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View From The Dolan: Shining Bright Like Christmas Lights

Ben’s take on a dominant Reading performance, as the Royals easily see off Bristol City by three goals to one at the Mad Stad.

PA Images via Getty Images

I don’t know about where you live, but the Christmas lights have started to pop up around my road in abundance. That can only mean one thing: we are getting to the congested fixture part of the season. And the fact it’s nearly December. And nearly Christmas. Obviously.

As a result of neighbour/family pressure, I spent part of the morning watching my wife put up the outside lights. There was no point me doing it because it would be wrong, so I just held the ladder and the lights while she put them up and huffed about it as she went. We got to the lights around the garage. To avoid the carnage we had last year with them (they were basically in a massive ball which took about three hours to detangle), they had been carefully wrapped around some card. I noticed that there was a split in the lights. “These won’t work,” I said calmly. “They will” was the response from Mrs T. No point arguing really, so they were put up, which was a time-consuming and messy business.

To detangle our season so far would not be as easy. We’ve been great, bad and indifferent in fairly quick succession and in equal measure. We haven’t hit a consistent stride yet and have not shone brightly. Quite what the game against our visitors from down the M4 would bring would be another matter all together and, as I threw the last of the Christmas cuddlies at my children to play with, I wondered whether our lights would sparkle or fizzle out like the lights around my garage that probably wouldn’t work come 4pm. Or when it was dark. Whichever came first.

Semedo was dropped from the team in place of Olise. I didn’t have a specific problem with this as such. What I did/do have a problem with is the obsession that football fans (ours are no different) have where they always believe that there is something better waiting in the wings and that somehow the manager is deliberately not picking that player on purpose and consciously setting the team up to fail. I like Olise, I really do but for me, he doesn’t do the basics well enough. He gets caught in possession too much, simple passes regularly go astray and his positioning when we don’t have the ball is not what it should be. Yet, anyway.

As the game was on Sky (thank God), we were treated to a pre-match interview with Pauno, who was sporting hair like a chap who worked in a 1980s British department store. As one Twitter user commented, it looked “warm and waterproof, like a thatched roof” which made me LOL out loud. Alongside this, we were given exclusive access to Keith Andrews sporting the kind of grin a garden gnome would wear if he’d been through the cat flap of his owner’s house, nabbed all the biscuits and shared them with the other gnomes in the garden. What a tinker.

As the minutes approached KO, I was pretty sure we’d do ok. I felt like we’d turned a corner against Millwall in the week and although City were on their traditional ‘let’s start the season really well and make everyone think we are excellent before collapsing around February and spending another season in the Championship’ routine, I felt we had enough to beat them.

Our shape off the ball was bloody excellent. We were not letting anything go through to Rafa and that was positive, while trying to flex our muscles up front. On 35 minutes, a cracker of a shot from Yakou was well saved by Bentley in the visitor’s goal. We were very much in control as the game approached half time and I felt it was the best we’d played since Blackburn away.

During the interval, I tucked into my lunch (a cheeky bit of oven pizza) and then headed upstairs because everyone was making too much noise and wanting to put Christmas films on and I couldn’t be arsed with it really.

The breakthrough for us came from a wicked (and I mean Phillip Green wicked) deflection as the build-up play from Joao had released Ejaria to get his shot off. A well-deserved goal for a chap who’s been largely anonymous in recent weeks, but had started to spread his wings like a phoenix from the flames in this game.

Reading v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship
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Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

A Moore (of City) booking followed after a very naughty challenge which should have really been a major felony card. This prompted my good buddy Sam to send me a text saying “Taylor Moore looks like an actual (deleted expletive) in human form. Barbershop haircut on a footballer’s wages. Embarrassing.” I couldn’t disagree.

On 67 minutes, Morro was given the opportunity of a lifetime/the game to make it 2-0, but fluffed his feet and the opportunity went begging. City scored swiftly afterwards and really, if we are all honest with ourselves and loved ones, the goal should not have stood. The offside scrimmage line had been broken illegally and it should have been picked up by the officials but it wasn’t, and I was apoplectic with rage, throwing a cushion across the room like a toddler throwing some vegetables that were unappetising onto the floor.

The second goal from Meite was the best we’d scored this season, hands down. It was football gravy at its most succulent, delicious and heartwarming. To really hammer home the supremacy we were enjoying, Joao knocked in another late on to secure a first W in six games. A well-deserved three in the points column, which pushed us up the table a bit more. The key now is to develop some consistency and keep going. Sounds obvious, obviously, but a department we’ve very much lacked in in recent years which has prevented us from achieving what we should be achieving.

Those lights around the garage didn’t work by the way. It’s a good job the team’s did, though, otherwise I’d be in a very dark mood.

Until next time.