Victory on opening day for Royals
Reading won for the first time on the opening day in seven years, beating a resilient Ipswich Town side 2-1.
Royals boss Nigel Adkins made the shock decision of omitting captain Jobi McAnuff from the starting XI and selecting 22-year old defender Sean Morrison as the man to lead the team. There were also starts for new signings Royston Drenthe and Wayne Bridge, as well as a rare start for Adam Le Fondre. A familiar name in the opposition line up was Jay Tabb, who left the Madejski Stadium this summer.
It was a bright start from the home side, with Drenthe looking to get on the ball in the centre of the park, playing in the hold behind Alfie. Crosses were steaming into the Ipswich box, but could not find a Reading player. The visitors were easing themselves into the contest and their few minutes of pressure told, as they took the lead on the opening day.
Carlos Edward`s cross was not closed down quick enough and at the back post was Royals old boy Jay Tabb to force a decent save out of McCarthy, but after the Reading backline failed to clear, the midfielder slammed home an opener from ten yards. Tabb did not score once for Reading in four and a half years, but managed to get off the mark for the Tractors Boys early on.
To say that the hosts looked rattled was an understatement; the system was imploding, as the home fans at the Madejski grew increasingly frustrated. Fans were moaning at the side playing it backwards, but were still not pleased when we opted to play direct into the channels - the players couldn`t win! Despite this, Adkins` side drew level with an undeserved equaliser just before half time.
A Reading corner was half-cleared by the Ipswich backline, as it fell to Garath McCleary on the left, who delivered a fine inswinging delivery, which Adam Le Fondre got his head onto, despite pressure from two Ipswich defenders. The goal seemed to give the side a wake-up call and went for a second in first half injury time, but McCleary`s strike was well-handled by Scott Loach.
Reading looked a different side in the second period and looked much more dangerous in the final third. McCleary looked very sluggish in the first half, but was causing lots of problems in the second, almost giving the Royals the lead early on, but after working his way into the box, the winger`s effort from a tight angle did not trouble Loach in the Ipswich goal.
Mick McCarthy`s side were still a threat on the break though and lightening almost struck twice, as Jay Tabb`s low effort almost caught of McCarthy at his near post. Royston Drenthe was giving hints at what he is capable of and following a superb flick from McCleary, he drove down the left side with great acceleration and put a low cross in, but Robson-Kanu`s smart flick trickled just wide.
Scott Loach wasn`t the only one who had to be aware, Alex McCarthy had to be about his wits to keep out a firm David McGoldrick effort on the hour mark. Drenthe was starting to get more joy in the final quarter and forced two saves out of Loach, firstly a fairly tame left footed effort, before the former England under 21 international rushed out to thwart the former Real Madrid man.
Most of the second half action was being played in the Ipswich half, as Reading were growing in confidence and the goal duly came 15 minutes from time. Danny Guthrie went on a superb individual run minutes before, but bettered this with a speculative 30-yard drive, which took a harsh deflection and looped over Loach to give Reading a second, completing the turnaround.
The Tractor Boys pushed from kick off and put the Royals under some notable pressure for the first time in the half, but the team stood firm. Substitute Paul Anderson had a firm header well held by McCarthy in injury time, but Reading had the opportunity to put the game to bed, as a four-on-two man break was not profited by Guthrie, who took the wrong option.
Either way, it was still an opening win for Reading, a first since the victory over Middlesbrough, back in 2006. The first half was one to forget, but the second was much improved, with some signs of what he can be capable of when it all clicks. Guthrie, McCarthy, Bridge and Drenthe were the best players on the pitch yesterday; Tabby also had a great game. Now time to focus on Bolton this Saturday.
Reading: McCarthy, Gunter, Bridge, Morrison (C), Pearce, Karacan, Guthrie, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, Drenthe, Le Fondre
Subs: Federci, Gorkss, Kelly, Williams, Obita, McAnuff, Pogrebnyak
Ipswich: Loach, Hewitt, Chambers, Smith, Edwards (C), Skuse, Tabb, Mings , Hyam, McGoldrick, Murphy
Subs: Gerken Berra, Anderson, Tunnicliffe, Veseli, Gerken, Taylor, Nouble