I walked to the ground with two Blackpool fans who had supported the team for over 35 years. Tales of ownership problems, lack of Investment, embarrassing pitch and broken promises were familiar tales of gloom. However they said we have renewed our season tickets and will be back next year. Good on them. Proper Supporters.
Outside the Ground the mounted Police seemed a tad excessive for the one Huntsman coach. Not needed for us but the 50 or 60 disgruntled Blackpool fans expressing through egg throwing the frustration spoken to me earlier. Inside the ground it was eerily quiet with just the travelling fans making any noise during the warm up. With all this negativity around Bloomfield Road and just 9,600 in attendance it would surely be three points for the Royals…
The away following of 200 or so was a good turnout for a 450 mile midweek round trip. Hats off to all who made the journey. Our main talking point was the four changes made from the Cardiff game. Opinions mixed on the need for points, resting players and that Cup game. The need for three points and a strong team was the majority view around me and concern that we wouldn’t get anything from the game.
Before kick off the applause for Blackpool legend Ron Suart was generously supported too by our fans. With Reading passing the ball well in first few minutes our earlier fears seemed to be misplaced. How wrong we were. Zat Knight with plenty of time misplaced his header back to Feds and pulled back Madine. Steve Clarke said no penalty but not one us in agreement with his view. Feds sent wrong way by O’Hara and we are suddenly 1-0 down against a relegated team.
Our Tuesday evening performances then came to the fore. Misplaced passes, lack of quality with final delivery and getting caught on the break. It could have been worse as from a Reading corner Blackpool broke with a 3 on 2. Luckily the quality of the pitch came to our rescue as the telling pass hit a bobble and allowed us to clear. Gareth McCleary took a booking for the team when a similar situation arose following a misplaced Norwood pass. Relieved we got to half-time just 1-0 down.
The Lancashire Police had good sense of humour when discussing the first half performance with them. 'You're lucky' they replied, 'we have to watch this every fortnight!'. Our pain this season clearly greater than theirs though as we watch our erratic performance every week.
Changes were urgently needed and the introduction at start of second half of Pog and Mackie for McCleary and Appiah were warmly greeted. An immediate effect too. Pog won the ball out left and drove powerfully into the area his cross driven hard by the Yak into Hall and we are level 1-1 . The power of the shot did for Hall and after a lengthy stoppage he departed. A similar stoppage and then a goal keeper change for Blackpool took all the momentum out of that explosive start to second half. The travelling support did a great job of getting behind the team but clear cut chances were just not being created.
With a groan for 8 minutes of stoppage time there was one final chance that fell to Pog. He got his angles all wrong and headed wide from 6 yards which perfectly summed up the second half. A point shared but two points dropped in an ugly horrible game .The sunny afternoon mood a long distant memory as the final whistle blew.
Credit Where It's Due
To the credit of the whole squad though they came across to the stand and generously applauded the away support. A collective disappointment on all faces that although 10 points clear it is still not mathematically safe. But it should be safe enough was the fans verdict as we made our way back to the car park and past the Blackpool fans still expressing their anger at the owners. We left them to their frustration and headed out of the car park for the long 4 hour drive home.
One final word on the pitch. I am riding the Paris-Roubaix sportive this weekend over the famous cobbled stones. I am expecting that to be smoother than the surface we saw this evening.