Reading made it three wins on the bounce on Tuesday night with a comfortable, yet uninspiring, 3-1 win over strugglers Blackburn Rovers. As they've done on many occasions this season, Reading controlled possession well for big periods, but didn't use it to create lots of chances and rack up the goal tally.
Jaap Stam made three changes to the side that beat Leeds United 1-0 at the weekend, bringing in Reece Oxford (for his first Reading start), Jordon Mutch and Adrian Popa for Jordan Obita, Danny Williams and Garath McCleary. With a difficult trip to Norwich coming up at the weekend, it wasn't surprising to see the key trio rested, and some other players given game time.
Reading bossed the ball in the opening 45 but, besides two excellent headers from Yann Kermorgant, didn’t create many clear-cut opportunities.
For the opener, Tyler Blackett powered down the left flank, before swinging in a pinpoint cross to the head of Yann Kermorgant who obliged with a powerful header past Jason Steele. A quarter of an hour later, Reading had their second when Roy Beerens played in John Swift down the left, before the ex-Chelsea man set up Kermorgant, again for a header.
Apart from that, two wild finishes from Beerens and Adrian Popa were all that Reading had to show for their first half dominance, although Blackburn had a goal ruled out for offside at the end of the half.
The visitors made a bold tactical change just after the break, putting Marvin Emnes, Sam Gallagher and Lucas Joao up front in a 3-4-3. The result was an effective high press that pinned Reading back for quite a while, allowing Rovers to control possession more and more.
The Lancashire side didn't really threaten Reading's back line, with Liam Moore and Reece Oxford keeping them out with relative ease, although Ali Al-Habsi did have to be alert to claw away a goal effort to his left. Nonetheless, Jaap Stam saw fit to switch Reading to a back three to shore up the defence, bringing Garath McCleary on as a left wing back, with the back four shunting across.
Down the other end, Liam Kelly blazed a shot off target, and Garath McCleary looked through on goal, but couldn't get a shot away.
You have to feel a bit sorry for Blackburn. When they did eventually get a goal back, through a thumping strike from Elliott Bennett, it took barely a minute before Reading restored their two goal lead. From a corner, Kermorgant and Danny Williams had shots blocked, before McCleary made it third time lucky by arrowing the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Soon after on the counter, Roy Beerens played in John Swift - in space, through on goal, but his effort was kept out by Steele. It should have been four. Danny Williams and Garath McCleary also had good chances to find a way past the Rovers 'keeper, but fluffed their lines.
To be honest, this game showed elements of not only Reading at their best under Jaap Stam, but also Reading at their most frustrating. Under the Dutchman, the Madejski Stadium has become a fortress, with the Royals only losing twice this season, and that impressive form continued on Tuesday night with the 3-1 win.
However, it was all so very pedestrian, particularly in the first half when Reading had a lot of the ball, as they always do, but didn't seem overly bothered about moving it quickly and trying to create chances. Sure, that's not necessarily the point - Stam's style of play being about controlling possession rather than direct football - but there's no point if we don't get the ball into the opposition's third and try to probe for weaknesses.
We came out of that game with 13 shots, 6 of which were on target, three of which were goals. Yann Kermorgant picked up an excellent brace with his head, and Garath McCleary added a third but, apart from that, there wasn't a lot to be excited about going forwards.
To be honest, this is probably why home attendances are so poor - particularly on a Tuesday night against a lower half team (it was 15,353 against Blackburn). Despite Reading having their best season in years, the football just isn't always that entertaining.