reading: McCarthy, Kelly, Gorkss, Pearce, Gunter; Obita, Baird (Williams), Guthrie, McCleary (Blackman), Le Fondre (Akpan), Pogrebnyak

Never mind that Blackburn had enjoyed the best of the period before the break, their slick passing continually providing them with promising opportunities while the Royals laboured around them. Never mind that Alex McCarthy was forced into a dramatic fingertip save after crafted approach play from Lee Wilkinson and Tom Cairney, the tackle that felled Chris Gunter in the box early in the second half was a penalty to everyone in the ground barring rotund referee Geoff Eltringham, so far behind the play that he might as well have been waiting on the platform at Preston station.

Secondly, the puzzlement that has greeted the non-appearance of Billy Sharp from the bench has been forcibly expressed - and the Southampton man's rumoured £25,000 a week salary is looking worse value by the week.

But on this second point, I have more sympathy with Nigel Adkins than I do with Mr. Eltringham. Curiously choosing to deploy a 4-4-2 system that now looks as old as The Ark, the manager reacted decisively at half time - and having done so, will have been reluctant to reintroduce it after a much improved second half from the team.

Two talking points emerged from today's goalless draw between Blackburn and Reading - a game which was very much one for the completists.

For to have introduced Sharp will have meant a demotion to the bench for Pavel Pogrebnyak and that would have been unfair after another hardworking display, albeit an ineffective one. Nick Blackman isn't everyone's cup of tea but he can function on the wing - and it will have seemed easier to Adkins to swap the former Rovers player for Garath McCleary.

That first half was a torrid one for Reading with Chris Baird suffering a serious off day and Danny Guthrie struggling to cope with the darting runs of the evergreen David Dunn, the skill of Cairney - one shimmy saw the elegant youngster prise his way into the box before inexplicably passing the ball into McCarthy's hands - and the energy of Jason Lowe.

Elsewhere, Gunter's forward burst was welcome after a difficult afternoon in which the pace of Josh King caused him numerous problems while Stephen Kelly looks as uncomfortable as ever as a right footed player in the left back position.

The changes saw Hope Akpan and Danny Williams come on for an utterly anonymous Adam Le Fondre and Baird. Indeed, despite wasting a late 3 on 2 break when his feet became entangled with the path of the ball, Akpan had a really bright game, using the ball intelligently and providing Garath McCleary with his best service in an otherwise very quiet performance - the winger always seemed to be reluctant to take on full back Tommy Spurr.

Jordan Obita enhanced his reputation a little - mainly through his delivery from dead balls but also with the occasional run - while Alex Pearce, in for the injured Sean Morrison had one of his best games for a while, making up for the occasional lapse from partner Kaspars Gorkss - the Latvian suffered the first awkward moment of the match when a ricochet spun off his body only to hit the angle of post and cross bar.

A Rovers central defensive partnership of Scott Dann and Grant Hanley gave the Pog few chances even if keeper Jake Kean occasionally looked flappable under the high ball. The result was a match that gradually deteriorated in quality barring a bit of end-to-end at the death. Aside from Gunter's plunge, Reading scarcely provided a chance worthy of the name while Jordan Rhodes' impact was insignificant save for a wonderful shimmy that set up King for a ballooned shot.

Can Reading stay in the top six? That is very unlikely on this showing.