It was belated justice for both Blackburn and Benni McCarthy that they should come out of this contest clear winners; Blackburn, for turning the match on its head with a spectacular second-half recovery which earned only their second away win of the season and McCarthy for a fourth-time-lucky goal which got the recovery under way.
Though they did not seal success until a late wonder strike from David Bentley, Blackburn had dominated the second half to an even greater extent than Reading had done the first, with their manager, Mark Hughes, throwing on an extra striker, the Congolese Shabani Nonda, after the interval. But it was the South African wizard, McCarthy, who first baffled and then beat Reading, recently so strong and confident at home.
Three times he put the ball past Marcus Hahnemann in the Reading goal and it was three times that Graham Poll responded to an offside flag by ruling the efforts out, to Hughes' mounting exasperation. "When the third one was chalked out I thought there was absolutely no chance it was going to be our day," said Hughes.
But the persistence and excellence of McCarthy earned due reward as he directed a low header wide of Hahnemann from a cross by his captain, Lucas Neill, and this time the flag stayed down. If they had wobbled until that moment, Reading fell apart afterwards to a dismaying extent after a robust first half.
After McCarthy had seen the first of his "goals" denied when he put away Hahnemann's parry of a Morten Gamst Pedersen bullet, Reading revved up impressively. The top scorer Kevin Doyle struck the side-netting with a snap effort, and Steve Sidwell saw a brave header hit the bar. Four minutes before the break Reading had their reward, James Harper running on to Stephen Hunt's chipped pass to side-foot a confident goal.
By removing a full-back and bringing on a striker, Hughes demanded a change of attitude. "And I got what I wanted," he said. But it took two more denials of McCarthy scores before it happened. He certainly looked level with the defence before expertly lobbing Hahnemann early in the second half and after being rightly denied a penalty appeal when falling belatedly under an Ibrahima Sonko challenge, McCarthy then volleyed in Robbie Savage's header. Offside again, but the insistence of Blackburn pressure was clearly panicking Reading's defence.
Bentley announced his intentions with a lob which almost crept under the bar, followed by a brace of rockets, one repelled by Hahnemann and the other inadvertently blocked by Pedersen. In a bid to aid Reading's efforts to stay upright, their manager Steve Coppell brought on Leroy Lita and John Oster.
That certainly changed things, but only in Blackburn's favour. Oster's first touch was a misdirected pass to Nicky Shorey, intercepted by Bentley, who sprinted 25 yards before unleashing a brilliant shot from the same distance into the roof of the goal. "David has the capacity to score goals of that quality," said an admiring Hughes. "It was a great goal because we needed a win today." Coppell regarded it "an opportunity wasted" to move higher than Reading's present seventh place in the Premiership. "We are disappointed not to have got a point, given the position we were in at half-time," he said. And he was right.Reuse content