Reading: Federici; Obita, Cooper, Pearce, Gunter; Akpan (Williams), Norwood; Taylor (Mackie), Robson-Kanu (Cox), Blackman; Murray
Reading made three changes to the side that strolled past Blackpool, with gigantic young defender Jake Cooper coming in for the suspended Michael Hector, and summer signings Simon Cox and Jamie Mackie being replaced by Jake Taylor (who started wide left) and Nick Blackman. The formation continued to be a cross between 4-4-2 and 4-5-1, with Blackman on the right, Taylor on the left and Robson-Kanu tucked in just behind Glenn Murray.
The frustrating thing about this game is that once again Reading looked initially promising, with Glenn Murray flicking a header onto the bar from a left-wing corner early on. However, Blackburn were also offering hints about what was to come - Rudy Gestede twice got free in the penalty area after bringing down a high ball and only last-ditch defending denied him. Unfortunately the Royals backline yet again failed to learn from the initial warnings and just past the quarter-hour mark Gestede was left completely unmarked to leap very well and direct a powerful header past the stranded Federici and into the corner of the net. Rovers best player Ben Marshall supplied the cross, and it was an excellent ball in, but really Pearce and Cooper will feel they should have been paying Gestede (possibly one of the best aerial strikers in the division) much closer attention - once again, the failure to stop the cross (Gunter at fault..... again), will have Nigel Adkins tearing his already-thinning hair out.
Promisingly, Reading did fairly well after the opener, actually having most of the possession until half-time and slowly but surely we began to create reasonable chances. Murray shot wide on the turn, Norwood saw a deflected effort slam wide, before Taylor struck a sweet volley from outside the area which the keeper could only deflect away.
All this pressure did eventually count for something, and the goal that sent the hardy travelling fans into delirium arrived two minutes before the break. Obita got in behind down the left-hand side (this needs to happen more often in general), whipped in an excellent cross which skidded along the floor, right to where Murray was hanging around at the back post - a simple finish did the rest.
All this meant that Reading went in at the break level, with the team having performed reasonably well against a physical, direct Blackburn side that boast two of the Championship's best strikers.
Sadly though this was as good as it got for the Royals as a poor second half performance saw us ship another couple of goals, and fail to seriously test Steele in the home goal. The break seemed to have taken all the energy and drive out of our midfield, which had been controlling the game in the last 15/20 minutes of the first half.
As in the first period, a warning sign came before the killer blow - this time it was Rhodes wriggling free in the box to power a header down towards the bottom corner, only for Federici to spring to his right and claw it away. Once again , this warning failed to have any effect on the Royals backline, as we conceded a mere three minutes later. After a corner for the hosts, Robson-Kanu fatally dallied on the ball just outside the area and had the ball nicked away from him; in an effort to win it back he could only upend his opponent and the home side now had a set-piece in pretty much the perfect place for a right-footed player, just to the left of the D, about 20 yards out.
There was a certain horrible, fatalistic inevitability about what happened next (my neighbour even predicted it). Ben Marshall stepped up and curled a beautiful free kick up, over and then back down, nestling into the bottom corner. It was an exceptional goal, but once again Reading contributed heavily to their own downfall.
If the second goal was bad, the third was probably worse. It arrived after 66 minutes, and again involved a defensive horrow show worthy of the Royals closest match to Halloween. Again Gunter was at fault, failing to stop a right-wing cross. Again the centre-backs were at fault, allowing Rhodes a free header which he sent onto the post. And just to complete the set, Obita probably has to shoulder some of the blame as well, failing to cover round and help out, leaving Gestede free 10 yards out to gleefully smash home the rebound.
From this point on Reading never really looked confident about getting back into the match, even though it was still possible with around 25 minutes to go. Even though Danny Williams made his long-awaited return to first-team action after 75 minutes (how good is it to see him back) and looked reasonably match-fit, the only half-chances Reading could muster were all snatched at and wasted. The game therefore rather petered out, with the Royals not quite able to get a decisive good opportunity, and Rovers counterattacks not quite catching out an increasingly-tired defence.
A 3-1 loss then, and despite a performance which at times actually was reasonably impressive (the last 15/20 minutes of the first half in particular), Reading once again conceded three goals away from home and squandered a good position at half time. Despite several examples of the luck evading them, the Royals defence must again reflect on three goals which were all partially their fault. Better than Bournemouth though, which quite frankly is all I'll want out of an away day for the foreseeable future.
Thanks again to Euan and we'll have his player ratings a little later this weekend.