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Reading FC 3-0 Rotherham United: Mackie Magic Sparks Royals

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Two goals from Simon Cox and a superb opener from Jamie Mackie inspired Reading to a comfortable 3-0 win over Rotherham on a cold and wet night at the Madejski Stadium.

Ben Hoskins

Reading: Federici; Gunter, Pearce, Ferdinand (Hector), Kelly; Obita, Norwood, Williams (Akpan), Mackie; Cox (Taylor), Murray

After getting comfortably beaten 3-1 at Blackburn last weekend Nigel Adkins made five changes to his starting lineup including handing a debut to Anton Ferdinand as well as giving first starts of the season to Stephen Kelly and Danny Williams. There were also places for Simon Cox and Jamie Mackie, two omissions at Blackburn that had particularly irritated large parts of the Reading faithful.

All that meant Reading lined up in a 4-4-2 that saw Chris Gunter shifted to left-back, Jordan Obita further forward and Danny Williams partnering Oliver Norwood in the middle of the park.

However for the first 30 minutes of this game those changes seemed to have little impact as Reading put together football that could at best be described as boring and at worst a form of torture for the 13 thousand or so hearty fans huddled inside a freezing Madejski Stadium.

Fortunately while Reading were blunt, so were their opponents who barely forced Adam Federici into a significant save. While Rotherham were certainly tidy in possession, Steve Evan's side also lacked any sort of penetration in the final third, something Reading's new-look back-four would have certainly appreciated.

When a team is low on confidence and ideas you often need a moment of inspiration and that's exactly what Reading got on the half-hour mark. A mistake from the Rotherham defence presented Glenn Murray with the ball 25-yards out, with the Palace loanee finding Kelly out wide. The right-back whipped a cross which was only half cleared and dropped to Mackie who spun magnificently to blast past Millers keeper Adam Colin.

It was Reading's first shot of the game but it sparked Nigel Adkins team into life and just moments later Cox came close to making it 2-0 only for Colin to make a smart save down to his right.

Chris Gunter and Mackie both also had chances to make it two-nil before half-time, while Oliver Norwood whipped in a delightful free-kick from the corner of the box 20-yards out that smashed into the angle before bouncing to safety.

Reading were forced into a change at half-time as Anton Ferdinand was replaced by Michael Hector, with Ferdinand having been visibly struggling from around the time of the first goal.

Rotherham did have a couple of chances to get back in it, but Federici was alert to save at his near post from a corner in one of his few bits of action on the night.

While sometimes you need moments of quality in spells of bad form, you also need a little bit of luck and Reading's second goal combined both those elements.

A long-ball was pinged at the always hard working Murray but instead of jumping for it, the Reading forward was happy to let the Rotherham defender jump all the way over him and miss the clearance. A few weeks ago Murray was penalised for almost exactly the same incident but this week he got away with it and Jamie Mackie collected the lose ball, drove in towards goal and played a lovely ball to Cox who finished smartly to put the game to bed.

The game was well and truly killed off ten minutes later as Norwood's ball found Cox who controlled well, before firing another fine shot past Colin to give Reading their third goal of the night.

Mackie and Murray both had chances to extend the lead even further before the game slowly died out as Reading were content to see out their second consecutive 3-0 home win.

After so many weeks of negatives it's nice to reflect on a night that largely only has positive implications going forward.

While he may have lasted just 45 minutes, Anton Ferdinand showed a composure that's been missing from the defence and Stephen Kelly also showed why he was playing Premiership football for a decade with a composed game on the right (.....sorry Westy!)

Danny Williams tried hard but wasn't quite up to his best, something more than understandable after six months out while the attacking trio of Mackie, Cox and Murray were simply outstanding. I'll save my individual analysis for the player ratings but this was a brilliant effort from Mackie who looked like the star I'd seen terrorise the Royals while wearing Plymouth colours a few years ago. If he keeps up form like this then Garath McCleary is going to find getting his place back tricky.

If you're looking for problems then certainly Reading's defence will face far sterner tests than Rotherham in the coming weeks and while Chris Gunter did OK at left-back, he was visibly reluctant to use his left foot and clearly isn't a long-term solution to the problem.

For me it was also a bit tricky to see a clear game-plan and certainly the first 30 minutes were about as toothless as you could possibly get. Going ahead certainly helped but if Reading go behind I still have to question if they've got a plan B to help them get back into a game.

However those concerns are for another day and this result very much gives Nigel Adkins and his team something to build on, especially with an out of form Charlton turning up at the Madejski Stadium in just four days time.