Activate discovery+Sep 23
Callum Connolly’s crashing volley gave Blackpool a winning start to the new Championship season with a battling 1-0 home win over Reading.
The former Everton defender smashed home after just nine minutes to secure victory for new boss Michael Appleton in his first match in charge.
Reading piled on the pressure in the second half but lacked a killer instinct in front of goal as the Lancashire side bravely clung on for three points.
Appleton handed starts to three debutants in his first game since taking charge in June.
Loan trio Rhys Williams, Dominic Thompson and Lewis Fiorini were all given the chance to shine, but it was 24-year-old Connolly who got the Seasiders up and running.
Reading goalkeeper Joe Lumley, on loan from Middlesbrough, made a fine save to thwart to midfielder Josh Bowler after only six minutes.
But Lumley could do little to stop Connolly’s sweet strike hitting the back of the net as the visitors found themselves behind early on.
Reading manager Paul Ince, returning to face his former club, awarded four first-team debuts, with defender Andy Yiadom installed as the club’s new skipper.
Lumley, Nesta Guiness-Walker, Tyrese Fornah and Jeff Hendrick all started at a soggy Bloomfield Road.
However, it was Ince’s son, Tom, also up against his former club, who came closest to levelling.
The midfielder stole possession but saw his powerful strike deflected wide for a corner.
Whether it was the wet conditions or early-season rustiness, both teams struggled to create any other decent chances as the first half petered out.
But after the break it was a different story as Bowler came within a whisker of putting the home team two up.
The former Everton playmaker pinched the ball but his stinging strike hit the right post just four minutes after the restart.
The visitors went close to restoring parity, but Junior Hoilett poked his shot straight at keeper Dan Grimshaw after a good spell of pressure from Ince’s team.
Seasoned striker Gary Madine went close to extending Blackpool’s lead but headed straight at Lumley after a long ball down the middle.
Appleton made use of the new five-substitutes rule, using the full complement of replacements allowed to him, but it was Reading who heaped on the pressure in the closing stages.
Bowler, though, had a wonderful chance to seal the win with five minutes left, but he crossed when he might have been better hitting the target and Reading cleared their lines.
However, Connolly’s goal proved enough as Appleton celebrated victory in his second spell at the Lancashire club.