BLACKMAN

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

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

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