Some late heroics from Matt Mills gave the Royals our first win of the season at Leicester despite Brian McDermott being forced to name a makeshift side. The big centre back headed the winning goal in the 86th minute and then cleared a Steve Howard shot off the line moments later to ensure we took three points back to Berkshire.
There were a number of injury doubts heading into the game and full backs Andy Griffin and Marcus Williams were both ruled out, to be replaced by utility man Brynjar Gunnarsson and Shaun Cummings, who played his first game since October 2009, and his first under McDermott. Jem Karacan was fit to start in midfield though, and Simon Church and Michail Antonio were good for the bench.
The Royals started the game very well, and the first real attacking move saw Gylfi Sigurdsson find Brian Howard on the edge of the area. The midfielder opted to shoot and saw his effort blocked, when Jobi McAnuff was well placed to his left – winger showing his disappointment by throwing his arms in the air!
We continued to dominate and had a few half chances, the best of which Matt Mills headed into the side netting, before taking the lead midway through the half. An excellent move saw Long hold the ball up following an excellent pass from Sigurdsson. The ref played a good advantage after Long was fouled allowing Kebe to run onto the ball and slip a great pass to the onrushing Sigurdsson, who calmly chipped the ball over the on rushing keeper, a finish of pure class. The small section of travelling supporters in the corner of the stadium went crazy, but probably wished he could have waited until after 5pm on Tuesday to score a goal of such quality!
We continued to press and look for the second goal and Long had a number of headed chances, and he really should have put at least one of them away. Jobi McAnuff also went close whilst at the other end Cummings did well to deny Lloyd Dyer showing good strength as the winger closed in on goal.
Before the break we were forced into another change and it just had to be a full back that went off injured, Gunnarsson was replaced by Antonio after suffering a hamstring pull. McAnuff went to right back, Kebe to left wing with Antonio slotting in on the right of midfield.
We didn`t settle well after the break though and within four minutes Leicester were back on level terms, and it was a fantastic goal from Dyer. The winger cutting inside from the right hand side and unleashing an unstoppable drive into the bottom corner of the net, giving Federici no chance.
We battled the Leicester onslaught though after the goal and after coming back into the game, McDermott went all out for the win. He took off Jem Karacan, who had a black eye the size of a golf ball after a knock in the first half, and replaced him with Simon Church who went to join Long upfront.
Chances continued to come for both sides as the game opened up, but it was the last ten minutes that was to be decisive. Firstly Dyer was denied a second goal by a brilliant save at full length to deny the winger a second goal of the game, the Aussie keeper more than making up for his error last weekend to keep us in the game.
That save was to prove even more important just a few minutes later when the Royals won a corner, which Howard delivered, form the right. It was met by the head of Mills, who celebrated his third goal in two games after a double against Northampton on Tuesday.
It wasn`t to be the captains last telling contribution though, as moments later he headed a Steve Howard shot off the line. There was a scramble in the box with the ball eventually falling to the veteran striker, but Mills was well positioned to cover for Federici who had been caught in the melee, and dived to head clear.
It was a nervy last few minutes with Leicester having a goal disallowed for an apparent push on either Mills, or McAnuff, but the Royals didn`t care as we had our first win of the season heading into the international break.
Hopefully a number of our injuries clear up before our next game on 11th September against Crystal Palace and perhaps we can get a few in as well?! Ok, maybe the wins gone to my head!
-Shaun Cummings did well at left back, coming in from the cold, and could yet have a future at the club.
-Jobi McAnuff at right back sounds like a recipe for disaster but the defensive side of his game is hughly under rated and he performed well.
-Gylfi Sigurdsson gets better and better, what a fantastic goal from the Icelandic youngster. Lets count down the minutes until Tuesday 5pm!
-Are we really going to rely on Shane Long to get the goals for us this season?