Reading 3 Middlesbrough 2: Coppell's desire for low profile lost on roller-coaster

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The Independent Football

If there are more discreet ways of going about the job of persevering one's Premiership status, someone should tell Reading. The division's newcomers showed a glimpse of what they have in store for fellow top-flight sides with a fine, battling win.

After allowing Middlesbrough the relative security of a two-goal lead, Steve Coppell's team cast off the close-season cobwebs to take all three points. Reading seem to have blown their element of surprise a little early, even though captain Graeme Murty thinks otherwise.

"Hopefully this season the less people that take notice of us the better, we want to rise up the table stealthily while remaining the underdogs in almost every match," he said.

"I think we tried too hard at first, chasing the ball and the players but when we went 2-0 down we relaxed and my team-mates' attitudes staggered me. We kept our heads up and played to our potential, we started scoring and did not want the first half to end."

Middlesbrough started this game brightly and, with 21 minutes gone, Gareth Southgate's team was two-goals up. Stewart Downing put them ahead with a volley after 11 minutes. Aiyegbeni Yakubu added a second after Reading's American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann spilled a free-kick from Fabio Rochemback which was slotted easily into the goal. All was going to plan for the Teessiders. But the Premiership newcomers had other plans. Coppell spent much of last season refusing to acknowledge where his team, who waltzed to the Championship title by a massive 16 points, were placed in the table.

No doubt, he will adopt his customary coy and guarded approach, but even he must know that Reading's position in the Premiership with one game gone is higher than where many people predict they will finish at the end of the season. "It wasn't a good start by us in the first 20 minutes, we were nervous and anxious," said the Reading manager. "After the first two goals we started to relax and played some good football.

"At half-time the players were aware that we had achieved little as it was all-square, so we had plenty of work to put in to win the game and we performed admirably against seasoned professionals."

Reading's comeback began after they conceded their second goal. They bullied Middlesbrough and with just two minutes remaining before the interval, they made the breakthrough.

Out on the right the hard-working Seol Ki-Hyeon delivered a low cross past Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer as Dave Kitson slid in for the club's first Premiership goal. Moments later, and with the crowd stoked up by the goal, Reading equalised. The full-back Nicky Shorey's cross from the other flank found Steve Sidwell, who side-footed home past Schwarzer.

There was no let-up in Reading's tempo in the second half. Ten minutes after the interval, they deservedly got the winner when Leroy Lita smashed the ball home after a goal-mouth scramble. It may not have been pretty, but it was enough.

Boro summoned a late surge for an equaliser but had a Mark Viduka goal disallowed for a dubious offside call. Southgate criticised the official's decision. "I've seen the replay and it was definitely onside, but some days it goes for us and sometimes it doesn't.

"It was a roller-coaster of a game and we had a few great opportunities to win the match but we didn't take them. We relaxed and invited pressure on to us."

Goals: Downing (11) 0-1; Yakubu (21) 0-2; Kitson (43) 2-1; Sidwell (44) 2-2; Lita (55) 3-2.

Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko; Ki-Hyeon (Hunt, 83), Sidwell, Harper, Convey (Gunnarsson, 83); Doyle, Kitson (Lita, h-t). Substitutes not used: Stack (gk), Oster.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Pogatetz, Riggott, Arca (Davies, h-t), Morrison (Johnson, 84), Rochemback (Mendieta, 68), Boateng, Downing; Viduka, Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Maccarone.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Reading Sidwell; Middlesbrough Riggott, Rochemback, Boateng.

Man of the match: Ki-Hyeon.

Attendance: 23,855.

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