CLARKE’S ROYALS ARE IN GOOD NICK
Blackman scores in third win in four
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.
HERE WE GO: Reading’s Nick Blackman scores the opening goal