The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Les Scott

BIRM­ING­HAM boss Gary Rowett con­ceded his team were for­tu­nate to make a win­ning start to the new sea­son and owed a debt of grat­i­tude to a for­mer St An­drew’s vil­lain To­masz Kuszczak.

A decade ago 33-year-old Kuszczak was lin­ing up down the road for West Brom, but a last-gasp save on his de­but, fol­low­ing his sum­mer move from Wolves, saw the Blues off to the per­fect start.

And Rowett ac­knowl­edged his team had a lucky es­cape.

“But for a piece of bril­liant goal­keep­ing from To­masz Kuszczak we would be talk­ing a draw here in­stead of a good start to the sea­son,” said the for­mer Bur­ton boss.

“It was a great game for the neu­tral, par­tic­u­larly in the sec­ond half which was more open.

“We started well, played de­cent football and de­served to be ahead. But one of our prob­lems is we tend to drop into a lit­tle com­pla­cency, we did and Read­ing made us pay.

“I have told the play­ers we can’t get our­selves in the sit­u­a­tion we did, let­ting the op­po­si­tion get in the po­si­tions they did and run at us the way they did when de­fend­ing a slim lead in time added.

“To a cer­tain de­gree we were lucky to get all three points.”

The new sea­son was less than a minute old when the highly-rated De­marai Gray cut in from the left only for his low drive to be de­flected be­hind off Michael Hec­tor.

Busy and brisk in both thought and in­ter­play hav­ing weath­ered the early storm, Read­ing grew in con­fi­dence.

Or­lando Sa was fouled by by on­loan Ar­se­nal midfielder Jon Toral. Oliver Nor­wood took the re­sul­tant free­kick and his ris­ing ef­fort tar­nished the fresh paint on Kuszczak’s cross­bar.

Read­ing came close to tak­ing the lead when Sa’s close-range ef­fort was par­ried by Kuszczak and the loose ball sent into or­bit cour­tesy of Michael Mor­ri­son.

The home side took the lead fol­low­ing a foul on Clay­ton Don­ald­son. The lively David Cot­ter­ill took it upon him­self to take the free-kick and his 20-yard ef­fort clipped a shoul­der in the Read­ing wall and was still ris­ing when it evaded the prodi­gious leap of Jonathan Bond.

Birm­ing­ham picked up the same script in the sec­ond pe­riod and were re­warded for their pos­i­tive ap­proach in the 47th minute. Hec­tor wanted too much time on the ball, Don­ald­son picked his pocket and his pin­point cross from the left was headed un­err­ingly home by the tow­er­ing Toral.

Read­ing re­fused to wilt and cut back the deficit with a finely worked goal on 58 min­utes. Chris Gunter’s well-mea­sured cross from the right be­ing firmly met by Nick Blackman’s fore­head.

Des­per­ate to re­trieve some­thing, Read­ing were given hope five min­utes into added time when Jonathan Spec­tor was ad­judged to have fouled sub­sti­tute Si­mon Cox in­side the box.

Up-stepped Sa, but his spot-kick was bril­liantly par­ried by Kuszczak at the foot of his post and Cox skewed the re­bound across the face of goal.

“I’m very dis­ap­pointed to play the way we did and come away with noth­ing,” said Read­ing boss Steve Clarke. “Their first goal took a de­flec­tion. Ok their sec­ond came from a mis­take by one of our de­fend­ers, but over­all I felt we de­served at least a point.

“We had 20 ef­forts at goal, which tells its own story. As for the penalty miss and sub­se­quent miss from the re­bound, yes, that was dis­ap­point­ing and cost us.

“This is a very com­pet­i­tive league, ar­guably more com­pet­i­tive than the Premier League be­cause no one can safely pre­dict who will fin­ish in the top six. Ev­ery game will be close. “If I have one mes­sage for Read­ing fans it is, we will play worse than that and win this sea­son.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

CURLER: David Cot­ter­ill opens the scor­ing with a fine free-kick



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