"We have days of destiny ahead of us," said the Leicester City chairman, Vichai Raksriaksorn, in the match programme, and you can smell the expectation in the Leicestershire air.
"Bloody rubbish" shouted one fan as the whistle blew on a goalless first half, and he was not much happier an hour later. As the game restarted after Hal Robson-Kanu's late goal had cemented the win for Reading, the sound of flipseats emptying reverberated around the stadium, and those who stayed booed loudly at the final whistle. Taunted earlier, the travelling support took the chance to remind their affluent hosts how little their manager Brian McDermott had spent this summer.
In fact, he had spent the past few days reassuring fans that his side could cope without last season's top scorer Shane Long, sold to West Bromwich Albion for £6.5m this week. McDermott and they were rewarded with two neatly taken goals to cap a tidy performance. Noel Hunt put Reading ahead on 64 minutes, when Ian Harte's fizzing corner made straight for him at the near post and asked for only a slight twist of the neck to be turned goalwards, and Robson-Kanu side-footed home from the edge of the area, having replaced Mathieu Manset with 20 minutes remaining.
By then Reading had survived a blistering start to the second half. Perhaps addressed by their manager along the same lines as the unhappy fan, Leicester came out eager to get the first goal. David Nugent hit the post within a few minutes of the restart, before substitute Andy King's edge-of-the-box effort was pushed over the bar by the Reading goalkeeper, Adam Federici, and moments later Neil Danns shot wide after a quickly taken free-kick gave him a free run towards the penalty area.
The match had taken a while to clunk into gear. Manset shot just wide of Kasper Schmeichel's left post almost 20 minutes in, having danced the Leicester City defence back to their 18-yard line with a string of stepovers, but it was his simple layoff for Jobi McAnuff two minutes later that set up the best chance of the half. Reading had pinged the ball neatly down the left before the young striker received the ball in the middle and tapped it back to his captain, whose shot rifled into Schmeichel's legs and looped away. In the opening 45 minutes Leicester fans had to satisfy themselves with a few half-chances – Danns, Jeffrey Schlupp and Matt Mills all had shots blocked in the box. After last week's draw with Millwall, the speed or lack of it of Reading's defence had been a topic of conversation but it was just before half time that Leicester broke through it for the first time, when Nugent ran on to Dann's pass but shot wide.
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