Match report: Reading 1 PNE 0

Preston North End's wait for an opening-day victory stretched to an eighth season as they went down to defeat to Reading at the Madejski Stadium.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 6th August 2016, 2:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:14 pm
Reading v PNE
Reading v PNE

John Swift's 35th minute goal settled the contest in the Royals' favour, the former Chelsea striker producing a fine finish from a Gareth McCleary corner.

The Lilywhites were poor in the first half, with them sat deep for much of the time.

That said, Jermaine Beckford did get the ball in the net early on, only to see it ruled out after a handball in the build-up by Joe Garner.

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In the second period, North End improved considerably, helped by a change of formation from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2.

Daniel Johnson, Joe Garner, Paul Gallagher and Greg Cunningham all had chances but could not find the net.

Simon Grayson had started with three at the back and wing-backs, Liam Grimshaw handed a competitive debut at right wing-back.

Grimshaw, it has to be said, did not look comfortable in that role and was replaced at the interval by Alan Browne.

Simon Makienok was absent with a slight thigh injury, while John Welsh and Ben Pearson missed out on the 18-man match day squad.

The first half was bossed by Reading who deservedly took a lead into the interval.

North End did have the ball in the net in the 13th minute, Beckford firing home from close range but the effort was ruled out after Garner was adjudged to have brought the ball down with his arm when setting-up his strike partner.

Soon after, a 25-yard shot from Garner whistled wide of the target.

Steadily, the Royals took a grip of the action, pinning Preston back with their movement across the front.

Swift dragged a shot wide after getting on the end of Chris Gunter's pull back, then Deniss Rakels got his angles all wrong when meeting a Roy Beerens cross, the Latvian striker's header going well wide.

The home side appealed for a penalty when Paul Huntington blocked a Beerens shot, referee Andy Davies ignoring the shouts and waving play on.

Reading's opener came in the 35th minute and was deserved to say the least.

McCleary cut a corner from the right into the path of Swift who met it first time with a good finish into the top corner of the net from 14 yards.

Preston looked for an equaliser, Gallagher's free-kick headed back across goal by Tom Clarke with home keeper Ali Al Habsi getting there before Beckford.

In the run-up to half-time, George Evans twice had shots from the edge of the box which were dealt with easily by Lindegaard.

Half-time saw a change of formation and a substitution, Browne replacing Grimshaw who had struggled in the wing-back role.

North End went to a 4-4-2 formation - Clarke moving to right-back, with Pringle and Gallagher moving into wider midfield positions.

It prompted a better show at the start of the second period, Beckford chasing a Daniel Johnson pass to the byline and seeing his low cross blocked.

In the 54th minute, space opened up for Johnson to advance into the box and gon one-on-one with Al Habsi but his low shot was parried by the keeper, the midfielder perhaps should have done better.

Garner looped a header over the bar after meeting Gallagher's inswinging cross, the striker perhaps getting too much contact with the ball when a glance would have sufficed.

It should have been 2-0 a couple of minutes later, Reading catching North End on the break.

Swift got away down the right and his low ball into the box picked out Rakels.

He had only Lindegaard to beat but the Danish keeper got down well to spread himself and block Rakels' shot.

North End suffered a blow when Clarke went off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, Chris Humphrey replacing him at the back.

Jordan Hugill replaced Garner for the last 13 minutes as Grayson refreshed the forward line.

Chances came Preston's way as the contact moved into the closing stages, Johnson lifting a shot too high from 20 yards after being fed by Pringle's pass.

With 83 minutes on the clock, Pringle whipped over a free-kick from the left channel which Huntington flicked on, Greg Cunningham inches away from applying a finish at the far post.

Substitute Browne then tricked his way past a couple of challenges on the right, lifting a cross into the box which eventually fell to Gallagher, his shot blocked by a defender.

During six minutes of stoppage-time, North End laid siege to the Reading box - Lindegaard going up for a corner at one stage.

But ultimately, the pressure could not be turned into goals and they were left empty-handed in Berkshire.

Reading: Al Habsi, McCleary (Harriott 72), Van Der Berg, McShane, Gunter, Evans, Williams, Obita (Watson 66), Beerens, Swift, Rakels (Kermorgant 81). Subs (not used): Cooper, Meite, Kelly, Jaakkola.

PNE: Lindegaard, Clarke (Humphrey 72), Huntington, Wright, Grimshaw (Browne 46), Pringle, Gallagher, Johnson, Cunningham, Beckford, Garner (Hugill 77). Subs (not used): Doyle, Spurr, Robinson, Maxwell.

Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire)

Attendance: 15,764 (1,000 PNE)