QPhahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahaha. The local derby. The battle of the hoops. With a game that has so much at stake (on paper) it’s a mystery to me why our games against each other are generally appalling. After the mid-week mess, it was vital that whatever happened, we got three points. Did we get them? Well, read on to find out!
The morning was so-so. I sort of meandered my way through it like a slow moving river in a valley, a valley surrounded by picturesque mountains and lush pine trees, accompanied by a gentle but warming breeze. I encountered my own mountains when I took some old stuff from the garage to the tip. Mountains of rubbish! It always amazes me the stuff people chuck out and it baffles me that they ever had it in their house/property in the first place.
After that, I headed to a toy shop, the name of which rhymes with ‘miffs’ as I was in search of the very last present that my wonderful son had decided, completely out of the blue, that he wanted, having written his letter to FC earlier this week. And for any under-15s reading, I was doing the shopping for Father Christmas. I will invoice him later. Anyway, the thing that I was after was out of stock (obviously - why wouldn’t it be?), so that was a fly in the ointment of my morning river.
Speaking of ointments and flies, the team selection made me throw up in my mouth. The minute my eyes clapped sight on who was playing and the rumoured formation, I wanted to go upstairs and get in to bed and not come out until the next morning. But I’m brave so I didn’t do that.
What was even worse was that I had to pay for this game on iFollow. Yuck. It had been so long since I’d had to watch a game on the “streaming platform”, I’d forgotten why I hated it so much. And then it hit me in my ears: the commentary team. MG stated that if Lucas Joao had been fit from January onwards, we’d have made the play-offs. What? “WHAT?!” I shouted to no one in particular. “That is bonkers” I said to myself.
As the teams ran out, Pauno was on the pitch. This set TD off into some sort of mini, childish monologue like he’d just been told he’d got a job for the next 10 years (which he wouldn’t have deserved). Pauno is a modern coach, he has a splendid haircut, the fella likes a tracksuit: in my mind, he can go where he jolly well wants. Simple as. It made me laugh to see how tinpot QPhahahahahahahahahahhaha were as they couldn’t even get 2,000 fans into one stand safely. “Ha ha! Pathetic” I chuckled to myself.
As the game kicked off, TD explained that, according to his research on Wikipedia, the QPhahahahahahahahahha team were quite small. Again, his comments made me want to get into my car and drive as far as I could until I reached the sea. I don’t even let the children I teach use Wikipedia, so why the hell is a “professional commentator” using it? Just gross.
I could feel myself becoming nervous. With the depleted squad laid bare for all to see, I wondered if we’d begin a run of form that was less than pleasant. On 14 minutes, this nervousness began to turn into mild desperation, as Michael Morrison blew a lovely chance to go ahead early on. Seven minutes later and another chance went begging as a fine cross into the box wasn’t met by Sam Baldock.
At pretty much the same time, iFollow ran a banner along the bottom of the screen to basically tell us not to be pirates and thieves and steal football. I mean, surely they’ve got the wrong audience there? Everyone watching at that point would have had to pay 10 English notes for the privilege (only six less than watching it live at the South Reading Megadome, I might add) so why am I being told to not be a criminal? I SHOULD BE BEING THANKED!
With the crap advertising over, I was able to focus on the game a tad more. We were showing more urgency without the composure, the directness without the end result, the defensive solidity without looking comfortable. Sort of an oxymoron of a game at that point.
Then on 43 minutes, Alfa Semedo (who’d not been the best version of himself) gave away a needless free kick in a dangerous area and I just went mental to be honest. I don’t know if it was the frustration of the out-of-stock toy earlier in the day, the fact that I needed some crisps or that I was more nervous than usual, but I swore loudly and heartily (should point out that no children were in the house - they were at the park with their mum and some friends at the time).
Panic over and the half-time signal was blown. Quick toilet stop, a bottle of Lucky Saint (a delicious 0.5% lager), a glance at Twitterface and it was back to it. It became clear that the objective seemed to lump the ball up to Baldock and hope for the best. To be fair to the chap, there was literally no point playing him if that was the plan.
Nevertheless, we still looked the better team and I will promise to fight anyone who says otherwise. I might have sent a tweet saying that if we lost to this lot, we should fold the club. What I actually meant was, if we lose to this lot, we should be relegated. Again, I don’t care what anyone says because it’s my column and I can say/write what I want, but QPhahahahahahhahaha were by the far the worst team we’d played so far this year.
Of course, directly after this tweet was sent, they hit the post. And then Pauno decided to pull up the ladder and settle for the point. He hooked Baldock for Tom McIntyre and by this point, we had about eight centre backs in various positions, with no recognised striker on the pitch or bench.
And then, as champions in waiting always seem to do, we found a way to win. Olise (who I’m pretty sure was born on this day a few years ago) picked up the ball midway into their half. He strolled forward a bit and unleashed a Sony Mega Drive of a shot that screamed into the net and sent me (and I’m sure every other Reading fan) into absolute delirium. Had there been away fans in the ground, it’s the kind of moment stewards dread. Limbs. Everywhere.
A really fine result, all things considered. The injuries are mounting, we didn’t play well, we had players out of position but still got the +3. A heartwarming result that sets us up nicely for Wednesday when I’ll be live on location once again with 2,000 other bobble-hatted lunatics. We are still in the hunt and still chasing. Paunoball is serving us well.
Until next time.