When the fixture list was drawn, many fans had written off this game as a defeat before the real fun could begin at home to Ipswich a week later. Granted, the fun of a huge M6 gridlock had left many fans unable to comfortably make it to the DW Stadium- I myself entered the ground 7 minutes in. The teams saw Adam Federici start between the sticks, with Shaun Cummings in at left-back as Jordan Obita started in the midfielder. Ryan Edwards made his debut and Simon Cox was on the bench.
Wigan: Carson, Taylor (Fortune 80), Riera, Huws, McManaman, McArthur, Boyce (c), Cowie, Perch, Kiernan, Waghorn (Maloney 64).
Subs not used: Al Habsi, Tavernier, Ramis, Fyvie, Barnett.
Reading: Federici, Gunter (c), Cummings, Pearce, Morrison; Hector, Obita, Taylor (Cox 60), Blackman, Edwards (Guthrie 60), Pogrebnyak.
Subs not used: McCarthy, Akpan, Stacey, Kuhl, Tanner.
With fans still making their way into the ground for the first 15, a relatively event-less opening suited the early season encounter. The first real chance of the match fell to Reading, via an under-hit backpass from Emerson Boyce, whose header trickled to Pavel Pogrebnyak. The Russian did well to spot Aussie debutant Ryan Edwards, whose well placed shot was smartly stopped by Scott Carson.
Wigan pressure was comfortably dealt with as the first half continued, Shaun Cummings was assured at left back and Reading held their own when penned in by possession football.
Yet, as with the goals conceded in pre-season, the counter was where The Royals looked vulnerable. So it proved when Morrison and Cummings were tangled in an offside trap that failed to prevent Callum McManaman from racing down the left. The dangerous winger's shot was well saved by Federici in goal, and Waghorn's effort was subsequently blocked. Unfortunately, that bounced kindly for the Wigan man to find McManaman who lightly chipped Feds in goal, and Michael Hector's header on the line was to no avail.
1-0 Wigan, then, and despite some Reading pressure the half-time whistle rang to cheers from an increasingly cushy home crowd.
The 2nd half saw the away team set up on a different mandate, another conceded and it'd be a wasted journey. Reading were in no time for that, as Jordan Obita was given the freedom to press down the left uncovering Wigan's 4-3-3. Plenty of time and space out wide allowed Reading to whip in some dangerous crosses, and a direct Blackman run eventually found Hector- who drove his shot into a crowd of Wigan bodies.
On the hour, Nigel Adkins played his two trump cards. Jake Taylor and Ryan Edwards had done OK, but were subbed off for the experienced duo Guthrie, and new signing Simon Cox. The ex-Forest striker, playing in behind The Pog, instantly chose his first act as a returning Royal. After a neat run he tested the keeper from 30, and it would be from a similar position that Reading got back into the match.
Shaun Cummings took a gamble to cut in onto his natural right-foot, and Hector laid him on to shoot from outside the area. The expertly guided shot rolled pleasingly into the corner and 699 travelling fans erupted, along with a few new faces in the directors box.
Reading were completely dominant for this lengthy period- and after the goal it continued. First, Nick Blackman struck the post that Cummings's shot evaded from inside the D. Then, as a free-kick 30 yards from Carson's goal looked perfect for the left-foot of Obita, Guthrie took contro. The playmaker flighted a diagonal ball to Alex Pearce, whose header across goal found Sean Morrison to score Reading's 2nd.
A typical training ground move, prepared for our 2 centre-backs who had been comfortable with aerial balls all day, had paid off. Reading got even more comfortable when Wigan pressed, as the home team made errant passes and Reading broke up the play with antics in the corner and throw-in delays.
Wigan generally made no chances, and Reading looked like a classy outfit who had learned how to win. But, alas, Wigan scored as McArthur found space in the area to guide the ball past keeper Federici. The away team, fans and players alike, stood dumbfounded. Bar some late shambles regarding a Wigan head injury, the game was up.
It is 2 points lost to a good team and it is a hard hit to take. But, the first game of the season matters not in points, but in performance. Play like that for the next few months and Reading will find themselves within touching distance of the play-offs, and from then anything could happen.
It's 89 reasons for hope because after a summer of gloom around The Mad Stad, when the big kick-off came Reading were far from disappointing, and bar a minute or so of madness, this was an excellent display on day one.
What were your thoughts on the game? Feel free to leave a comment below, and make sure to check out Marc's player ratings here.