What would we do without football, eh? From utter jubilation and joy to despair and agony within a matter of minutes. Sigh. Reading travelled to Molineux as huge underdogs, but more than matched the Premier League outfit in a tight and tense affair.
Jose Gomes made 10 changes to the side that performed poorly against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday; youngster Tom McIntyre the only one to keep his place. Interestingly, Yakou Meite captained the side as he partnered Lucas Boye up top. Tyler Blackett, Charlie Adam and Andy Rinomhota were also among the players to come into the starting eleven.
The first big chance of the game actually fell to Gomes’ men with Josh Barrett producing a delicious pass over the Wolves backline for Boye to run onto before cutting inside and firing straight at John Ruddy - a chance which the Argentinian should’ve done much better with.
After that, it was pretty scrappy. The hosts probably having more of the possession, but neither team troubling the other with any real threat. That was until halfway through the opening 45 when Wolves debutant Bruno Jordao fired goalwards with what should’ve been bread and butter for Joao Virginia - but supporting Reading isn’t that straightforward, you should know that by now.
The ball squirmed through the hands of the young ‘keeper and nestled into the bottom corner. Damn. Even more frustrating and upsetting considering the young Portuguese had a made a solid start to his return between the sticks.
That was the last real goalmouth action of the first half - barring a tame effort from Reading lad Josh Barrett that sailed high, wide and not so handsome over the bar. Reading stood strong to make sure the floodgates didn’t open, when they so easily could’ve after a mistake like that - one that any goalkeeper in the world could’ve made, I should add.
Half time and it was 1-0 to the Premier League team, with the Royals still very much in the game.
Neither team got going at all in the second half. Passes flew astray left, right and centre with both sides unable to get the ball on the deck and build any kind of momentum. As was the story of *most* of Reading’s night: everything up until the final third was very nice, but the final pass was just never there. Enter, John Swift.
Midway through the second half, Gomes called on his trusted midfield duo of Ovie Ejaria and John Swift to make something happen, and boy did they do it. As soon as they came on (and we switched to four at the back) we looked so much better.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Swift touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch - and he only played 30 minutes. As Ejaria and Swift got on the ball more, Wolves dropped deeper and deeper and, all of a sudden, we had them camped in.
67% possession, eight shots - one of which was a fantastic header from stand-in skipper Meite, forcing a wonderful goal line clearance from Ryan Bennett - and constant pressure from the Royals in the second half eventually reaped its reward.
With 99 minutes on the clock, and Wolves down to 10 men due to having made all of their subs and Shabina going off injured, that man John Swift popped up with a quite frankly disgusting rabona cross that Boye headed home to send the travelling contingent into absolute ecstasy.
Uno-uno, it went to penalties. And, as so often in this wonderful sport we call football, that absolute ecstasy vanished into thin air as game-changer Swift saw his penalty saved by Ruddy, before goalscoring hero Boye sent his spot kick into Row Z. Great. Wolves scored all four of their penalties, sending the hosts through to the Fourth Round.
A much-changed Reading team taking a very good Premier League team (including Real Madrid loanees, £16 million pound former AC Milan strikers and a certain Ruben Neves) to penalties just shows the strength in depth we now have, and the potential this squad has.
It also shows, despite the last three league results, that our club is on an upwards trajectory. At the end of the game I stood there and flashed back to the last time we visited Molineux. We were thrashed 3-0 in what turned out to be one of Jaap Stam’s last games in charge. Oh how times are changing.