Strikers on target in pre-season win
Goals by Dominic Samuel and Nick Blackman handed Reading a 2-0 pre-season win away at League 2 outfit Bristol Rovers.
Tariqe Fosu claimed the assists for both goals either side of the break as the Royals continued the pre-season programme in positive fashion.
After a training session earlier in the day, it was homegrown defender Jordan Obita who led the Royals out of the tunnel for the friendly fixture at the Memorial Stadium.
Reading were without a few first-teamers on the night, with summer arrivals Orlando Sa and Paul McShane amongst those uninvolved as they continued to work towards fitness. Rovers, back in the Football League after a season of exile in the Conference, fielded a strong squad.
The first chance fell the way of the hosts as Jermaine Easter nipped in on a loose ball in the final third – however Matty Taylor’s shot was straight into the arms of Ali Al-Habsi, with barely 90 seconds on the clock.
Reading’s centre-half pairing then threatened the Pirates’ goal in a flurry – Stephen Quinn’s inswinging corner was met by Niall Keown, who twice saw efforts blocked at close range, before Anton Ferdinand stung the palms of Steve Mildenhall as the ball broke his way.
A set-piece at the other end almost brought the opening goal, as Chris Lines whipped in a free-kick from the right. But Al-Habsi’s quick reactions denied Ollie Clarke from finding the net as the midfielder headed goalwards.
Al-Habsi was forced to show his athleticism when Lines drilled a swerving effort from 30 yards, and shortly after Mildenhall was worked by a stinging drive from Tariqe Fosu as the scores remained level.
But the deadlock was broken four minutes before the interval, as Fosu picked out an intelligent forward run of Samuel – the striker received the ball on the stretch and forced a save from the Rovers stopper with a right-footed effort, but was gifted time to pick his spot on the follow up and bent in a strike on his left peg to give the Royals a lead.
Half-time: Bristol Rovers 0 Reading 1
The Royals, unchanged at the break, could have doubled the lead minutes from the restart as Quinn’s deflected cross fell into the path of Jake Taylor, but Mildenhall gathered well as the Reading man struck powerfully on the turn.
Just as quickly, the scores could have been level when Stuart Sinclair burst forward from deep, only to be apprehended at the last by Hope Akpan. Gibraltar international Jake Gosling then went close for the hosts when the ball broke his way outside the area.
Royals boss Steve Clarke waited until the hour mark to ring the changes, with Pavel Pogrebnyak, Oliver Norwood, Chris Gunter and Blackman all getting half an hour of game-time in their legs.
And within minutes of coming on, Blackman had his name on the scoresheet. A raking ball from captain Obita found Fosu on the move – a smart first touch bought space in the left-hand channel, and he centred for Blackman to hammer in from close range.
Another two subs were within a whisker of adding a third, when Norwood slipped in striker Pogrebnyak through the middle with a delightfully-weighted ball with the outside of his right boot. However James Clarke recovered well and did just enough to force the forward into an acute angle and prevent the shot coming in.
Jay Malpas attempted to reduce the arrears for Rovers with a looping half-volley from 25 yards as a corner by Gosling broke his way, but his contact was all wrong and it flew over the bar.
Blackman almost capitalised on a defensive mix-up at the back to add his second, but Mildenhall covered his angles as the Royals registered a two-goal win in Bristol.
Full-time: Bristol Rovers 0 Reading 2
Bristol Rovers: Mildenhall; Leadbitter (Lyttle 46), J.Clarke, Parkes, Brown (Greenslade 46); Lines (Gosling 46), Sinclair (Malpas 61), O.Clarke (Kilgour 75); Montano (Bodin 55), Easter (Harrison 46), Taylor (Blissett 62).
Unused subs: Preston, Lucas.
Reading: Al Habsi; Long (Gunter 61), Keown, Ferdinand (Griffin 75), Obita; Tshibola (Williams 75), Quinn (Norwood 61), Akpan (Blackman 61); Fosu (Hyam 75), Taylor (Novakovich 85), Samuel (Pogrebnyak 61).
Unused subs: Bond, Kuhl.
Goals: Samuel (41), Blackman (68).
Attendance: 1,880 (264 away).
Referee: Kevin Johnson