Three games, two wins, one draw. It has been a while since we could go into a match with such a run of form. To be fair, two of the last three results have to be ascribed still to Veljko Paunovic. In some way, you could say that just before parting company he managed to get the turnaround. Or at least that was what it looked like. The momentum was definitely ours with the whole atmosphere around Reading Football Club much more positive than 10 days ago.
After the midweek 2-1 win against Birmingham City the trip to Bloomfield Road was interim manager Paul Ince’s first match away from home. As he mentioned during the week, the injury of Baba Rahman meant he was short of defensive players and looking for a free transfer. Something that might sound familiar to Pauno as well.
Things got even worse before kick-off as Karl Hein and Tom Holmes were out now as well. Luke Southwood returned in goal while Tom McIntyre moved into the centre, with Andy Rinomhota playing at right back and Andy Yiadom switching to the left. Rino’s spot in midfield was occupied by Tom Dele-Bashiru. But there were also some positive notes as both Alen Halilovic and Ovie Ejaria found their way back into the match squad and went to the bench.
The game started on a high tempo and with both teams trying to move quickly into an attacking position. After a couple of early corners to defend the Royals tried their luck on the other end. John Swift found Junior Hoilett inside the area, but the Blackpool defence was back in numbers to block his cross.
The first real chance of the match came after eight minutes for the home side. Tom McIntyre was put under pressure with a heavy challenge - surprisingly no foul according to referee Bankes. The resulting shot from Jerry Yates was blocked by Luke Southwood with a good stop.
A better spell from Reading was then converted after 17 minutes into an early 1-0 lead. A brilliant build-up from Swift and Yiadom saw the latter dribbling his way into the box and passing the ball back to Lucas Joao. The big Portuguese made no mistake from short range and netted it in. A perfect assist by new left back Yiadom.
The goal didn’t impress the home side very much as they were searching directly for the equaliser. A cross from CJ Hamilton found Gary Madine in the middle. His free header was parried away by Southwood with a fantastic reflex. The Seasiders were more and more on the front foot now.
And no more than 120 seconds after Madine’s opportunity it was 1-1. The Royals defended a corner badly and allowed Blackpool to move the ball around inside the box. Marvin Ekpiteta was then quickest to react and levelled for the hosts with a header from five yards. Something that just seemed to be coming…
But who expected Reading to fall into pieces was wrong (for now). Until half time Paul Ince’s side managed to battle their way back into the game, to calm it down and get more structure into their own play. Many hard-fought challenges in midfield showed both the team´s intention and willingness to get the three points. The rest of the first 45 minutes were pretty equal with no further clear chances to note.
The second half started the same way as the first. High tempo, intensive battles in midfield and quick movements into the attack from both teams. It took nearly until the hour mark though for the next opportunity. A free-kick from John Swift was just tipped over by Grimshaw.
Seconds later it was again a corner against Reading that caused the Royals all sorts of problems and resulted in Blackpool’s second. The ball came inside the six-yard box where Gary Madine headed it unopposed into the net. Michael Morrison complained he was pushed by Madine. Even though you could argue that he should have done better. And maybe also Southwood could have come out. Nevertheless, it was 2-1 for the Seasiders.
Reading tried to react immediately. A shot from Tom Dele-Bashiru was not precise enough and saved comfortably by Grimshaw. In the 72nd minute, a dangerous cross from Hoilett blasted past Lucas Joao and Tom Ince.
The Royals were having a better spell now. Surprisingly it took Paul Ince until the 79th minute to make his first substitutions. Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite came on for Junior Hoilett and Tom Dele-Bashiru. It was a 4-4-2 with Meite partnering Joao up front and Swift together with Drinkwater in central midfield.
Blackpool could have finished it a minute later when Hamilton’s shot was mishit and went wide. Reading kept pushing forward, but in the 86th minute it was game over. On the end of a counter attack, Lavery moved past McIntyre and converted coolly for the Seasiders' third. Unfortunately, some minutes were still to play. In the 90th another counter and another goal. This time it was Bowler who left Southwood no chance. Soon later Bankes blew (thankfully) the final whistle.
A very disappointing result - very disappointing in the way how the Royals gave away their own lead and fell apart in the end. It was a hard-fought game where Blackpool looked just that bit more decisive.
4-1 seems a bit harsh. Paul Ince’s side had their chances, but were defensively (again) too vulnerable, something the gaffer and his team definitely need to solve. The balance between attack and defence has been missing for pretty much the whole season. We only managed to score without conceding a goal three times, the last time back in mid-October. That won’t be enough to stay in the league.
Hopefully Ince, Rae and co will use the time during the week to work on it ahead of the important home tie against Millwall next Saturday…