Last week was decent. I mean really decent. On reflection, it wasn’t a good result. It was a great result. Even the injuries didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the fans. It made for a positive, if not long, week ahead.
Despite the fact that a chap from Madrid decided to swap us for Bournemouth and that Araruna, along with Swift, was confirmed to be out for the foreseeable future, all eyes were on the weekend fixture against another team with a nickname that focussed on a creature with wings. I genuinely thought we’d get something out of the game, but not necessarily win it, regardless of who played and how we set the team up formation wise. Either way, I was genuinely very excited to see us in action again - a feeling I’ve not felt for a long, long time.
My wife had left me for the weekend to partake in what was essentially a boozy mums’ outing to the New Forest (with great weather, lols). Had this been a game that allowed fans into the Berkshire Mega Plex, I would have been struggling. As it is/was, that isn’t a issue for a while, so I was able to continue as normal. I stocked up on sweets and the new film ‘Scoob’ (the untold story of how Scooby Doo and Shaggy first met) and shut the kids in the living room (not literally, I just closed the door - they could still get out, I’m not a monster) and settled down in the kitchen with a massive plate of optimism and a large pint of expectancy.
The team news had tongues wagging (fun fact: the average tongue is three inches long!) for both positive and negative reasons.
- Holmes at RB, Puscas up top
- No Ejaria, Joao was not fit enough to start
Aluko made his first start since Feb 2019 and Baldock did not make the squad. It looked initially like a 4-4-2 but played out as our traditional (traditional!) 4-2-3-1 (sort of). I listened with half an ear to the moronic texts sent in to the BBC Berks team pre-match whilst also checking the running time of ‘Scoob’. There would be a window of 20 minutes towards the end of the game where I’d have to think on my feet...
The early going was tough for Reading, with Watford showing their intent. We seemed happy to let them have the ball and take pot shots at the goal. The formation/personnel seemed to take a bit longer to settle than in previous games and Garner hit the crossbar on 22 minutes with a thunderous strike from a stationary kick scenario.
That seemed to wake Reading up quite quickly. Puscas began to get a lot closer to the midfield. Aluko was playing like, well, not an Aluko I’ve ever seen in blue and white and I loved him for it. Holmes was growing into the game and the side began to settle. On 41 minutes, the young right back went forward and hit a shot/pass that found its way to Puscas. He was able to find some space and slot past Foster. Watford were stunned. Reading were stunned. The only man who seemingly wasn’t was Pauno.
Taking that lead into half time was incredible. I wouldn’t say we deserved the lead or that we should be losing either, but without being dramatic, the performance in the first 45 was like something out of a film where everyone laughs at the underdog but then the underdog wins and then everyone loves the underdog for ever and ever and ever. To celebrate, I helped myself to a limited-edition mint Kit Kat chunky and a coffee (bean to cup, you should know that by now).
What happened next was even better than the first half. The composure, commitment and general panache of the team was a sight to behold. The passing, the movement off the ball, the positioning: all of it made for a last 45 before the two-week break that was Coppell-esque in its nature. I have not seen a Reading side perform like that for years.
Of course, Watford had their chances. Yeah, we had players who were playing out of position but looked like they’d played there for years (hello, Tom Mc). Sure, I did stop fully watching from around the 75-minute mark because I knew we’d won the game. Maybe a bottle of wine did get opened and maybe I did stand by the patio doors and look out on the rain lashing down, knowing that my team was about to win their fourth league game in a row with a threadbare squad, thus ensuring we stayed top of the table with maximum points.
What is happening in RG1 is quite incredible. No one (and I mean that) would have predicted that we would do what we have done so far. When you have Aluko playing like he did after starting a game for the first time in nearly two years, Moore looking like he’s the man again and players coming in and effectively demanding to not be taken out of the side (Puscas, Holmes), a bench that has an average age of 16 (probably) and a chap in the dugout that can blatantly and deliberately mix up training wear and still look exceptional, you start to feel like there is something going on.
My dad and I renewed our season tickets this week. At the time, I wasn’t really sure why. Now I know: so we are first in line to see this team play in the flesh. And what a treat that will be.
Until next time.