Blackpool start the new season with a win thanks to Callum Connolly's rocket against Reading

Callum Connolly’s thumping volley handed Blackpool a 1-0 win against Reading in their first game of the new season.

Saturday, 30th July 2022, 4:58 pm

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The right-back was Blackpool’s unlikely scorer of their first goal of the campaign, shooting high into the roof of the net just minutes into this curtain raiser.

The goal was exactly what Michael Appleton’s side deserved after what had been a hugely encouraging first 45 minutes.

Callum Connolly scored Blackpool's winner

The second-half, by comparison, was a nerve-wracking watch as the Seasiders were forced to camp in their own half for much of the game.

But the home side held on against Paul Ince’s side to get their season off to a perfect start.

Appleton handed starts to three debutants in Rhys Williams, Dominic Thompson and Lewis Fiorini.

Williams got the nod in the centre of defence in the absence of Richard Keogh, who missed out with a groin problem.

Thompson was preferred to Luke Garbutt at left-back in his first outing since signing permanently from Brentford.

Fiorini featured in a three-man midfield alongside Matty Virtue and Sonny Carey, while Keshi Anderson also missed out.

Jerry Yates was given the role on the left of Blackpool’s front three, which also featured Josh Bowler and Gary Madine.

James Husband, Jordan Gabriel, Doug Tharme, Kevin Stewart and Jake Beesley all remain sidelined, while Chris Maxwell was left off the bench after picking up a knock in midweek.

As for Reading, former Seasiders Joe Lumley and Tom Ince were named in their starting line-up.

Despite a summer of uncertainty and upheaval at Bloomfield Road, there was a boisterous atmosphere prior to kick-off.

The Seasiders were straight onto the front foot from the first whistle, with Callum Connolly whipping in a dangerous cross from the right which debutant Dom Thompson almost got a head to at the back post.

On six minutes, Josh Bowler came close to handing the hosts an early lead following good work down the right from Connolly again.

The defender beat his man by the touchline before picking out the winger, whose first-time was tipped around the post by Joe Lumley.

Reading’s first venture forward ended with Tom Ince’s cross reaching Junior Hoilett, who delivered the ball into the six-yard box towards dangerman Yakou Meita, but thankfully the Seasiders cleared their lines in time to clear.

The stadium erupted on nine minutes when Blackpool took a deserved early lead.

It came via the unlikely source of Connolly, who had begun the game in electric form. The right-back rifled home a powerful volley into the roof of the net after Bowler had been denied by another excellent reaction save.

Blackpool’s early work was almost undone when Lewis Fiorini, who had started so well in a deep midfield role, was dispossessed in the middle of the park, allowing Ince to roam towards the box.

But Thompson got back well to make the block with Ince’s effort deflecting narrowly wide of Dan Grimshaw’s upright.

With Blackpool keen to dominate possession and play the ball out from the back, they had to take extra care with every pass they played forward.

That was evident when Ekpiteta produced a second slack pass of the game which was pounded upon by the Royals, allowing Meite to break forward only to shoot weakly at Grimshaw.

The game calmed down at this point following the helter-skelter nature of the opening 20 minutes or so, with Fiorini continuing to dictate play from deep.

The visitors were seemingly happy to give the Manchester City loanee acres of space to operate in, which he was only too happy to take full advantage of as he sprayed passes left and right.

Four minutes before the interval, Meite looked to have sprung the offside trap causing Grimshaw to race off his line and punch the ball away right on the edge of his box - only for the linesman to belatedly raise his flag.

The second-half began in a similar vein to the first, with Bowler terrorising Reading’s poor left-back.

The winger picked up on a loose ball on the edge of the box before embarking on a wonderful solo run, which ended with his low shot rebounding off the foot of the post.

The Seasiders were almost made to pay for that moment of misfortune though as the Royals came close to levelling a few moments later.

It came via a dangerous cross in from Andy Yiadom, which flashed across the face of the six-yard box towards Hoilett, who managed to poke an effort towards goal which was thankfully straight at Grimshaw.

As well as Blackpool were playing, they badly needed that second goal to kill off the visitors, who began to become more and more desperate as the game wore on.

Jerry Yates created a good chance for Gary Madine to do exactly that as he lofted a cross into the striker, but Madine couldn’t generate any power and headed straight at Lumley.

From this point, Reading began to enjoy their first real sustained spell of pressure of the game.

Appleton reacted swiftly as a result, turning to his bench for some freshness by replacing Matty Virtue with Kenny Dougall, resulting in Fiorini moving slightly further up the field.

The visitors remained on top though, Hoilett getting in down the right and pulling the ball back into the danger area - only for the Seasiders to clear with some last-ditch defending.

The Seasiders continued to live dangerously as they struggled to get out of their own half for the final 15 minutes or so.

On the one occasion they did, when substitute Shayne Lavery was sent through down the left, the striker took too long over his shot, allowing a Reading defender to recover and clear.

Pool were dealt a blow in the final 10 minutes as left-back Thompson was forced to hobble off with a knock after an impressive first outing in tanger.

Jordan Thorniley was the man to replace him off the bench, while CJ Hamilton and Theo Corbeanu - another debutant - also entered the fray.

Corbeanu was inches away from scoring on his debut in the 88th minute when Bowler pounced on a Reading slip, only to overhit his pullback to his new teammate.

Thankfully it wasn’t to matter, as Blackpool saw out the five minutes of stoppage time with relative ease to make a perfect start to the new season.

TEAMS

Blackpool: Grimshaw, Connolly, Ekpiteta, Williams, Thompson (Thorniley), Fiorini, Virtue (Dougall), Carey (Hamilton), Bowler, Yates (Corbeanu), Madine (Lavery)

Subs not used: Moore, Garbutt, Lubala

Reading: Lumley, McIntyre, Holmes, Yiadom, Guinness-Walker, Fornah, Hendrick, Hoilett, Ejaria (Long), Ince, Meite

Subs not used: Bouzanis, Abrefa, Clarke, Leavy, Scott, Ehibhatiomhan

Referee: David Webb

Attendance: 10,831