JOHN SMITH: We began our travels on the road for the season at the same venue we had ended the last one with a victory just 15 weeks ago.
However, unlike in the George Formby film, it failed to ‘turn out nice again’ and this time we went down to a single goal scored 10 minutes before the break. We started the game in the late summer sunshine at a pedestrian pace more akin to that of a pre-season friendly and were on the back foot for most of the half. And it was no surprise when the home side eventually did take the lead. In the first half, Reading controlled the midfield and this resulted in a substitution at half-time in a bid to get a foothold in the game. The change of formation appeared to give us more balance and increase our attacking options as we finally managed to put a bit of pressure on the opposition defence. Reading had shown some quality before the interval but in the second half they looked ordinary. With little to excite them, the home fans switched their attention into voicing their opinions on the North/South divide, while some North End fans in a lively travelling contingent decided to entertain themselves with a bit of crowd surfing. It was a game I feel we could have taken a point out of, had last season’s lack of goals on the pitch not returned to haunt us with our best chance coming when Daniel Johnson had a shot saved from 10 yards out. My man of the match was Anders Lindegaard who made a couple of fine saves to keep us in the game as well as charging upfield for a corner in added time in a vain attempt to salvage a point.
JOHN ROPER: Not the start to the season North End were looking for as we went down 1-0 at the Madejski in front of about a thousand of the travelling faithful. This was certainly a game of contrasting halves as far as North End were concerned, with the first half being as poor as I have seen us for a while in the opening game of the season. Having said that it is only fair to take into account the way the home side played and Reading certainly dominated for long periods. After the break, and with a change of formation, we were much more like our usual selves and had two excellent chances to score as we started to move into the ascendancy. But in spite of our efforts and a very frantic ending we just could not make it count and were left to lick our wounds and to put things right next week. The key aspect of the first of this game was the amount of possession that Reading enjoyed. This was strange, really, because we played 3-5-2 and so should have had plenty of the ball in the middle of the park but the 4-3-3 that the home side played had us all over the place and I lost count of the number of times that the Reading wide forwards got in between our wing-backs, Cunningham and Grimshaw, only to threaten in the box where Huntington, Wright and Clarke stood firm. To be fair to Liam Grimshaw he was well off the pace of the game and needs many more miles in those legs before we can hope to see the best of him. In the centre of the park we were okay on the ball but the Gallagher-Pringle-Johnson engine room looks very light in the tackle winning department on the evidence of the first 45 minutes and just underlined the fact that every team needs a spoiler or a ball winner in the middle of the pitch. It was no surprise when Reading took the lead because they had been threatening for a while and Swift, who scored the goal, looks a very useful loan player for the Royals having come in from Chelsea. After the break we went 4-4-2 with Grimshaw coming off to be replaced by Alan Browne, who I thought did a great job, spoiling and picking up the loose stuff to get North End on the attack again. Daniel Johnson burst through in the inside-left position but his one on one shot was saved by Al Habsi who was excellent in goal for Reading. Three home games now to put things right, including the League Cup tie, and I am sure we will be aiming to do just that.