George Puscas hit the only goal as Reading claimed a 1-0 win over Blackburn on Tuesday night, in a rather uninspiring but perhaps necessary performance from Veljko Paunovic’s side.
The main news ahead of kick-off came in the manager’s bold turn to 4-4-2 - a desperate measure highlighting just how desperate times were. That is, in the growing queue to the physio’s room as Andy Rinomhota’s injury absence meant George Puscas was the natural pick in a belated reshuffle of the team’s setup.
The Romanian showed early intent with a near-post header tipped over and an audacious 60-yard shell of an effort that landed on the roof of the tumbling Thomas Kaminski’s net. In reply, Blackburn were perfectly sparky for a side without a win in six but Reading persevered and soon had their chance.
Omar (Ömar?) Richards hustled Harvey Elliott so terrifyingly that the Liverpool loanee carried the ball all the way towards his own 18-yard box before surrendering possession, the Bayern-bound defender expertly tackling the ball towards Lucas Joao. On his own worrying run, it would have been understandable for Joao to belt off a shot but he deserves credit for a smart ball to Puscas, who dallied just a second before slotting home.
Not there...— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) March 2, 2021
Omar Richards dispossesses Harvey Elliott on the edge of his own box and Reading lead!
Watch Reading v Blackburn on Sky Sports Football pic.twitter.com/LagJJTpp7D
With Rovers controlling most of the ball throughout, this was not the sort of game where the floodgates would open and, instead, Rafael was kept alert by the busy Amari’i Bell and Ben Brereton. After 31 minutes, Reading’s injury woe grew further with Michael Morrison subbed off, having appeared to tweak a muscle.
The Royals were happy to sit deep in the second-half and attempt to pick Blackburn off on the counter, but secured barely over a quarter of possession in the entire period. The lack of pace present in the home team attack made making use of any openings difficult, and in any case Pauno reverted to his favoured 4-2-3-1 for the last 20 minutes, replacing Joao with Tom McIntyre.
The result of this was largely a sense that Reading had checked out of attempting to double their lead, taking the maximum number of points for the minimum amount of attacking effort. Darragh Lenihan, Ryan Nyambe and Adam Armstrong were nonetheless given a little too much room to attempt an equaliser, all three shooting off target.
The hosts were lucky the Mad Stad was empty as fans would have quite reasonably thrown out sighs of frustration at the late-game approach, even if it was arguably best for an out-of-sorts, injury-hit side in a gruelling promotion battle. Fortunately, the game drifted to full-time and the Royals buffed out their play-off cushion to five points with the win.