Royals back on track after opening day defeat

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Three games into the new season and Royals boss Brian McDermott has already had plenty to consider following his team’s start. 

Only the one point to go on which isn’t the start all supporters had in mind. But Reading fans have seen enough of the Championship over the years to appreciate sometimes you get the wins you least expect, and the defeats often come against the sides you think you should be beating. 

The opening day defeat to Scunthorpe United at the Madejski Stadium was a major disappointment for all players, management and supporters alike. 

The result was understandable given the performance, which Reading fans wouldn’t have associated with a side who finished last season in impressive form. 

Following a pre-season where as a group of fixtures, the club hadn’t had a sterner test before, the Royals were second best against the Iron, who fully deserved the three points. 

The midfield duo of Karacan and Gunnarsson were preferred to that of Tabb & Howard for the Royals, which came as a surprise, given the form the latter had shown when they were an instrumental part of side who finished last season so strongly. 

Some supporters would argue the inclusion of Shane Long was also a surprise given the striker’s lack of goals shown in pre-season compared to his teammate Simon Church, who had bagged a hat-trick just a week earlier at Southampton. 

It wasn’t just the performance that worried everyone but the number of injuries picked up, with Matt Mills, Jobi McAnuff and Shane Long all struggling at the full time whistle. 

But after the disappointment of Scunthorpe, it was a trip down the Torquay as the team got their Carling Cup campaign underway. 

Changes were rung and it was pleasing to see the likes of Ben Hamer, Michail Antonio and Jordan Obita earn some game time. 

Obita came on as a extra time substitute to make his debut, with the 16-year-old considered one of the outstanding academy products. Patience will be required from supporters and management alike, but in Eammon Dolan he couldn’t have wished for a better coach to nurture his undoubted ability. 

In the end, it took 120 minutes of patience and remarkable fitness levels to finally see Reading find the net thanks to an impressive finish from Grzegorz Rasiak, which made the trip worth it for the 700-plus supporters who had travelled down; a great effort on a Wednesday night. 

The reward of an injury time, extra time winner is a visit from Northampton in just under a week, and it’s another opportunity to earn a win and hopefully earn a glamorous money spinning draw. 

Attentions then turned to the trip to Portsmouth. 

Fratton Park is a unique ground with the fans very much on top of the players, however it hadn’t been a ground that holds fond memories for Reading supporters. 

Their record in Pompey isn’t the greatest, and the outstanding memory from their encounters was the 7-4 horror show back in 2007. 

But - this time around - point was a good result, and the most important aspect was the performance matched it at the very least. 

Despite going behind early on, the players showed great resilience and fitness levels to get a point so late on in the game. 

Jimmy Kebe was superb, tormenting the Portsmouth left-back all afternoon while Noel Hunt made his long awaited first team return. 

Alex Pearce and Bryn Gunnarsson formed an impressive partnership in central defence and it was a much better feeling being a supporter than at the same time the previous Saturday. 

The league fixtures for the rest of the month see Billy Davies’ Nottingham Forest visit the Madejski Stadium this Saturday, and it’s a quick return for Ryan Bertrand who spent all of last season on-loan from Chelsea. 

The full-back was an excellent addition to the team and I’m sure he’ll earn a warm applause from the Reading faithful. 

Then the last match of the month see’s a trip to Leicester in the late Saturday kick off as the team escape the town that will be gripped with the Reading Rock Festival fever. 

Nonetheless, another extremely difficult game on paper and the challenge is there to try and earn a first league win of the season. 

*Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association. 

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