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View From The Dolan: Winter Discontent

Ben wraps up a second straight defeat, and first home league loss, of the season for Reading.

PA Images via Getty Images

Yeeeeeeeah. I mean, that didn’t go to plan, did it? I was looking forward to the game after the reverse against Coventry City and the opportunity to get back on track. I honestly felt that we’d explode out of the blocks (firework reference) rather than be a damp squib (another firework reference), but sadly we were more like a Catherine Wheel than a Trident’s Fork (that is actually a firework, trust me).

I’d got the bins in (Wednesday is green bin day), paid my 10 dollars (American election reference!) to iFollow and set myself up with an actual beer: regular readers will know that I prefer non-alcoholic beers, but I’d had a shocker of a day and needed an actual lager.

We’ve recently started shopping at Aldi and I’d got one of their India Pale Lagers- a lovely little tin which featured an elephant holding a brolly. Pretty sure it was only £1.49 and it was pretty acceptable actually. Give it a go and if you don’t like it, don’t tell me because I’m not interested and I won’t reimburse you for the cost of the beer or the money you spent on petrol getting to the shop itself.

I’d spent the day with people complaining how cold it was/is. Imagine my irritation then (it was massive) when the club’s social media department, the BBC Berkshire team and anyone else who’d left their house kept going on about it being “a bit chilly” and “a bit nippy”. A few things:

  1. It’s November.
  2. Night time does tend to be colder than the day.
  3. The South Reading Coliseum is, for whatever reason, a very cold place.
  4. Just buy a coat and a bobble hat and get on with it.

In truth, it was a game I was quite glad I wasn’t able to go to. I don’t like the winter and those midweek games tend to be sparsely populated in the Dolan, where the wind and the cold surrounds you like a monster in a terrible nightmare. The car park is always muddy this time of year and there are puddles and people coughing (something which is basically illegal now). So yeah, watching it in the warmth of my house, surrounded by Aldi lagers and Doritos wasn’t so bad.

We struggled in the first half and I was genuinely, genuinely surprised by that. Preston were good value and were the more threatening of the two sides. We were able to grow in the second period of the first half and were, I would say, definitely on top going into the break. Sone was playing very well and carved out the best opportunity we had. It was the kind of game where half time came at the wrong time and really disrupted our flow.

Reading v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

At half time, I switched to a Heineken 0% (it was a school night - I know my limits and I’m not mental) and put the Doritos away as I was eating too many of them. I couldn’t check over the scores as there were very few games that had actually kicked off when we did. We were still top though, so every cloud.

What happened next was completely and utterly out of the blue. I wasn’t expecting us to win (I was), but the collapse was reasonably worrying and complete. After the 12-yard death kick was saved, I thought we’d wake up and kick on.

When Sinclair (who still gives me shudders in a bad way when I think back to his time at Swansea) broke the scrimmage line snare zone to knock the first goal in, the demons that haunted the Mad Stad (late Halloween reference!) came out in full flow. It was horrible to watch and once the second goal went in, I switched off. Call me what you want, but I couldn’t take that anymore. My toys were well and truly out of the pram. When I received an alert saying that the visitors were 3-0 up, I just went to bed.

It’s really difficult because we weren’t 3-0 worse than Preston, no way. But like the game against Coventry, we didn’t take our chances. And that is becoming a problem. While Pauno needs to resist pressing the button marked ‘Panic’ (which I like to think he keeps in an old cigar box and has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities), there are things that desperately need to be sorted ahead of the Stoke game.

Although not having four of arguably our best players (in Moore, Ejaria, Swift and Meite) available is not ideal, we should be able to cope a bit better. McIntyre will be hideously disappointed with his showing, as will João, but with the former having a huge opportunity to stake a claim with Moore’s absence, he can have no complaints if Pauno rolls the dice on Gibson come Saturday at 12.30.

The bottom line is that we’ve had two iffy results on the bounce, but we are still top. We’ve been given a let off by the other teams around us, but that can’t continue for much longer. The team need to get back to winning ways quickly and the first opportunity to do that is on Saturday lunchtime.

Until next time.