Look, can I just shock you? I didn’t go to the game. I can’t give you any experience of the matchday atmosphere because I wasn’t physically there. Nothing I am about to tell you relates to the Whitley Bowl (what I call the Mad Stad) or the surrounding area.
What I CAN give you is an armchair fan’s guide to this game. So if you want to stop reading right now and go and watch a repeat of The Martin Lewis Money Show (easily the best factual programme on TV right now), that’s fine.
If you’re still with me, great. The fact it was on ‘proper’ TV (ie not the red button) was pleasing, as was the build up to the game from Glenn Murray and Michael Br*wn (a chap I still haven’t forgiven for his days as being a paid thug in a workmanlike Leeds midfield). Scott Minto is easily one of the most underrated anchors on Sky Sports, infinitely better than that a**ehole Prutton, so the 30 minutes or so prior to kick off passed reasonably quickly.
As they continued to show shots of the South Reading Mega Plex filling up slowly, I wondered when Our Saviour Mark Bowen would appear. Sure enough, he arrived on screen in immaculate attire (suit jacket, cashmere v-neck and tie - soooooo European) and spoke about the positivity around the team.
I was struck by both the texture and neatness of his beard and the way he discussed ‘us’ rather than ‘them’, instead focusing on what we could do rather than what Leeds could do. On a separate note, it was great to see Chris Gunter out on the pitch. I know he divides opinion, but I really do feel he adds value and experience to the team and has never really put a foot wrong.
The game started at a reasonably quick pace. Leeds built an attack within the first minute which, luckily, didn’t set the tone for the first half. Reading then hit back with a deliciously naughty ball into the box that Puscas couldn’t connect with. Things then settled down a bit, with the commentators finding the time within the first 10 minutes to discuss Bowen’s appointment. What I deeply enjoy about these little sound bites is the way they talk about it is if they were there at the time, so sure of the information they’ve been given and treating it all as fact. Likewise, the focus on Gunter. I could be a commentator, no probs.
Reading were playing well, restricting Leeds to half-hearted attempts. They allowed the Whites to have the ball, but didn’t allow them to do anything with it. Reading ran the ball regularly and looked to find openings in the Leeds defence, forcing the commentary team to appreciate the quality of Ovie Ejaria. On 14 minutes we were treated to some swearing from a fan through the audio, which led to an apology from the voices in the box. Classic angry Royals fans, classic Sky Sports response!
Halfway through the first half, I fancied a beer. Safe in the knowledge I didn’t have to queue/pay for it and that I could drink it in full view of the pitch (admittedly through the telly box), I went for it. A Vienna Lager by the good folks at West Berkshire Brewery was my liquor of choice, which went down as smoothly as Reading’s game plan.
The Yorkshiremen were passing in circles and not getting anywhere and we were growing in confidence, pushing ever closer to that opening goal. The best chance of the half fell to Yakou Meite, a strong header which was met with safe hands by the goal tender on 40 minutes, a moment which caused me to shriek loudly and send the cat (who was fast asleep next to me on the sofa) scurrying across the floor to safety.
Half time arrived and I needed a snack. Again, the pleasure of not having to queue/deal with average customer service led me to the snack box (yes, I have a snack box - get over it) and a cheeky personal bag of honeyed cashew nuts. As I tucked into the sweet but partially nutritious snack, I chortled to myself at the thought of my fellow Dolan Standers munching on their stale Mars bars in the cold. I skipped the half-time chit chat and instead loaded the dishwasher and answered some emails, ignoring the festive adverts (it’s bloody November!!) as I went about my business.
I also opened another beer, to which I was reminded by wife that it was a Tuesday and that I might “get drunk”. I calmly and respectfully explained to her that I was a 34 year-old man with two academic degrees and that I could do what I wanted. I also stated (again calmly) that they were my beers and that maybe she should go and watch ‘I’m a Celeb...’ upstairs. With the drama over and the peace restored, I settled down with my second beer (I had the last laugh!) and began my viewing of the second half.
Leeds began brightly, passing it around smoothly and with purpose. The front players looked more alive and were more of a threat after the interval. Reading quickly regained control of the tempo of the match and continued to stifle any threat. I’m not ashamed to say that I fell asleep for 5/10 minutes (that bloody second beer!!) and woke to see Leeds hit the crossbar, an attempt which left Rafael well beaten.
A free kick from Swift was parried by the goalkeeper, at which point Leeds went up the other end and scored. I was apoplectic with rage at this point, mainly with one man: Lucas Boye. He gave the ball away incredibly cheaply, didn’t track back and then stopped moving altogether. Really, really poor from a player who is still trying to convince the fan base of his worth and, more importantly, his overall fitness levels. We didn’t deserve to concede at that point and the Leeds players knew they had probably robbed the three points, with the celebrations reaching an ugly crescendo with some baiting of the home fans from Patrick Bamford (who I bloody hate).
As the clocked ticked down, it was clear we were going to be handed our second 1-0 defeat of the week. Based on both performances and the manner of the losses against two teams who will be there or thereabouts this season, I’d classify that as progress under Bowen. It will take some time to fully implement his way of playing, but the lack of ‘root and branch’ changes mean that there is a clear path for the team to follow.
The fact that the squad seem reasonably harmonious and some of the summer signings are looking more assured (Michael Morrison, Matt Miazga and Rafael) mean that the team is heading in the right direction as we get into the insanity that is the festive period. And I will remember to curb the midweek ‘drinking’ in future.