This fixture is always a weird one for me; I love and hate playing Wolves. I desperately want Reading to win (as I always do), but a good result for us would make me feel guilty because my other half is a massive Wolves fan. Before I met my boyfriend, we had a reasonably good recent record against the Midlands side. But our previous three meetings prior to Saturday had resulted in a draw and two losses for Reading, with the Royals failing to score in over 270 minutes of football. For the sake of my dignity I was praying this run was going to come to an end.
Jaap Stam once again changed Reading's midfield, with Joey van den Berg returning to the side after a spell away with injury and Adrian Popa grabbing a start on the right wing in place of Liam Kelly and an unfit Garath McCleary respectively. Paul Lambert made six changes to his starting line up which were beaten comfortably at home by Birmingham the week previous.
An Uninspiring First Half
I've been writing for The Tilehurst End now for five years, and I'm not sure I've ever struggled so much to write about a first half of football like I've struggled trying to write about the first half of football on Saturday. I think the first shot of the game came in about the 40th minute, and both teams looked particularly uninspiring for the entire first half. The closest Wolves came to a goal was when Ali Al-Habsi held a loose ball on the line. But rather than this being a waste of your time reading this match report, here are a few facts about the place that I spend a lot of my time.
Wolverhampton is a (wonderful) city named after Lady Wulfruna in the heart of the West Midlands, and translates roughly to 'Wulfruna's town on the hill'. In fact, Wolverhampton has the highest City Centre in the UK (394ft above sea level) and in 1927 was the first place in the country to have automatic traffic lights. Wolverhampton Wanderers were also the first football team in England to play against the Soviet Union, Molineux was one of the first stadia to get floodlights installed and Wolves legend Billy Wright was the first player in the world to reach 100 caps for his country.
Enlightened? I thought you might be.
A Gritty Win
My boyfriend warned me that Wolves would come out stronger in the second half, and I've known him for long enough now to know he wouldn't put me wrong. However, I thought he could've been wearing some old-gold tinted glasses after Yann Kermorgant stuck a foot out and diverted Danny Williams' shot away from Wolves' keeper Carl Ikeme in the 48th minute.
Just as I was messaging my other half to rub salt in the wounds a little bit, Wolves only went up the other end and levelled the score just two minutes after Kermorgant's opener. Probably serves me right.
Wolves continued to put pressure on our back line, making it difficult for Reading to play our usual possession football. They were trying desperately to take all three points back to the West Midlands, which would have put some daylight between themselves and the bottom three. However, I don't believe it looked like Wolves would ever score another one, it was just a question of whether Reading could find a winner.
Thankfully that winner came from Paul McShane's head 12 minutes from time after a cracking free kick from John Swift. My boyfriend was convinced it wasn't a free kick, but I'm pretty sure it was.
That ugly but gritty win leaves Reading fifth in the Championship, and still in a very strong position for the final 11 games of the season. I think van den Berg had one of his best games in a Reading shirt, and Adrian Popa's strength and pace on the ball was definitely promising. We made hard work of it, but I'd quite happily take wins like that until the end of the season.
It's exciting being up there; an unexpected impatience to find out what our fate is going to be when none of us at the start of the season could ever imagine we would be as successful as we have been. Newcastle is going to be seriously tough on Tuesday and we're going to have to play much better than we did on Saturday, but I'd snap your hand off if you offered Reading a point now.
I'm pleased to say that the result hasn't affected my relationship in any way; he's happy to put up with me until at least the next time we play against each other. I hope they don't go down for the sake of my boyfriend (hoping that earns me some girlfriend points), but I can definitely get over the guilt knowing I've finally seen us beat the Wolves for the first time in a while!