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Reading FC 3-0 Blackpool: Confidence Booster

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Reading ended their barren streak with a 3-0 win over bottom club Blackpool at the Madejski this afternoon. Bucks Royal gives us his match report.

Ben Hoskins

Nigel Adkins made one change to the side that was comfortable beaten by Bournemouth mid-week, bringing in the now fit Glenn Murray for Nick Blackman. Reading lined up in the same hybrid of 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 that has been favoured this season. With the back five unaltered (to the surprise of some fans before the game), Oliver Norwood and Hope Akpan anchored the midfield. Jamie Mackie and Hal Robson-Kanu started on the right and left wings respectively, with Simon Cox partnering Glenn Murray up front.

The important thing to get out of the way with this game is that it was never going to be the most impressive of victories. Yes, Blackpool are the division's bottom side and are heavy favourites to go down, but the draining of confidence in the Reading camp over recent weeks made a top performance highly unlikely.

The club's official report claims that we 'coasted to a 3-0 win', but that's a sketchy summary of the game at best. The match was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the dullest games I have ever seen Reading play in - and believe me, there are quite a few contenders for that accolade.

Reading started the game pretty lifelessly, with little tempo or purpose to their play. The few threats that did arise came from two summer signings, Oliver Norwood and Jamie Mackie; the latter's ongoing struggle with the Blackpool left back was one of the first half's few bright spots. Norwood went close a few times with efforts from range, initially firing just over after good work from Mackie down the right, later forcing a good save out of Joe Lewis in the Blackpool goal with another shot from distance.

The Royals took the lead in the 23rd minute through Glenn Murray - Jordan Obita whipped a cross in from the left, which Murray managed to divert in with a well-placed header. However, it was hardly the most threatening of headers, and Lewis really should have done better with it.

Normal service was soon resumed, with the game drifting back into the hypnotically dull affair that it had been before the opener. There were a few opportunities for the Royals, with none of them clear cut. Late on in the half, Mackie did well to outmuscle a defender before belting a shot at the Blackpool goal that forced a crucial block from Peter Clarke.

Blackpool were in the ascendancy in the second half, but still failed to test the Reading defence. Ishmael Miller was getting involved in the game relatively well, beating Pearce for strength on a couple of occasions. Miller had one of Blackpool's few efforts on goal with a shot from distance that Federici caught without difficulty, Oriol also shooting just wide of the Reading goal.

The second half was proving to be little more exciting than the first, but Reading managed to carve out a couple of half chances. Hal Robson-Kanu made his only meaningful contribution of the day with a well-hit shot from distance (those being a theme of the day, it seems) that went wide of the post. Headers from Murray and Robson-Kanu were also headed over with little threat for Joe Lewis.

Reading made it 2-0 on 70 minutes from an Oliver Norwood corner. The inswinging ball wasn't dealt with by the Blackpool defence, and Peter Clarke nodded the ball into his own net under pressure from Jake Taylor, who had come on for Simon Cox.

The next chance was Reading's best of the afternoon - Lewis' hashed clearance gave Robson-Kanu a good shooting opportunity with Lewis out of his goal. With his effort saved, Robson-Kanu managed to send the ball across goal for the waiting Mackie... who skied his finish with the goal gaping. Indeed, Blackpool's own best chance of the game came soon after, with Ishmael Miller unable to capitalise. The ball was sent across the Reading defence, with the ex-West Brom striker's effort ricocheting off both the post and Adam Federici to go out for a goal-kick.

Reading put the game beyond any doubt with a third goal from the spot late on. Having come on for Jamie Mackie, Nick Blackman's energetic run from the right into the Blackpool penalty area was halted illegally, and he converted the resulting spot kick with a confident finish.

It was far from a classic, but the game ticked the two most important boxes: three goals scored, to reverse the drought, and a crucial clean sheet to inject some confidence into a back four that has been in desperate need of it. At no point did Reading look like conceding, but they barely looked like scoring either. Energy and drive was missing throughout the side, with the exception of Mackie, Taylor and Blackman who all showed a desire to run at the Blackpool defence and try to create something. Some will write this performance off as being sub-standard, but it's put an end to a dire run both defensively and offensively.