READING boss Steve Clarke paid tribute to Nick Blackman after the in-form striker brought Burnley’s four-game unbeaten run to a shuddering halt.
Blackman, 25, has hardly been prolific since joining the Royals from Sheffield United in 2013, netting just nine goals in 74 games over the last two seasons.
But the crisp low strike that set the Royals on course for victory marked his seventh of a spectacular season, just one behind the Championship’s top scorer Charlie Austin.
“Nick’s a very talented footballer,” said Clarke, whose side are now third in the table after taking 12 points from the last 15.
“He showed me that when I arrived in December and he’s shown me week in, week out on the training pitch ever since.
“For some reason, there seemed to be a problem transferring that from the training ground to the game on a Saturday.This year, working the way I want him to, he’s found another level. Scoring goals gives you confidence but he’s quite a confident lad anyway. He knows he’s a good player. It’s just been a matter of getting him to show it and now he is it’s great for us.”
Clarke’s men arrived at Turf Moor having scored in each of their last ten away games and wasted little time adding Burnley to their list of conquests.
Clearly determined to capitalise on the Clarets’ trademark high pressing, the Royals packed their side with legs, sitting deep before flooding forward like a striped tide.
The tactic paid instant dividends. First, a long ball was weakly cleared by Michael Keane, pounced upon by Hal Robson-Kanu and smartly finished by Blackman, who fired a composed low strike across Tom Heaton into the far corner.
Then, with Burnley still shellshocked, Chris Gunter capped a mesmeric passing move by crossing for Chelsea loanee Lucas Piazon, who ghosted beyond a box full of static defenders to slam home.
For a Burnley side who had lost just one of their last 11 games it was a shock to the system from which they never fully recovered.
Yes, the home side hogged possession. Yes, Michael Kightly tested Jonathan Bond and crafted a string of