Match Report: 2011/2012 Season

24 March 2012: CHAMPIONSHIP
Reading: Harte (30 mins), Pearce (35 mins), Leigertwood (60 mins).
Blackpool: LuaLua (41 mins).
Half Time: 2-1.

Attendance: 20,906

Pos Team P Pts GD
1 Southampton 39 78 +37
2 READING 39 73 +22
3 West Ham 38 69 +21
Reading: A Federici, I Harte, K Gorkss, A Pearce, S Cummings, J McAnuff, M Leigertwood, J Kebe, J Karacan, N Hunt, B Afobe (S Church, 69).
Subs not used: A Le Fondre, M Andersen, H Robson-Kanu, J Tabb.
Blackpool: M Gilks, A Baptiste, C Basham, C Cathcart, S Crainey, I Evatt, B Ferguson, L Sylvestre (S Dobbie, 64), G Taylor-Fletcher (M Phillips, 64), K Phillips, L LuaLua (T Ince, 64).
Subs not used: Angel, R Harris.
Reading: -
Blackpool: Baptiste.
Ref: F Graham.
The Royals bounced back from a midweek defeat at Peterborough with a well deserved victory over promotion chasing Blackpool. With Jason Roberts injured Brian Mc Dermott surprised everyone by overlooking Church and Le Fondre and paired Noel Hunt with new loan signing Benik Afobe from Arsenal. Shaun Cummings came in at right back having been left out recently in favour of Connolly and then Mullins. His team selection was justified as Reading romped into a two goal lead and then sealed victory with a third goal after sixty minutes after the visitors had pulled a goal back shortly before half time.

Reading might have taken the lead in the second minute when Hunt, a couple of yards from goal, was unable to re-direct a miscued effort from Kebe. It might have appeared a bad miss but the ball arrived at pace and at an awkward height masking the issue of Kebe's poorly hit shot. Almost immediately after, Kebe picked a loose ball, accelerated past Crainey and lashed a shot wide of the post. It was good positive play by the winger. Blackpool were struggling to get out of their own half in the early stages of the game. As the game settled down Blackpool began to pass the ball well, but as most teams find these days, it is not easy to get at Federici. New signing Afobe looked uneasy as the game seemed to be passing him by and his early touches were a bit heavy. On Twenty minutes he illustrated why he was signed with a sharp turn and delightful cross but there was not a single Reading player in the box to take advantage.

The opening goal came on thirty minutes when McAnuff unleashed a powerful strike from outside the box which hit both posts leaving 'keeper Gilkes completely disorientated before falling to Harte who drove the ball high into the net from close range. Six minutes later a deep cross from MCAnuff found Pearce unmarked at the far post and his header back across goal gave Gilkes no chance. Slack marking but a great finish. As Reading seemed to be coasting towards half time Lua Lua picked up the ball twenty yards out, made space fro a shot, and beat Federici with an incredible strike into the far corner. It provided the Royals with a reminder that their opponents are the second highest scorers in the Championship. Things might well have got worse for Reading as Phillips met a mis-placed shot at the far post. Somehow the ball flew over the bar from a couple of yards out. As with Hunt's chance in the opening minutes it looked a bad miss but again the ball was travelling at pace and the veteran striker was at full stretch.

The second half started very slowly and Blackpool began to pass their way through the Reading defence but were unable to get into clear scoring positions. The crucial third goal came on sixty minutes when Harte curled an excellent free kick in to the box where an unmarked Leigertwood rose to direct his header past Gilkes in to the top corner of the net. Ian Holloway, never one to do things by halves, almost immediately made a triple substitution. It made little difference to the pattern of the game and Reading played their way comfortably to another three points. Afobe began to link up well with his new team mates before being replaced by Church who is much better at scurrying after defenders. Cummings was enjoying his return to the team and getting forward to good effect but I can't help wondering if he will retain his place next week when the Reading defence will be severely tested at Upton Park.

