Reading FC bounced back from a torrid display at Rotherham to trounce Blackburn 3-0 at the Select Car Leasing Stadium and end their opponents’ perfect start to the season.
The narrative going into this game was one of stark pessimism against the Royals and goalkeeper Joe Lumley, coupled with an ironic sense of gallows humour that “wouldn’t it be so Championship/Reading if we won”. In the end, indeed it was very Reading to put in a good performance. But a performance quite this good could not even have been joked about.
Pre kick-off, the hosts paid tribute to Jack Walker on the 22nd anniversary of the Blackburn legend’s death, something warmly matched by the Reading fans. It was the sort of underrated gesture that should not got unnoticed as there is real value in recognising the history of your contemporaries away from the fists and fury of the 90 minutes.
The first half unfolded rather unique fashion for the Royals. Gone were the haphazard openings witnessed in, well, every game so far this season and instead came an energy and a laser-like focus to punish the visitors. Blackburn were incredibly sloppy playing out from the back, encouraged by the domineering pressing of Mamadou Loum and Co in Reading’s 3-5-2, and constantly gifted chances inside their own box.
In the 14th minute, Tom Ince stood over an inswinging corner and planted it on Tom McIntyre’s head, the ball cannoning in off the underside of the crossbar to send Reading into the lead. There was no doubt that the home fans had turned up to back their boys after a woeful weekend and here was their early reward.
It didn’t stop there. Not once but twice, in quick succession first through Tyrese Fornah after a loose ball landed into the box and then after a Tom Holmes bullet header, Blackburn scrambled shots off the line.
The superb Ince’s corners continued to cause havoc, Rovers defenders staring wide-eyed into the sky as crosses landed like terrified troops scuttling under shell-fire. It was all getting too much for them and scuffles broke out as another round was being loaded, Andy Yiadom wound up his marker and then, at the next opportunity, darted free of his grasp to flick a header narrowly over the crossbar.
The score remained 1-0 at half time and a few flashbacks were discussed in the concourse, the likes of Cardiff and Blackpool at home last season where Reading had failed to maintain momentum, scored one too few goals, and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. This would not be one of those nights.
The second half saw Blackburn fail to demonstrably improve. Instead, Shane Long continued to kindly teach schoolboy defender Ashley Phillips a lesson in how to play the game at this level. It had been suggested that Tottenham had sent their technical director to scout the teenage centre-back but Fabio Paratici would be better off picking up the phone and dialing for the Irish veteran on Thursday morning, such was his incessant ability to make runs into space, nick loose balls and dominate aerial duels with a lad at least a foot his senior.
Only one true chance landed Rovers’ way and Lumley, the villain of Rotherham, snatched a fine save out of the air to dispel fears of a drop-off. The away team smelt blood but failed to realise it was their own. Piling forward, they gifted Long and Junior Hoilett space down the right before the Canadian unleashed a fierce drive that deflected into the net of his former team. Once again, the effort cracked off the underside of the crossbar to send Reading fans wild.
Lucas Joao came off the bench to round off the scoring with a trademark finish, crafted by Fornah’s magic dribbling out of a tight spot in the corner before the returning forward rolled his man and slotted the ball home. Three goals to the good and just under 15 minutes to play, these points were safe.
Reading refused to cruise home, still fighting for 50/50s and led by the imperious midfield quartet of Ince, Fornah, Jeff Hendrick and Loum in his first home league start. Inevitably, the Porto loanee got booked and he will do plenty more times this season. Perhaps that is just all part of the rollercoaster, Loum may well get sent off once or twice this year and Lumley may well make errors - but if the good outweigh the bad and Reading stay up, why not enjoy the ride?
The final whistle sounded on one of the most complete Reading performances in years, a night where the team had the energy and backed it up with quality both individually and tactically. A night where, to quote the chant, they got into them and f***ed them up. It may not click like this every game but we will damn well enjoy it when it does, just like it did tonight.