Reading fans that couldn`t wait for the new season to start were left extremely disappointed after Scunthorpe recorded an impressive win at the Madejski Stadium. The Iron took their chances, playing on the counter attack, and defended solidly all afternoon to cause an opening day upset.
Brian McDermott had said he knew his team since last Saturday after our final pre season fixture against Southampton, and he hadn`t changed his mind in the lead up to the game. Perhaps he should have though because it was surprising to see Brynjar Gunnarsson and Jem Karacan holding in midfield, with Brian Howard left on the bench for the whole. Quite what he had done wrong over pre season is anyone`s guess, but it left us far too defensive minded and Howard`s creativity from midfield would have had us further up the field which we need especially at home against a lowly Scunthorpe.
To be fair we started quite brightly, Jobi McAnuff was causing problems down the left hand side and put in a couple of testing crosses. One of them created a chance for the onrushing Karacan but he somehow headed over.
The visitors then took the lead against the run of play, and in controversial fashion, when Garry Thompson scored from a Jonathan Forte ball in. The linesman raised his flag so the home fans thought the goal had been disallowed but referee Fred Graham overruled his assistant and allowed the goal to stand. Having now seen the goal again, it was the correct decision so I guess I should apologise for the abuse I gave the referee at the time!
We responded well and had a couple of half chances but as so often happened last season, we were dug out of a hole by a wonderful goal from Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelander picked the ball up and cut inside a defender, before unleashing a fantastic effort into the top corner of the net with the Scunny keeper Joe Murphy not even getting close to it.
Until the break we were the dominant side but failed to create too many clear cut chances despite more good play from McAnuff, who appeared to pick up a knock before the interval.
McDermott left things as they were at the break, and things started slowly when a Scunthorpe defender went down with a serious looking injury. McAnuff saw an effort heading goal wards, deflected wide and from the resulting corner a four on one break was ended by Andy Griffin in our penalty box.
On the hour though we were behind again when a deep corner found defender Rob Jones at the far post totally unmarked with the simple task of heading home from close range, giving Adam Federici no chance.
We continued to pressure the visitor`s goal, and Sigurdsson went close with a long range free kick, and you knew there was going to be at least one big chance to get us back on level terms before the end of the game. That very chance fell to sub Simon Church after good work from Jimmy Kebe but the Welsh striker`s weak effort was easily saved by Murphy and Long was clattered trying to go for the rebound. We had used all our subs so Long was forced to play on despite clearly hobbling and could do very little other than stand on the right and cross the odd ball into the box. That however left Griffin exposed when Scunthorpe did attack, as we opted to keep Michail Antonio playing upfront alongside Church.
In the final stages Matt Mills also picked up a knock and battled through the last few minutes but there was to be no equaliser as we lost on the opening day of the season for the first time since 2005. We all know what happened that season so I don`t want to be too critical but we were far too negative today, Howard must come into the midfield for next Saturdays trip to Portsmouth.
-McAnuff played well hopefully proving he is happy here.
-On this showing Sigurdsson will continue last seasons form.
-Jem Karacan did very well before he was taken off, a much better alternative to Gunnarsson in the holding role.
-Michail Antonio’s brief cameo appearance, and long throw in.
-Alex Pearce proving yet again that he is one of the worst defenders we have ever had!
-Matt Mills defending for Scunthorpe’s second
-Jimmy Kebe did not look fit
-The number of injuries we appeared to pick up during the game