CLARKE’S ROY­ALS ARE IN GOOD NICK

Blackman scores in third win in four

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Richard Latham

STEVE Clarke praised his team for a near per­fect away per­for­mance and in­sisted: “It must be a good time to be a Read­ing fan.”

Few of the 1,300 trav­el­ling sup­port­ers at Ash­ton Gate would ar­gue af­ter see­ing their team com­fort­ably over­come early strug­glers City.

Goals in­side the first 13 min­utes from Nick Blackman and Garath McCleary gave the visi­tors a lead they never looked re­motely like re­lin­quish­ing.

And Clarke said: “To con­trol any Cham­pi­onship game as we did takes some do­ing and the team de­serve enor­mous credit.

“We got our­selves in front early on and, while we could have had more goals, you won’t find me com­plain­ing.

“I am happy with the squad we have as­sem­bled and de­lighted with the way the play­ers are per­form­ing on the pitch and work­ing on the train­ing ground.

“I would think it must be a good time to be a Read­ing fan. We worked on how our sys­tem could up­set theirs and hurt them, which is ex­actly what hap­pened.”

City boss Cot­ter­ill earned a lec­ture from ref­eree Stephen Martin for his protests over striker Blackman’s ninth-minute goal, in­sist­ing there was a clear off­side be­fore a fierce left-footed shot from in­side the box took a slight de­flec­tion to beat Frank Field­ing.

The City goal­keeper might have done bet­ter four min­utes later when beaten from 30 yards by a low drive from McCleary, given time and space to shoot.

From then on the home side lacked their nor­mal flu­ent pass­ing game and pro­vided few mo­ments of anx­i­ety for Read­ing keeper Jonathan Bond.

Jonathan Kod­jia, the pick for an out-of-sorts home side, did hit a post from point-blank range in the dy­ing mo­ments, but it would have been no more than a con­so­la­tion.

Cot­ter­ill said: “We felt hard done by with the first goal and thought there was an off­side lead­ing up to it. It hurt us badly and we just need one or two de­ci­sions to go our way at the mo­ment.

“Un­til Read­ing scored we had be­gun brightly. But once the sec­ond goal went in we couldn’t get the nor­mal spring in our step. It was a hot af­ter­noon and we could not raise the nec­es­sary level of phys­i­cal­ity.

“We had a bit of bad luck hit­ting the post, but I’m not sure we did enough to de­serve any­thing. There wasn’t the nor­mal zip to our pass­ing. I put that down to fa­tigue, rather than lack of con­fi­dence and we will en­cour­age the play­ers to be pos­i­tive be­cause there is a long way to go in the sea­son.”

There was a scare for City even be­fore the open­ing goal when Matej Vy­dra crossed to the far post and Stephen Quinn’s header back across goal was nod­ded clear by Aden Flint.

The home crowd took out their an­guish on ref­eree Martin as their team pro­duced a dis­jointed firsthalf per­for­mance.

It took them 34 min­utes to get a strike at goal. Then Kod­jia’s ef­fort from an an­gle, af­ter run­ning onto Luke Ayling’s pass, was blocked for a cor­ner.

Cot­ter­ill made a half-time sub­sti­tu­tion, send­ing on Wes Burns for Liam Moore, a move which meant Ayling switch­ing from wing-back to the right of the back three.

And it wasn’t long be­fore a sec­ond sub­sti­tu­tion was made, Bobby Reid re­plac­ing Mar­lon Pack in the cen­tre of mid­field.

It made lit­tle dif­fer­ence as Read­ing re­mained strong at the back and lively on the break dur­ing a sec­ond half that was some­thing of a non-event

The visi­tors could have won more com­fort­ably, but Blackman blazed over from a good late chance.

PIC­TURES: JMP Im­ages

HERE WE GO: Read­ing’s Nick Blackman scores the open­ing goal

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