After a turbulent, few days at Blues off the field, it was now time to turn our attention to things that are happening on it. It was the start of the ‘Bowyer Era’ and it couldn’t be a much more difficult task if they tried. Reading find themselves 5th in the table and on the back of an impressive run of late, as they looked to increase the gap on those outside the top six.
It’s these sort of nights you just want to be back at the ground trying to make that difference by making it hostile for your opponents and giving the players that little push.
Bowyer decided to make two changes to the side that was brushed aside by Bristol City. Jutkiewicz and Gardner in, for Sanchez and Sunjic. 4-4-2 made its long awaited return too.
It didn’t take long for Blues to get off to the absolute dream start we all have wanted. A ball out wide left to Jeremie Bela, who cut back in on his right foot and delivered the inch perfect cross for Jutkiewicz, who bullied Liam Moore to the ball and planted his header into the corner of the net. Amazing what you can do when you get the ball out wide and deliver it to the man who can head the thing.
Blues had their tails up after the opening goal and that typical “new manager bounce” seemed to playing its part.
Blues were frustrating Reading for the first 25 minutes of the game, not giving them an inch to try and play their possession based game, however they were going to need a lot in the tank to keep that sort of game plan up. After the half hour mark, Reading were starting to get a foothold in the game and whilst they were not creating many clear cut opportunities, they were definitely enjoying the better of the game.
Right on cue, the equaliser came and once more it was from sloppy individual errors. A ball whipped in from a corner, Colin losing his man and Etheridge flapping at the cross, allowed Meite to head home from close range.
Half-time came and a result hanged in the balance, Reading were growing in confidence and Blues needed to get themselves into the break on level terms.
As expected the second half saw Reading play a lot of “huff and puff” football. Having a lot of the ball, but very much being restricted to it being in the middle of the park, or going sideways from one centre-half to the other. The time came for Bowyer to make his first substitutions as Blues boss (something that was a huge talking point under the previous regime). The subs were like for like and made total sense, hallelujah.
The game was starting to trickle out and it looked like neither side were going to get that all important second goal. Blues won a set-piece and this seemed our greatest chance to grab the goal and boy did it come. A ball into the box from Halilovic, bounced up after a contested first ball and there was Harlee Dean to use all his neck muscles to leather the ball home. Which was followed up by a rather personal celebration. Shrugging hell.
The final ten minutes are always nervy in football, especially when you support Blues. However, I personally didn’t feel like we were ever going to give them that final opportunity to grab an equaliser, due to the fact the defensive shape and structure was so solid.
The minutes ticked down and the final whistle was met by relief and jubilation by all of those on the St Andrews turf connected with Blues and I can’t help but feel we were robbed of a great evening, similar to the levels of Gary Rowett when we turned Watford over.
With the run-in we’ve have, you could ask for a better start and this is the approach in all the remaining games we need if we do stand a chance of escaping the trapdoor once more.
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Photo Courtesy: Roy Smiljanic / BCFC