Reading have strengthened their squad wisely since January and look well placed for a strong challenge for automatic promotion. An exciting end to the season is now guaranteed!
John Wells

Not the greatest of spectacles at times but we did what we needed to do. Game plan worked well. Special mention to Legs who had his best game in a while IMO. Cummings played very well in the second half and Jem was solid as always. Bit disappointed by the new arrival and if I were Church or Fondu I'd be a bit pi*sed off. We have done well to come through this month. Don't think you can underestimate how tough it has been with all those games. Let's round it off with a win at West Ham. I think we can do it... just!
John Peel

Fantastic result and yet another game where we get goals from all over the team. We were hard working, organised and always looked in control. MOTM was Jobi, he worked his socks off and scored one and set one up, at least that's what I thought till I saw the replay and saw his shot hit both posts before the Harte tap in. Hunt was immense, he was still closing players down in the last 5 minutes, compared to the lazy arse Church who strolled around and did nothing of note except falling over when played through. What has ALF done not to get ahead of Church? Afobe worked hard, linked play and kept it simple. I was waiting for some sort of indication that he is a massive up and coming talent, but he just had a solid game without any particular highlight. Cummings had a good game, looked solid and showed some good skill going forward. I'd rather have him playing than Mullins or Connelly. I was pretty underwhelmed with Blackpool. Their goal was a cracker, but apart from the miss from Phillips that was pretty well all they produced. Overall a very good three points, but I wish the stadium announcer would oxf*rd and refrain for statements like "getting Reading back to where they should be in the premiership" or "another three points", there is no better way to motivate the opposition than have some numpty coming out with statements like that.
Pie Eater

Delighted with the result. I wasn't expecting it to be as easy as that. bit of a shame west ham got back to 2-2, but a 4 point lead is fantastic. West Ham can win their game in hand and we'll still be 2nd heading into saturday's box office smash up at upton park. or even better they can continue to bottle it and we could be going into the game with a chance of going 7 clear, and then we really could be staring promotion in the face! I was impressed enough with afobe. It's what, his second game back from a long term injury? he looked quick and strong, and has good feet. much much better than church. church incidently got fouled by a blade of grass... he chased hard but otherwise he isn't good enough for a top end championship team imo. his time has passed and he needs to move on in the summer, perhaps dropping a level to get regular games.
Cummings got stronger and more confident as the game wore on and then that one smashing tackle in the second half that got the whole east stand on their feet. that was superb. in hard, winning the ball and then breaking forward. Karacan went largely unnoticed but that doesn't mean he had a bad game. he did his job with little fuss and as always was key in midfield; as was leigertwood who has really grown in the last couple of games. both of them will have to be at their absolute best next weekend.
Hunt was brilliant again, chasing everything and caused blackpool a lot of problems. mcanuff covered every blade of grass and that was a proper captains performance today. Overall delighted with everyone today. If pearce or gorkss don't get player of the season then it'll be daylight robbery.
Friday's Legacy

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Reading consolidated their promotion bid with a victory that keeps them five points behind leaders Southampton and four clear of third-placed West Ham. The Royals went ahead when Ian Harte followed up after Jobi McAnuff twice hit the woodwork, doubling their lead when Alex Pearce headed home. Lomana LuaLua pulled a goal back for Blackpool just before the break with a stunning strike from long range. But Mikele Leigertwood nodded in Reading's third from a Harte cross. Brian McDermott's side lost for the first time in 10 matches at Peterborough in midweek, but were evidently in the mood to get back to winning ways.

Noel Hunt had already gone close when Leigertwood chested the ball into the path of McAnuff, the Royals skipper's effort struck both posts and Harte was on hand to slot home. Pearce then met McAnuff's delicate far-post cross with a superb header back over Matt Gilks and into the far corner. Blackpool were handed a lifeline when LuaLua collected possession 30 yards from goal before producing a blistering finish to beat Adam Federici. Kevin Phillips threatened an equaliser with a header before Leigertwood rose unmarked in the area to head home Harte's free-kick.

Reading manager Brian McDermott:
"Now I am really looking forward to the visit to West Ham. It's a mouth-watering game. Sam Allardyce is a great manager and Wally Downes is a friend of ours. Looking back over the last 32 games we have got something like 69 points so that would put us top of the league. At the start of the season it took us six games to get going."

BBC Sport