With Orlando Sa and Paul McShane not involved, it as a mixture of youth and experience that started the game for Reading as Ali Al-Habsi donned the goalkeeper jersey for the 90 minutes. Jordan Obita captained the side with Anton Ferdinand alongside him providing the experience and know-how, shepherding Sean Long and Niall Keown throughout their respective times on the pitch. In midfield we saw initially a 4-2-3-1 with Hope Akpan, Aaron Tshibola and the exuberant (some would say over exuberant, it was a pre-season friendly after all) Stephen Quinn, with Jake Taylor (right) and Tarique Fosu (left) out wide. Dominic Samuel ploughed the lone furrow up front.
The pattern of the match, well for the first 25 minutes the Gas held the initiative, getting particular joy down the lightweight and inexperienced right side and also from set pieces. It wasn't entirely clear whether Reading were zonal marking or whether it was as a result of the numerous Rovers players in the six yard box (I suspect the former), but either way the home side's set pieces were of a good standard, using the blustery wind to good effect.
In truth they should have notched having gotten heads to floated crosses more than once, but the ball either drifted wide or straight at Al-Habsi. Al-Habsi was also at calamitous fault for one opportunity where he completely scuffed a clearance straight to a Rovers forward but the defence did well to snuff out the danger.
As the half-hour mark neared, however, Reading took control of the game, denying Rovers the ball in our own third and so not offering the opportunity to plunder spoils from set pieces. Eventually Dominic Samuel was found in acres of space by Fosu, and despite an initial poor touch and shot, the 21-year-old took the rebound well with his weaker foot. 1-0 Reading.
Ultimately more of the same, although the wind had irritatingly died down during the break, and the game seemed to be petering out until a spate of changes around the hour mark. Clarke brought on Pavel Pogrebnyak, Nick Blackman, Oli Norwood and Chris Gunter for Long, Quinn, Akpan and Samuel. In so doing altering the formation to an orthodox 4-4-2 with Gunter slotting in at right back, Norwood into central midfield alongside Tshibola, while Pogrebnyak and Blackman moved up front.
Within minutes Obita played a very good ball into the inside left channel to Fosu who took a touch before playing an excellent low ball across to the unmarked Blackman six yards out who made no mistake and Reading were two up.
Rovers continued to show endeavour and the 4-4-2 seemed to open the game up a bit, a couple of excellent chances were spurned by both sides, while Shane Griffin, Danny Williams, Dominic Hyam and Andrija Novakovich also saw game time, but Reading saw the game out without any real dramas.
Dominic Samuel looks a bit raw but showed talent that can be worked on. The former England youth international took his goal well in the end, bit of a poor first touch (a better one would have given him a clean strike on goal with a better angle) but he threw the defender a dummy and took the chance second time lucky on his weaker foot.
Tarique Fosu looks very good, effective down the left and can go either way which was pleasing. After two excellent assists it will be interesting to see if he can maintain what he is showing currently if he's a regular next season.
In playing Aaron Tshibola alongside Hope Akpan in the deeper lying midfield roles, the youngster gave a lesson in ball control and retention throughout. Hope just seems to tense up whenever he receives the ball whereas Tshibola was obviously relaxed, composed, and ultimately rarely gave it away. Stephen Quinn, meanwhile, was booked after a number of late or forceful challenges forced the referee's hand.
Anton Ferdinand. Welcome to the world of playing for more than a half.
A good workout, it seemed like we never really got out of third gear and there is obviously more in the tank but no side goes hell for leather in these games.
Lastly, my thanks to Martin Dubber, making his first Reading away friendly journey since a 2-1 win over Wokingham Town in 1974, for the excellent pasty. Cheers mate!!