New arrival Chris Martin was given his first outing as a Royal on Saturday against Millwall – but it wasn’t the result he was hoping for, as goals three minutes apart earned a 2-0 win for the Lions.
Martin, who is approaching his 300th game in this division, knows just how punishing the Championship can be if teams get their noses in front.
Millwall’s opener will go down as a Leandro Bacuna own goal, as Mahlon Romeo’s cross deflected cruelly off the Royals man and into the net when the Royals were looking the likelier… and the second followed soon after, as Lee Gregory grabbed and opportunistic second.
“Strangely I thought we were having our best spell before they scored, and they scored against the run of play,” Martin reflected.
“They obviously had their spells during the game and they are a very tough team to play against as we know. But when they scored on the break, I thought we were having our best period – which makes it tougher to take.
“We needed that luck at the other end! We know that the first goal in the Championship can be crucial, especially against a team like Millwall which can be extremely tough to beat. They battle for every ball and when you give them something to hang onto, they are an even tougher proposition.
“Fair play to them. When they went into the lead they managed the game extremely well – they grabbed another goal and saw it out well. But from our point of view it’s extremely disappointing, and with the way the first goal went in, it makes it more galling.
“You have to bounce back in the Championship – it’s a ruthless and relentless division, and the games come thick and fast. We need to pick ourselves up and go again.
“We need to learn from it, and I’m sure we’ll have our meetings in the coming days to figure our what we did well and what we didn’t do so well, and move on quickly.
“Everyone is fighting at the moment but we’re still in a tough position. So we need to make sure we’re fully concentrated and try our best to get out as quickly as possible.”
And Martin hopes he can work his way into greater involvement, and to contribute at the top end of the pitch.
“I felt a little bit rusty today – I’ve not had a great deal of football in the last six weeks,” he continued. “Hopefully I can work up to playing a bit longer and bed my way in.
“It’s another tough game away at Middlesbrough next week, who are going well at the moment. The games come thick and fast and we know how tough they’ll be… but if we pick ourselves up and go again, I’m sure we’ll have enough quality.”