Blues put Reading to the sword with a sublime display of clinical finishing at St. Andrew’s on Saturday afternoon.
Eighteen-year-old winger Demarai Gray was the goalscoring hero as he netted a first-half hat-trick, with further goals added by Paul Caddis, Andy Shinnie and David Cotterill.
There was just one change to the starting XI, with Shinnie replacing Lee Novak in midfield. And on a strong subs’ bench there were places for Nikola Zigic, Wes Thomas and Guy Moussi.
Blues made the best possible start as they raced into a fourth minute lead. Clayton Donaldson won a free-kick just a yard outside the Reading area. David Cotterill stepped up as if to take it, but instead in what was obviously a move from the training ground stepped over the ball, which then allowed Jonathan Grounds to lay it off for Paul Caddis, for the full-back to lash it into the top corner at the first time of asking.
Things got even better for Blues just seven minutes later thanks to a brilliant solo effort from Demarai Gray. The Blues youngster collected the ball just inside the opposition half before running on, evading several challenges and then firing home a brilliant low shot past Adam Federici.
With Blues seemingly coasting, the deficit was reduced after 19 minutes when the defence failed to clear their lines and Jordan Obita’s half-volley found Glenn Murray. Murray got his head to the ball first ahead of Paul Robinson and nodded it past Darren Randolph and into the corner of the net.
But Blues soon restored their two-goal advantage courtesy of Gray with another sweet finish. Jake Cooper gave the ball away and Gray displayed some neat footwork before drilling the ball home.
A shell-shocked Reading side attempted to restore some hope by pressing forward, but it was Blues who struck a fourth time in stoppage time at the end of the first-half.
David Davis dispossessed a Reading player in his own half before bursting forward with the ball. He laid it off to Gray and the teenager took a touch before sliding a low effort past the keeper for his hat-trick goal.
Half-time: Blues 4 Reading 1
Less than 30 seconds into the second-half Blues were 5-1 up, but this time it was Shinnie on the scoresheet. The Scot cut in from the right-hand side of the box before scoring with a left-footed effort at the near post.
Donaldson then went close to extending the lead minutes later when he found a way through the Reading defence but his shot was saved by the keeper who deflected the ball behind for a corner.
With an hour played it was 'super six', as Cotterill found the back of the net. Blues were awarded a free-kick on the left of the box. Cotterill curled it into a crowded area, where it evaded everyone including the keeper and nestled in the corner of the net.
Despite their five-goal advantage, Blues continued to press on in search of more goals and Donaldson saw a goalward bound shot blocked.
After 78 minutes Moussi was given his first start for Blues when he was sent on as a substitute in place of Shinnie.
Cotterill was then just a yard away from extending Blues’ lead when he tried a chip from more than 40 yards which dropped just over the bar with Federici stranded.
With eight minutes of normal time remaining, the St. Andrew’s crowd produced what was probably the loudest cheer of the afternoon when Zigic made his return to action in place of Donaldson.
That was until the 88th minute when hat-trick hero Gray was replaced by Thomas, which allowed the crowd to pay tribute to the teenager for his efforts.