Joe Lumley: 5
Lumley wasn’t excellent tonight, but he did undoubtedly help keep Reading in the game before Reading’s equaliser, making several reaction saves inside his box. Seems a little unsure of when to come out at the moment as was evidenced against Millwall and again tonight for Blackburn’s winner.
Missing his usual big Geordie target, Lumley’s passing accuracy also took a hit tonight as Reading’s front line struggled to compete aerially.
Amadou Mbengue: 5
Showed his usual energy but couldn’t quite make most of his key passing attempts stick, and doesn’t offer the same running from right back that Andy Yiadom does. Mbengue does show flashes of attacking talent that suggest he could do it in a more conducive system.
Tom Holmes: 5
As Sarr has shown us, a run of games after an injury can see a defender improve in leaps and bounds, and while this was steadier from Holmes, you’d argue we’re still somewhere in the middle of that initial run of games. The vice-captain isn’t quite back to his levels from the first half of the season yet, and seems a little more hesitant in his challenge than usual.
Naby Sarr: 6
Thank goodness Naby Sarr has risen to a decent standard at this crucial stage of the season because if he hadn’t, Reading’s defence could be in real trouble right now.
Sarr wasn’t amazing, but he’s clearly the Reading centre back most willing to take charge at the moment. His two blocks and nine clearances helped keep the Royals in the game.
Tom McIntyre: 6
The most involved Reading player tonight, McIntyre was accurate in the short game and dealt reasonably well with Sorba Thomas in the first half, not allowing him a sight of goal until after the hour mark. McIntyre completed all of his tackles, cleared the ball four times and won the majority of his duels, putting in a solid defensive performance.
The issue with McIntyre at left back though continues to be that it dilutes many of his best qualities and highlights some of his issues, and that continued here. McIntyre struggles to find accurate crosses into the box from a left-back position, and struggles even to get into position to make them when focused on defending. That leaves Reading unbalanced, especially when complimented with Shane Long - also not a wide player.
Mamadou Loum: 4
Clearly Loum was fired up tonight because he was pulling things out of the bag to entertain the long-suffering away fans early in the game. Aggressive in the tackle, though sometimes to his detriment, Loum won duels when asked to but struggled to stop Blackburn creating despite his role as the lone defensive midfielder.
At the end of the game, his aggression got away from him. Loum fronted up to Gallagher after a tackle and moved his forehead just a little too close for comfort towards the Blackburn striker. That created an easy opportunity for the referee to send him off, who duly obliged.
At a time when injuries are beginning to mount for the Royals again, Loum’s is a suspension we could have lived without.
Cesare Casadei: 7
The scorer of a great goal, Casadei worked Pears in the net twice in the first half before eventually adding his name to the scoresheet with a sweet curling effort that bounced into the bottom corner.
The goal was typical of the link-up play the Italian was able to excel at tonight and he was certainly the man who benefited the most from Joao’s return to the team. His short passing was accurate and incisive, often creating decisions for Blackburn defenders just through their speed. Moreover, he was everywhere, making 61 touches, the most of any midfielder outside Loum.
A positive performance, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a creative partnership with Joao.
Tom Ince: 5
If Thomas is where all of the creativity is supposed to come from then Reading fans need to strap in for a tense end to the season. Ince was sloppy in his passing, not up to his usual standard of running and worse, he let his usual defensive standards slip tonight.
Casadei and Joao’s sparks of creative attacking play tonight highlighted exactly what the weaknesses of relying on the creativity inherent in a player rather than a system can be. Ince has been excellent in his year and change in Berkshire, but needs to be ready to adapt his play if Reading are going to push on.
Jeff Hendrick: 5
It is remarkable that we are 37 games into a season during which Hendrick has found himself started in nearly every match, and I still have no idea what his role in the team is. He took his customary shot from outside of the box wide today, and it’s certainly not possible to argue he’s a consistent attacking threat.
With Loum played behind him and no tackles to his name today, he’s clearly not a holding player either. Perhaps in one game before he leaves, Hendrick will show us what he offers, but it didn’t happen today.
Shane Long: 5
Forced a save out of Pears with a close-range header but really struggled outside of that as a winger, failing to provide any successful dribbles or crosses into the box. With Azeez on the bench, it’s fair to wonder why the academy product wasn’t favoured today.
Lucas Joao: 7
He didn’t score, but this was probably Joao’s best performance of the season outside perhaps his brace against Stoke City. Lucas showed us the link-up side of his game tonight in a way we haven’t seen in months. He completed 81% of his passes, creating two chances in the process including the assist to Casadei, and generally looked a threat whenever playing short passes or moving with the ball.
Especially with the injuries to Reading’s striking force, Joao must surely start again on Saturday.
Femi Azeez: 5
Offers a more driven style of delivery from a set piece that makes him a good foil for Ince’s usual looping attempts and was unlucky not to start ahead of Long.
Kelvin Ehibhationham: 4
Racked up more fouls than accurate passes in his 15-minute cameo, and really highlighted how well Joao had held the ball up for Reading before he was replaced by Ehibhatiomhan. The teenager came into the game just before Blackburn were afforded the opportunity to ride a late lead to the finish, and struggled to make any impact.
Kelvin Abrefa: 5
Definitely has something about him that suggests he could push into the first team under a more interested manager. Abrefa threw a lovely drop of the shoulder late on to beat his man on the wing and generally got himself involved throughout his substitute appearance.
Needs to improve defensively, but with the injury to Yiadom he deserves to be closer to this first XI.
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