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16:58 7th August 2010

Report: Royals beaten by Iron

Reading 1 (Sigurdsson 26)
Scunthorpe 2 (Thompson 9, Jones 60)

The Royals suffered a disappointing start to the 2010/11 npower Championship season with a 2-1 home defeat to a resilient Scunthorpe outfit.

The visitors took the lead in controversial fashion early on; Garry Thompson's goal allowed to stand after though the linesman's flag went up - although referee Fred Graham made the correct call in overrulling his assistant. In any event, United were grateful for a stroke of good fortune as Jonathan Forte's cross was going in completely the other direction before hitting Andy Griffin and falling to Thompson.

A wonderful Gylfi Sigurdsson goal got us back on level terms, the Icelander scoring a sumptuous equaliser from fully 25 yards midway through the first half.

We dug deep to look for the lead, but it was United who stole the advantage somewhat against the run of play, Rob Jones powering home a header from a corner.

Sigurdsson clipped the bar with a free kick late on, and sub Simon Church had a good sight of goal from Jimmy Kebe's cross, but it was not to be; our cause not aided by the fact we were effectively playing with nine men; Shane Long and Matt Mills bravely battling through injury after we had used all three substitutes.

So all in all, United had not read the script and despite our best efforts it was the visitors who took the spoils on this opening day of the new campaign.

Reading (4-2-3-1): Federici; Griffin, Williams, Mills (c), Pearce; Gunnarsson (Tabb 59), Karacan (Church 70); McAnuff (Antonio 75), Kebe, Sigurdsson; Long
Subs: Hamer, Howard, Robson-Kanu, Rasiak

Scunthorpe (4-4-2): Murphy; McNulty, Nolan, Jones, Mirfin (Raynes 51); O'Connor (Wright 89), Togwell (c), Wright, Thompson; Dagnall (Woolford 73), Forte
Subs: Slocombe, Canavan, Collins, Grant
Booked: Thompson (timewasting 90)

Attendance: 15,914 (656 away)

Ref: F Graham

Team news
Brian McDermott sent his team out in the favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, with Shane Long given the nod up front; Brynjar Gunnarsson and Jem Karacan handed starts in midfield. Jimmy Kebe was passed fit but Noel Hunt missed out.

First half
After last season's two draws with Scunthorpe, we know they are a resilient outfit who can certainly cause plenty of problems, and so it proved when they took the lead with only nine minutes gone.

We started brightly, but Jonathan Forte did well down the left hand side, evaded Matt Mills and pulled back a cross from the byline that came off Andy Griffin, fell very kindly into the path of Garry Thompson and he diverted it in. The linesman on the far side put his flag up, but the referee overruled him - the cross had come off Griffin, and Thompson was not offside in any event so it was the correct call from the referee but still a slightly fortunate opener for the visitors.

An away goal was certainly not in the script, and we had to dig deep to get ourselves back in the game.

Our equaliser was a quite superb goal from last season's player of the year Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelander has a way of making the sublime look exceptionally simple, and he danced insde a defender 25 yards from goal before lashing superbly past Joe Murphy in the Scunthorpe net.

Almost immediately Jobi McAnuff went on a good run from the left wing and whipped in a decent effort that was not too far wide. Scunthorpe were not dead though, and a very good low cross from the left evaded everyone in the middle.

Second half
Soon after the restart there was a long delay as United defender David Mirfin went down in his own area with what looked to be a shoulder or collarbone injury; the United man later taken to hospital as a result.

We were upping the ante, and McAnuff hit an effort that was certainly goalbound but just hit a defender and flew over the bar as we began to build some momentum.

But, once again, Scunthorpe showed resilience and only some excellent defending from Andy Griffin prevented a four-on-one break in United's favour from the resulting corner.

The visitors then got themselves back in the lead; Michael O'Connor's right wing corner drilled to the back post; big defender Rob Jones powering in a header that gave Adam Federici no chance in the Reading goal.

We were again forced to look for a way back into the game, and Sigurdsson clipped the very top of the bar with a whipped free kick from just outside the area.

Sub Simon Church then had a very good opening from Jimmy Kebe's low cross, but elected to sidefoot it when perhaps power would have been the better option; Murphy able to save down low to his left.

With all three subs on, Shane Long picked up a knock but was forced to bravely battle on when clearly not fit, then the same happened to Matt Mills and we were effectively down to nine fully fit players.

Church was unlucky with another effort from a low Kebe cross, Murphy able to save at his feet.

With six minutes of injury time added, sub Michail Antonio showed great footwork in the box and perhaps could have gone down for a spot kick but elected to stay on his feet. And sadly a Scunthorpe man snuffed out the danger before Antonio could pull the trigger.

Sigurdsson then tried his luck again from outside the box but Murphy was able to watch it over the bar. Mills had to hobble though the last five minutes as a makeshift striker and Reading couldn't find an equaliser with only nine fit men on the field.

So it was clearly a disappointing first game, but credit the visitors for capitalising on their opportunities and managing to keep us at arm's length. As the boss said afterwards, we will learn from this and there are 45 games still to go.
    Data provided by Press Association