Bright Blues see off Royals

Consistency has been hard to come by this season for Blues, whether it be results, performances or even the starting line up, it just hasn’t been there.

So after a very spirited performance against Bristol City, we were hoping we could take that into our midweek fixture against another side who were enjoying a bright start to the new season. There was only meant to be one change to the line up from the weekend, which saw Pedersen come in for Friend, who seemed to be carrying a knock throughout the game against Bristol. However, an injury in the warm up to Bela meant Leko got his opportunity to impress.

Blues started the game incredibly bright and looked to press Reading at any given opportunity. A few half chances and the odd offside was the tale of the first 20 minutes or so, but the energy levels and the tempo on the ball was so much better than previous games.

The deadlock was broken after Pedersen drove down the left and delivered an early ball to Toral on the edge of the box, who drilled the ball home in off the post – vintage Toral from the 15/16 season.

The biggest gripe many have with Blues is they decide to sit off and let their opponents get a foot-hold back into the game after taking the lead. However, Blues kept the tempo on the ball high and didn’t give Reading an inch to regroup after going 0-1 down. Hogan had a chance smartly saved before another moment of magic came from the Spaniard who cut inside onto his left foot and curled a lovely finish from outside of the box into the bottom corner. Which capped off the best half of football I’ve seen from Blues under Karanka.

Blues came out for the second half and seemed to be happy to let Reading have a bit more of the ball, but limit them to very little and that was very much the tale of the 20 minutes that followed the break.

Out of nothing Reading managed to half the deficit thanks to a fortunate bounce and some sloppy defending which allowed Meite to steer home from close range. Here we go again.

Hogan had a glorious opportunity to restore the 2 goal cushion, but he couldn’t get the ball under any sort of control to round the keeper and tap the ball into the net.

Reading had their tails up and started to apply a bit more pressure to the Blues backline, who had dealt with them extremely well for 9/10’s of the game so far.

It felt like it was typical Blues all over again after Reading broke through and Dean got back to make a block before the Reading striker could get a shot away, but in true EFL referee fashion a penalty was given and Dean was given his second booking and his marching orders. Up stepped João but Etheridge was level to it and justice seemed to prevail.

Three changes followed the red card, which saw San José slot into the gap left by Dean.

Blues now looked to hold out for the next 10 minutes and limit Reading to very little chances in the final third.

It seemed the Referee had a greater desire to pin Blues back to a draw, but despite his best efforts Blues stood firm and made it back to back wins and some much needed confidence after a tough few weeks seems to have been restored.

Photo Courtesy: Roy Smiljanic / BCFC

Starting XI

Neil Etheridge

Had little to do until the 60th minute and when called upon from the spot he made it count to ensure Blues walked away with 3 points.

8
Maxime Colin

Enjoyed a spell in the first half where him and Sanchez tried to exploit the left hand side of Reading. Quieter in the second, but did his defensive duties well.

8
Marc Roberts

For large spells of the game he was relatively untroubled and had the number of Reading’s attacking threats. I might be harsh but I thought he could have got to the ball first before Reading’s goal, which is why he gets this rating.

6
Harlee Dean

Again, like Roberts was relatively unscathed for large parts of the game and was playing the ball out from the bag, whilst even throwing a chop on the ball in here and there. Feel like his double yellows were incredibly harsh, but at times he did find himself caught out with Roberts, hence him having to make the challenge which resulted in the red. Think some shouts of a Prime Bobby Moore might have been a bit premature.

6
Kristian Pedersen

I thought he looked back to his best tonight and didn’t make those silly errors we’ve seen from him in recent games. Played a lovely ball inside to Toral for the first goal too.

8
Ivan Sunjic

A standard Ivan Sunjic performance throughout. Got about the pitch and made life uncomfortable for Reading when they were on the ball. Seemed so much more confident when he had the ball at his feet too, which is a huge positive.

8
Maikel Kieftenbeld

The guy is just Birmingham City personified. All over the park tonight and never gave Reading an inch of space. Also thought it was incredibly generous of him to allow Olise out of his pocket to go and sit on the subs bench.

8
Ivan Sanchez

Looked our biggest threat going forward throughout the first half and gave their left back a headache with the amount of times he turned him inside out. A lot quieter in the second half due to the fact we had to change our approach thanks to events that followed from refereeing decisions.

7
Jon Toral - Man of the Match

He looked like the Jon Toral from 15/16 tonight, probably due to the fact he’s now up to match fitness and just seems a lot more sharper. Both finishes are worthy for a goal of the month shout and his energy levels and confidence just stood out.

9
Jonathan Leko

Came in for the injured Bela and didn’t really stand out too much. Created a few half chances and tried to get at the full back when given the chance, but nothing to shout about too much.

7
Scott Hogan

Thought he played the role of a loan striker very well and exploited the lack of pace Morrison has when trying to work between the line of the defence. Arguably should at least have come away with 1 goal tonight after being denied in the first from a header and then spooning a huge 1v1 to restore a 2 goal advantage. Looks a lot more confident though, which is the main thing.

7

Substitutes

Mikel San José
Slotted into the gap left by Dean and looked solid throughout. Got the job done.
6
Gary Gardner
Did his job when he came on. Made a nuisance of himself and used his energy levels to drive the team up the pitch.
6
Lukas Jutkiewicz
Was the out ball and target to try and get up the pitch when Reading were trying to sustain pressure. Did his job well and managed to win a few free kicks to ease that pressure.
6

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