Two dismissals, one of them a manager, the other a former England international, a missed penalty and a row between team-mates. There will be plenty of Reading fans looking at the bare statistics of this victory and thinking, "should have gone". They can rest easy. This was Reading's lowest league crowd for three seasons and the stay-aways were right. Ivar Ingimarsson's 26th-minute goal last night may have maintained Reading's pursuit of the Championship leaders but the performance lacked style. Had Blackpool not been reduced to 10 men by Lee Hendrie's first-half red card the visitors might easily have achieved parity. As it was the mood of Simon Grayson, their manager, was further soured when he was sent to the stand for dissent.
Grayson was unhappy at the referee Jarnail Singh's refusal to award a late penalty when Southern's thunderous, goal-bound volley appeared to strike Steve Hunt's hands. "I never swore. I just appealed for a decision," Grayson said, "but we're just a small-town team who don't get those decisions. It was an absolute, stonewall penalty."
Reading's victory came at a price, Marcus Hahnemann pulling a calf muscle which is likely to keep him out for several weeks. There was also a curious incident when Steve Hunt and Shane Long argued over who should take an injury-time penalty awarded after Keith Southern felled Chris Armstrong. Hunt, the designated penalty-taker, took it, and watched Paul Rachubka save. The Reading manager, Steve Coppell, professed himself unconcerned, but he might have been if Blackpool had subsequently levelled.
The visitors were hindered by the absence of Liam Dickinson. For those Championship clubs who, unlike Reading, do not have the benefit of Premier League parachute payments, a season's fortunes can depend on the loan players they attract. Grayson has half a dozen at Bloomfield Road, including the promising Liverpool winger Adam Hamill, but Dickinson has made the most startling impact. The striker, signed by Derby for £750,000 in the summer but yet to make his debut for the Rams, had scored four goals in less than two hours' football since being lent to Blackpool. Illness, however, meant he was restricted to the last 20 minutes.
With Coppell making three changes to his midfield quartet Reading's play lacked its usual fluency. Thus it was a surprise when Ingimarsson broke the deadlock. Marek Matejovsky released James Henry, making his full league debut, with a clever reverse pass, Henry's cross was half cleared and Ingimarsson drove the ball in from 20 yards. Seven minutes later the scale of Blackpool's task became mountainous as Hendrie was dismissed for what Singh viewed as an over-the-top tackle on Matejovsky.
The 10 men were largely untroubled, Rachubka only being stretched by Brynjar Gunnarsson's 54th-minute volley. "The mentality changes against 10 men, if we'd got a second we'd have relaxed more," Coppell said.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann (Federici, 71); Rosenior, Duberry, Ingimarsson, Armstrong; Henry (Convey, 81), Gunnarsson, Matejovsky, S Hunt; Doyle, N Hunt (Long, 80). Substitutes not used: Harper, Karacan.
Blackpool (4-4-2): Rachubka; Barker, Edwards, Evatt, Martin; Hammill (Fox, 35), Southern, Hendrie, Reid; Kabba (Taylor-Fletcher, 70), Burgess (Dickinson, 70). Substitutes not used: Coid, Gow.
Referee: J Singh (Middlesex).