Joe Lumley: 6
Not massively tested today by a Blackpool side that caused Reading problems and created some chances, but didn’t get much on target. Reading getting to a 3-0 lead meant Lumley’s time-wasting antics weren’t required, but he’ll be disappointed to have lost his clean sheet late on.
Amadou Mbengue: 7
Mbengue was given a new(ish) role today, being asked to fill in as the right-back in a four, which was slightly different to the right-sided wing-back and centre-back roles he’s previously had in the five. He looked solid enough and made a couple of attacking contributions too: winning the ball back for the opening goal and putting in a deep cross later in the half which Andy Carroll should have done better with.
Scott Dann: 6
If you’d said to me after the Cardiff City game (when Dann’s lack of pace was exposed) that he’d start the next match in a back four, I’d have been worried. Fortunately I shouldn’t have been - Dann wasn’t really challenged for speed today, more of the game was in front of him, and he looked pretty comfortable.
Naby Sarr: 6
I’ve got similar thoughts for Sarr as for Dann; this was a new defensive duo for the Royals, but one that worked well. Sarr deserves credit for how he’s bounced back from a poor, error-prone run to look much stronger in recent weeks and today was no exception.
Tom McIntyre: 6
Lining up at left-back, McIntyre had the tough task of facing up to Josh Bowler, but he did that pretty well on the whole. He didn’t have the attacking impact that Mbengue had, but still, a solid enough outing.
Jeff Hendrick: 5
Hendrick had the job of anchoring the midfield today, playing as the holding midfielder behind Tom Ince and Cesare Casadei. Paul Ince likes doing that, having handed Hendrick that role (deep behind two playmakers) for prior matches against AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town.
He didn’t have a bad afternoon, but he didn’t really impose himself on proceedings, being neither expressive in possession or aggressive out of possession. While Paul Ince won’t drop Hendrick, I’d be more interested in future to see Mamadou Loum get the anchorman role in Hendrick’s place if there are two playmakers higher up.
Yakou Meite: 8
My man of the match, Meite was the game-changer today. He can have good and bad games whether he’s playing out wide or up top, but one thing is certain: when he’s on it he’s really on it. Meite was electric, oozing with confidence and energy, and frequently had the beating of his man.
He made a key impact for the goals too. Having set up Ince for the first, he charged in behind to win a penalty for the second, then did similar for the third, with his cross being deflected out for Ince to convert. It’s a shame he didn’t manage to find the net himself, but if he plays like this more often, he’ll do so before long.
It’s a stark reminder that, for all the difficulties of the embargo, Reading have real attacking quality for this level - the kind of quality that can win games. We just need to use it properly.
Tom Ince: 8
From Reading’s man of the match to a close second. Ince was also key for the Royals today, scoring twice and playing the through-ball for Meite that ultimately won the penalty scored by Carroll. His opening goal might lose some credit for going in via a deflection, but I loved the footwork and rare willingness to use his right foot. The opening may not have been there if Ince had insisted on using his left.
Cesare Casadei: 6
A tidy, mature performance from someone who’s clearly up to playing at this level. Casadei benefited from playing as an attacking #8 - the role in which he specialises - rather than as a kind of #10 in a 3-4-3 as he did against Watford. While he didn’t provide the same spark that Meite and Ince did, he was positive and composed in possession, linking up play well and adding some nice lofted longer-range passes too. He should bring more attacking product and influence over games all round in the future when he’s settled in further.
Junior Hoilett: 5
Not a bad performance, but Hoilett was disappointingly quiet today. I’d hoped that a return to his favoured left-wing spot would bring more out of him, but the contest largely passed him by before he was withdrawn for Femi Azeez in the 64th minute.
Andy Carroll: 6
Dispatched his penalty confidently, reinforcing just how good a spot-kick taker he is, and that’s not to be sniffed at. Penalty aside though he struggled to impact the game as Reading’s lone striker. He had some nice moments of hold-up play but generally wasn’t the outlet Reading needed. Although he lacked service - even from crosses to his head, which was a bit disappointing given Reading’s use of wingers - he had one quality opportunity in the first half which he blazed off target.
Femi Azeez: 5
Got around half an hour on the pitch on the left wing but didn’t provide much in that period, with most of the threat going down Reading’s right flank. Still, a good option to have available on the bench and hopefully he’ll get more opportunities.
Mamadou Loum, Shane Long, Tyrese Fornah and Nelson Abbey: N/A
All came on after the 80th minute so are ineligible for a grade. None really made much of an impact in that period with the game done at 3-0, although Abbey got drawn out of position somewhat for Blackpool’s consolation.
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