BLACKMAN NICKS IT FOR ROYALS
STEVE Cotterill continues to see signs of improvement from his Bristol City team despite watching the Robins’ winless run extend to five matches following a lastgasp defeat at Reading.
Nick Blackman scored in secondhalf stoppage-time to get the hosts off to a flying start to 2016 and leave City stuck in the Championship relegation zone, with Cotterill’s men having not picked up three points in a match since the trip to Huddersfield Town on December 12.
However, the Robins’ boss highlighted a second-half display in which his team had the better of territory and chances – prior to Blackman’s late winner – as evidence of progression within the City ranks since their promotion last season.
“You could see the improvement in us from when we played Reading earlier in the season. The performance there, and the control of the game, was definitely apparent whereas it wasn’t at the beginning of the season,” said Cotterill.
“They’ve given their all. That’s what they do. They give their all every week. It’s very, very tough for them at the moment – they’re a young group and they’re going through experiences collectively that will only make them stronger in the end but while you’re going through it it’s a difficult phase.
“I’ll lift them again and then next week we’ll try to come out and play the football we played here. If you look beyond our results, our football has been excellent. It really has.”
Cotterill must have worried about the way the tie was going early on, as Reading squandered a host of opportunities in the opening 45 minutes.
The Royals had mustered just four goals in their seven previous matches and, in a first half littered with individual errors from both sides, that profligacy up front was again evident.
Matej Vydra – restored to the starting line-up by home manager Brian McDermott after impressing as a second-half substitute against Brentford on Bank Holiday Monday – wasted three golden chances.
The Czech thrashed wide when put through one on one with visiting goalkeeper Frank Fielding in the eighth minute, sliced his back-post half-volley over from fewer than six yards out in the 16th minute and shot tamely at Fielding two minutes before the break.
City didn’t threaten Ali Al Habsi in the Reading goal before the interval, while Oliver Norwood came close to handing the home side the lead at the break – but the midfielder’s 25yard free-kick drifted narrowly wide of Fielding’s left-hand upright.
Vydra’s 52nd-minute header was comfortably saved by Fielding, but the away side steadily imposed themselves on the clash during the second period. Elliott Bennett dragged a shot across goal and Jonathan Kodjia had a strike disallowed for offside before Blackman snuck in behind the City defence in the first of three additional minutes, collected Garath McCleary’s pass and beat Fielding to his right.
“You look at what happened at Wolves, when we were the better side at Wolves and we didn’t get anything,” McDermott said.
“The Championship is about picking up points, accumulating points, and we have done that. It doesn’t matter when you score.You have just got to keep going and going. The crowd have seen that many times over the last decade.
“That gives us that extra bit of confidence. It is a big, big win.”
Reflecting on Vydra’s missed chances, McDermott added: “Matty Vydra was excellent, he worked his socks off, he could have got three goals, he never hid.”
IT’S THERE: Nick Blackman scores Reading’s winner
STAR MAN JONATHAN KODJIA Bristol