Reading back in title hunt after Blackpool flop

Reading 3 Blackpool 1

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If any of Reading's title rivals thought they might wobble after suffering a surprising first defeat in 11 matches away to Peterborough United in midweek, this was the perfect answer. An efficient victory kept them in the automatic promotion places and extended their lead over West Ham United to four points ahead of the meeting of the two clubs at Upton Park next Saturday.

Without the injured Jason Roberts, whose arrival in January had coincided with the beginning of their surge up the table, Brian McDermott's side found goals from two defenders and a midfield player. "It was a great response," McDermott said. "After a defeat all you can do is win your next game. If we keep winning it's in our hands but we've got to concentrate on the next game. West Ham in front of their fans is mouth-watering so we look forward to it."

The set-play delivery of Ian Harte, the veteran former Republic of Ireland left back, who was once on trial at Bloomfield Road before moving to the Madejski Stadium, was behind all three goals, one of which he scored himself.

Blackpool will drop out of the play-off places today when Birmingham City host Cardiff City after failing to get the basics right in defence, although they played some decent stuff and scored the best goal of the match. "You've got to do all aspects of the game right," Ian Holloway, their manager, said. "We did all of them except the main things, in both boxes. We've got to go back to the drawing board."

On the half-hour, they half-cleared Harte's corner but gave Jobi McAnuff the time and space he needed to chest the ball down and hit a fierce half-volley. His shot beat Matt Gilks, hit the inside of both uprights and dropped perfectly for Harte to finish.

Five minutes later Harte's free-kick on the right was, again, only half-cleared. Blackpool lost concentration as McAnuff's return ball found centre-half Alex Pearce, and he headed in unchallenged.

Blackpool struck back before the interval as Lomana LuaLua decided to let fly from 25 yards and his angled shot soared past Adam Federici.

But having got back into the game and controlled most of the opening stages of the second half, Blackpool conceded another goal from a dead ball, albeit in more straightforward fashion this time, allowing Mikele Leigertwood a free header from Harte's free kick on the left. "We were like a bunch of statues," Holloway said. "I've had under-10s defend better than that."

Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Cummings, Pearce, Gorkks, Harte; Kebe, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff; Hunt, Afobe (Church 69).

Blackpool (4-3-3): Gilks; Baptiste, Cathcart, Evatt, Crainey; Basham, Ferguson, Sylvestre (Ince 64); LuaLua (M Phillips 64), K Phillips, Taylor-Fletcher (Dobbie 64).

Referee: Fred Graham

Man of the match: Harte (Reading)

Match rating: 6/10