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Report: Blues 2 Reading 1

Jutkiewicz’s opener set the tone.

BCFC

Blues beat Reading at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium in the Sky Bet Championship to get the reign of Lee Bowyer off to the best possible start.

The better side from the word go, Blues led as early as the fourth minute through a powerful Lukas Jutkiewicz header.

And although pegged back by Yakou Meite’s effort ten minutes before the half was out, a home side full of energy and desire went ahead again with a goal that proved decisive in the second-half.

Having delivered a captain's Performance, Harlee Dean then struck with a captain’s goal when he headed in the winner from a corner.

Victory also completed a double over a Reading side who occupy the final play-off place.

TEAM NEWS

Bowyer made two changes for his first game as the Club’s Head Coach. Brought into the starting XI were Gary Gardner and Jutkiewicz, whilst there was also a place in the matchday squad for Steve Seddon.

MAIN EVENT 

The Bowyer era got off to the perfect start when Blues took the lead in just the fourth minute. A landmark goal for the new Boss, it was also a personal milestone for Jutkiewicz as he scored his 50th in royal blue. Provided by Jeremie Bela, Blues’ number ten out-muscled his marker to head home from the Angolan’s delivery in front of the Gil Merrick – a stand where Bowyer had a corporate hospitality box during his playing days.

And the high-octane opening was continued as the first-half developed, with both Rekeem Harper and Marc Roberts setting their sights as Reading struggled to cope with the home side’s intensity.

Veljko Paunovic’s men looked to bite back, but Neil Etheridge was more than a match to Yakou Meite’s long-range free-kick.

However, the man who has recently returned from injury gave Blues’ number one no chance when he equalised shortly after. Finding space at the far post, Meite headed in Michael Olise’s driven corner.

There was further concern before the break when Bela went down, but following treatment the winger was able to continue as Blues nearly went into the interval ahead.

Powering forward from midfield, Gardner ran and shot in a fashion his new Head Coach would have been proud of in his playing days, with the only downside being Rafael gathering the ball at the second time of asking.

Half-time: Blues 1 Reading 1

Blues started the second period under Reading pressure and survived a penalty appeal from the visitors before Bowyer turned to his bench and energised his team with Jonathan Leko and Ivan Sunjic introduced.

And it was the former who combined with Halilovic to win a corner from which Blues restored their lead in the 72nd minute. Having been pipped to the initial set-piece, Dean did not give up on the opportunity of notching his third goal of the season and generated all the power onto a dropping ball to loop a header beyond Rafael.

This clearly hurt the Royals and Etheridge had to be on red alert not once but twice to keep them out. First, he was athletically down to Olise’s half-volley before clambering to the loose ball and poking it away from the pouncing George Puscas.

But this was to be the last significant chance for the visitors as Blues defended resolutely and saw off anything that Reading could throw at them to claim a massive three points in B9.

KEY MOMENT

Jutkiewicz’ opener set the tone for Blues’ win and was a special moment for the striker as he chalked up a half-century of goals for the Club on a night where it meant so much.

FINAL OUTCOME

The success means Blues have collected 38 points from their 37 matches played.

MATCH DETAILS

Blues (4-1-4-1): Neil Etheridge, Maxime Colin Marc Roberts, Harlee Dean (captain), Kristian Pedersen, Alen Halilović (Steve Seddon 87), Rekeem Harper, Gary Gardner (Ivan Sunjic 63), Jeremie Bela (Jonathan Leko 63), Scott Hogan, Lukas Jutkiewicz (Sam Cosgrove 73).

Substitutes not used: Andres Prieto, George Friend, Mikel San José, Riley McGree, Ivan Sanchez.

Booking: Colin 22, Gardner 28.

Reading (3-4-1-2): Rafael, Omar Richards, Tom McIntyre, Liam Moore (captain) Michael Olise, Yakou Meite (George Puscas 70), Andy Yiadom, Lucas João, Josh Laurent (Ovie Ejaria 73), Tom Holmes, Alfa Semedo (Andy Rinomhota 77).

Substitutes not used: Luke Southwood, Tomas Esteves, Sam Baldock, Lewis Gibson, Sone Aluko, Dejan Tetek.

Booking: None.

Referee: Andy Woolmer.

NEXT STEPS

Blues now hit the road as they see out March with a visit to Watford. The trip to the play-off chasing Hornets is followed by an international break before Bowyer’s men take on Swansea City and Brentford either side of Easter Sunday.

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