Five talking points from Rovers' defeat to Reading


Rovers have now used 26 players, one fewer than they did in the whole of last season. Whereas only three sides used fewer in 2019/20, no-one has used more in the opening eight games.

All four deadline day signings were included in the starting line-up, with Aynsley Pears handed his debut in place of the injured Thomas Kaminski.

Kaminski and Bradley Johnson both saw their ever-present record in the side end on Tuesday night, with Ben Brereton and Adam Armstrong now the only two players to have started every league game, while Brereton also started both the cup fixtures.

It appears that in the current climate, and with the scheduling of matches, the number of absentees from the squad is only going to grow as the season goes on, and the treatment room has had a revolving door.

Rovers were without 11 players for their previous home game with Nottingham Forest, of which seven new faces started against Reading, with Kaminski, Bennett, Ayala, Bell, Johnson, Travis, Rothwell and Dack all unavailable.

The consistency of results won’t have been helped by the inconsistency of selection, with the Reading game not the first time that Rovers have prepared with one team, only for that to change within hours of kick-off.


When the Rovers midfield functions as we know it can, then more often than not it gives the side the necessary platform to go and win the game.

The balance wasn’t right here, not helped by Rothwell’s late withdrawal, with Reading seemingly too athletic as holes appearing at too greater regularity.

There was a greater level of control in the second half, with Tom Trybull providing that, and he looks particularly composed on the ball on early evidence.

Without Johnson they lacked a bit of bite to their play, while Rothwell’s absence saw Corry Evans again utilised on the left of the midfield three, a role which doesn’t suit his strengths.

Indeed, it was down that side, particularly first half, that Barry Douglas found himself either playing the ball back to a central defender, or forced to try an ambitious ball forward.

The midfield positions are the one which have been most affected by unavailability, and one where the balance needs to be right to allow Rovers to play in the way they wish

The midfield have always provided control of the ball this season, but the distances between them, and the defence and the attack, were too vast and played in Readin'gs hands.


When Rovers have been good it’s also been down to the way they’ve been able to win the ball back. That requires the team to push up as a unit and block off as many spaces as possible.

That wasn’t the case against Reading who found it far too easy to get out.

Much of that was owing to the fact that Rovers defended deeper than Mowbray would have wished, something he put down to the threat of Reading’s physicality among their forward line.

Darragh Lenihan and Derrick Williams were both at the club when Lucas Joao was on loan, and while the striker, as unpredictable as they come, did enjoy one of his better nights, Rovers played into his hands, not engaging as much as they have with other opponents.

A target-man style striker is something they have struggled against, with Matt Smith, Jayden Stockley, James Vaughan, Craig Davies and Peter Crouch, among those to have troubled them in recent seasons.



While there were undoubted concerns about the backline, and balance issues in midfield, Rovers were still able to move the ball about well, particularly second half, and create opportunities against a Reading side that had conceded just once all season prior to their Ewood visit.

It took Rovers just four minutes to break the deadlock, Adam Armstrong make it nine for the season in all competitions with a fine first time finish, sweeping home a Harvey Elliott cross.

While the goals Rovers gave away were largely through their own doing, the goals they did score were moments of quality.

Armstrong’s second was a rarity in that it came with his head, but his movement across his marker and ability to glance Joe Rankin-Costello’s cross into the corner was a sign of his development.

The striker now has 21 goals in the calendar year and now tops the Championship scoring charts outright with nine, with a further strike coming in the Carabao Cup.

He now has 24 goals in his last 38 appearances, five of which have been as a sub, while he's now just one goal shy of Bradley Dack, moving to 45 in Rovers colours with his midweek double.

Playing as a centre forward will give him more chances, and he could have had a hat-trick were it not for a flying Rafael Cabral save from his header and when going close to turning in a Barry Douglas cross.

While still work to do when it comes to being clean through on goal with the keeper to beat, his finishes inside the area have come on greatly. Ten goals scored, and no trademark long-ranger in sight as yet.


Rovers are now three without a win at Ewood and have picked up just four points from their four home fixtures this season.

Reading became the fourth team to win at Rovers' headquarters in 2020, while they have taken just 22 points from their last 16 home games.

What was once a place they could rely on results coming, it's been more of a struggle of late, with Rovers faring better, in terms of both results and performances, away from home.

Tuesday had proven to be Rovers' lucky day at Ewood, with nine wins and four draws in their 13 previous fixtures on the second day of the week.

However, Reading ended that run, inflicting a first Tuesday defeat on Rovers since Brighton left with all three points in December 2016.