US in­ter­na­tional nets af­ter 15 sec­onds

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Alex Crook

STEVE CLARKE saw Danny Wil­liams set Read­ing on their way to vic­tory with a goal af­ter 15 sec­onds, then jok­ingly blasted his ram­pant Roy­als – for not scor­ing ear­lier. USA in­ter­na­tional Wil­liams’ bullet header from Hal Rob­son-Kanu’s left­wing cross was the third quick­est goal in Read­ing’s history.

Clarke teased: “I will be hav­ing a word with my play­ers be­cause I am not happy that wasn’t the quick­est goal we have ever scored.”

If Clarke could af­ford to see the funny side his Boro coun­ter­part Ai­tor Karanka was def­i­nitely not smil­ing as the Teesiders’ seven-match win­ning run came to a shud­der­ing halt.

An­gry Karanka said: “I’m frus­trated be­cause I have told the play­ers I don’t know how many times not to con­cede in the first minute.

“Two weeks ago Read­ing scored twice in the first ten min­utes against Burn­ley and made them­selves hard to beat be­cause they are a very or­gan­ised team.

“To con­cede in the first 20 sec­onds makes it very dif­fi­cult. That changed ev­ery­thing be­cause we tried to play in one way and we couldn’t.”

Many of Boro’s 2,200 trav­el­ling fans had not even taken their seats in the sta­dium, due to an over­turned lorry on the M4, when Wil­liams opened the scor­ing. Karanka’s play­ers may as well

not have turned up ei­ther af­ter pro­duc­ing a slug­gish first-half per­for­mance which made a mock­ery of their re­cent good form.

The visi­tors would have been even fur­ther be­hind at half-time, but for Daniel Ayala’s heroic goal-line clear­ance to deny for­mer Ful­ham for­ward Or­lando Sa.

Stewart Down­ing was Boro’s one shin­ing light and he came clos­est to find­ing the net for Boro when his 35th minute free kick through a crowd of bod­ies was well saved by Read­ing’s stand-in goal­keeper Ali AlHabsi.

Striker Kike passed up two guilt­edged chances to res­cue a point Boro would not have de­served as they raised their game af­ter the in­ter­val.

First Kike put a free header over Al-Habsi’s bar be­fore blaz­ing well wide af­ter rac­ing in be­hind the oth­er­wise ex­cel­lent Read­ing de­fence soon af­ter.

Blackman won and con­verted the all-im­por­tant spot-kick two min­utes from time af­ter a clumsy chal­lenge from Boro sub­sti­tute Emilio Nsue. Boro have now gone six years with­out a win at the Made­jski Sta­dium.

Karanka, forced to leave out striker David Nu­gent due to a ham­string in­jury, added: “We have to learn and if any­body thought this sea­son would be easy be­cause peo­ple are say­ing we are the best team in the di­vi­sion they are wrong.

“Ev­ery game and ev­ery sin­gle team is dif­fi­cult. Read­ing are one of the best teams in this di­vi­sion.”

Clarke paid trib­ute to the in-form Blackman, who has now scored eight goals in his last eight games.

The Roy­als boss said: “I was de­lighted with Nick be­cause I asked him to play out of po­si­tion on the right to­day and he did a good job for the team.”

Clarke also ad­mit­ted scor­ing so early al­tered his tac­tics, adding: “We got off to a fly­ing start and early goal changed the whole dy­namic of the game.

“Be­cause we scored so early we could play a lit­tle bit more like an away team and try to hit them on the break.”

De­spite be­ing just two points and one place be­hind last sea­son’s los­ing play-off fi­nal­ists Boro in the ta­ble, Clarke played down Read­ing’s pro­mo­tion chances.

Clarke said: “We are tak­ing each game and each week as it comes be­cause it is a long sea­son and things can change quickly in the Cham­pi­onship. We are pleased with how we have started the sea­son and with the per­for­mances and points we have.”

DAN THE MAN: Read­ing’s Danny Wil­liams cel­e­brates scor­ing their first goal

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

NO WAY PAST: Boro de­fender To­mas Kalas shad­ows Read­ing's Ola John, while Adam Clay­ton looks de­jected, inset

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