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View From The Dolan: Royals On Top

Ben’s take as Reading get past a poor first half to beat Wycombe and move three points clear at the top of the Championship.

PA Images via Getty Images

Idiots (and they are idiots) will say that we weren’t actually first and that we were second because of some loophole with the alphabet. But when has the alphabet ever done anything for anyone, ever? Local MPs that go on LBC Radio will also say that we currently play in Division One and are doing “alright” this year. Well, poppycock to all that codswallop!

The game saw us feature live on Sky’s Red Button of Doom, a piece of technology I didn’t think existed anymore. Indeed, I have very unpleasant memories of watching us midweek in previous years in far-flung northern towns toiling away ridiculously. You’ll chuckle to yourselves, but I had genuinely forgotten how to use this option and it took me a while to get my bearings.

As soon as I discovered that the game was effectively free to view (only if you pay for Sky Sports, obvs), I had decided to reinvest my £10 saved by not giving it to iFollow in my meal of choice for the game. I should have just invested the cash in some shares in say, I don’t know, a bakery shop (because bread always makes dough...) or wind turbine technology (it’s the future), but no. I took my £10 note straight to the kebab shop in Tilehurst.

I placed my order online (soooooo 2020) and hotfooted it (in the car) to Tilehurst Triangle (side note: for those of you reading overseas or in Woodley, it’s not actually a triangle, it’s just the name given to it). I won’t share my exact order because it’s private and a secret shared only with my kebab master, but he did give me a free can of Tango and so I thought the omens must be good (even though I, or no one else in my house, actually drinks Tango because it’s putrid).

Once back home and the Turkish meal consumed, I had two main worries heading into kick off:

  1. We’d lose.
  2. I’d fall asleep before the end of the game.

I’ve found that since lockdown began, then ended, then sort of came back again, staying up beyond 9pm is becoming a struggle. Now that the heating is on and it gets dark at 4.30pm, I find myself even more needing to call it a day post-8.30pm, so the late kick-off meant this could have been a proper battle for my eyelids.

Reading v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Indeed, I was baffled by the 8pm KO. I sort of it got it when we had fans attending (the M4 is a death trap) but seeing as no one can go, it doesn’t make sense, not when all the other games in the league begin at 7.45pm. Anyway, I told myself that I needed to stay up because a) I wanted us to win and b) I was a 35-year-old man and not a toddler. Going back to the first worry, this was a typical game in which a typical Reading side of previous years would typically lose.

Great start + being at home x playing an out-of-form team = mega loss. It’s a perfect algorithm for misery.

As the game ramped up to KO, the familiar tones of Fatboy Slim and Neil Diamond echoed around the empty Berkshire Dome like a shark’s scream in an underwater cave. How I would have loved to see the visiting end packed out with at least 100 Wycombe fans who’d made the short journey to the Royal County.

Even if there had been fans in attendance, there was literally no way anyone could have lifted the tempo and quality of the game. The first 45 minutes were instantly regrettable/forgettable and were easily the worst 45 under Pauno so far. I helped myself to an after-dinner mint (which was actually a fun-sized Reese’s cup) and fresh pint of water and settled down for the second half which I hoped would bring relief from the first in the shape of a massive goal from someone in Blue and White.

On 64 minutes, that sweet relief came when Joao smashed home the opener. A really well-taken net peach that, on its insertion into the goal, gave the goaltender no chance whatsoever. A lovely moment that I imagined seeing rapturous applause from the bobble-headed lunatics in the Dolan, had there been fans in.

Joao’s goal proved to be the winner and not much else happened as we steamrolled our way towards the 16-point tally. Esteves made his debut, Semedo came on and decided to audition for an attacking midfield role instead of the advertised defensive midfield position (selection headache incoming) and my eyelids did their best to stay open and alert and not drowsy.

The win cemented our place at the very top of the league. Idiots, the alphabet and local MPs be damned: we are now officially number one in Division One... I mean the Championship.

Until next time.