This was a game that kicked off tepidly, to say the least. Reading were cumbersome on the ball and ponderous off it, failing to keep Blackburn out their own half despite having the technically sound central midfield pairing of Liam Kelly and John Swift installed amid Andy Rinomhota’s absence through injury.
Sone Aluko sat in behind Nelson Oliveira and really struggled to bring the ball out, leading to Jose Gomes swapping him to right wing early on, moving Ovie Ejaria to a deep midfield role. It was the Liverpool loanee who then gave the ball away in his own half, stumbling like bambi on ice under little pressure, to create Blackburn’s best chance of the opening 45 minutes.
Shot straight at the goalkeeper from a good position, it summed up the visitors’ negligence of Reading’s generosity, and they were made to pay when Andy Yiadom launched down the right flank in stoppage time. The Royals’ first example of actual impetus saw the full-back find Swift for a calm control and rifled finish. An undeserved lead, but a lead nonetheless.
Rather than take their sudden lead as an unwarranted reason to take their foot off the pedal, this Reading team came out more motivated after the break and a relatively entertaining game of somewhat end-to-end action broke out.
Yakou Meite, thrown on for Aluko at half-time, surged in from the wing to finally offer some accompaniment to the lone ranger Nelson Oliveira, while Omar Richards almost added an early second when making the most of his promotion to left-wing to spot Yiadom’s well aimed cross. With the youngster ready to dive in for a close-range finish, the ball was expertly cleared.
Two far better chances came Meite’s way as Reading, still not at all comfortable, had the chance to kill the match. First, he beat the offside trap to open up a one-on-one that he fired inches wide off his favoured left foot. The second was tougher, but the goalkeeper’s poor positioning made a far-post header from a corner a certain goal - were his effort on target.
Typically, Rovers would burst promptly down the left flank to level through Amari’i Bell, who easily escaped Yiadom’s grasp to fire through Emiliano Martinez on the 82nd minute. The hosts still had time to win it, though.
It came in a frantic breakaway, roared on by the 10,500 Reading fans braving the February Wednesday night. John Swift picked out Oliveira with a wonderful lofted pass and the Portuguese forward controlled well, used Richards’ overlap as a decoy, and smashed his effort into the far corner.
This wasn’t a fantastic Reading performance. For the first 45 minutes, entertainment was at a real premium and Blackburn should have crafted better openings, or taken one of their many half chances, against a home team who seemed surprised they had been asked to play football tonight.
Gomes actively made changes to the team before the game, in spite of leading, and when players’ legs began to tire. It’s hard to argue with them as the likes of Meite, Richards and Kelly all got into roughly the positions he intended them to get in. What they did afterwards wasn’t always great, but we are where we are for a reason.
And that’s the crux of tonight’s game. It’s three points that takes us out of the bottom three. After a trip to Sheffield United, we have Rotherham and Wigan next up at home with Ipswich in between. Tonight should help us grow the confidence to assert ourselves against those also in the relegation battle and come out the other side with more points. We need those points, like tonight’s, at all costs. That’s all that matters at this stage.