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View From The Dolan: Goalless On The Costa Del Swan

A well-organised rearguard action at Swansea earned Reading a 0-0 draw; here’s how Ben saw the game.

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There was a time when I looked lustily at a yellow bar running across the screen of a Sky TV channel, a bit like a student eyeing up the premium food range in a supermarket whilst stockpiling pot noodles. After today however, I may never watch TV again, such was the consistent deluge of rubbish announcements on Sky News.

And then, around 4.30 after watching yet another government busybody play God, I remembered it was game day. And that got me all excited and fuzzy and warm inside.

Costa Del Swan. The Anti-Cardiff. The Welsh Riviera. Tropical Cymru. Swansea. Whatever you call it, it’s a wonderful part of the world. Being of Welsh heritage, I always have a soft spot for the place itself. The place, NOT the team. Oh no. The team have inflicted more painful memories on me than The Royals themselves and that says something. I can’t even go on about THAT PO final anymore.

Indeed, you don’t even have to look past this calendar year to recall the last catastrophe we had against the Swans. That proved to be Bowen’s last game in charge and it was a game that summed up, reasonably succinctly, all the things that needed to happen with both the squad and the club itself moving forward.

Fast forward a few months and we are in the dreamy throws of Paunoball (trademark). I’ll be frank: I couldn’t have cared less about the result, mainly for two factors:

  1. We would finish the year in the top six and that is more than any Reading could have wished for before the season commenced, and...
  2. I just wanted to watch my team play football and without being dramatic, block out the rest of the world around me.

I set myself up in the kitchen/dining room and nestled down on the sofa. I tucked into a box of Maltesers (it’s funny isn’t with all this hatred towards plastic that not more sweets are sold in boxes) and pondered my drink choice whilst munching on the crunchy chocolate balls. No sooner had I begun to settle into the coverage of Pauno talking, with his finely tuned beard, than my wife appeared and began wittering on about everything and nothing. Genuinely, she doesn’t speak to me for large chunks of the day and the minute my boys are on the box she starts bloody piping up!

On top of that, I then had to rescue one of the cats from a proper barney with some foxes in the garden who were not only making loads of noise but had also set off the floodlight outside. With all the drama over, I was hoping that no more distractions would befall me or indeed, the team itself. For the second game in a week, I had to listen to the commentators talking about the pitch. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the days when most of the talking done was focused on the players or, in more jovial moments, discussions about what the fans in the stadium were doing:

“Ooooh, look at that chap! He’s got three hot pies. I hope they aren’t all for him!”

“That little chap is wrapped up warm with his club/crested scarf - let’s hope he gets as much value from the game as he’s getting from his scarf”

“Goodness me, that lady looks like she’s been dragged here under sufferance from her loving partner because they are taking turns at showing an interest in each other’s hobbies to rekindle the spark in their relationship”

You know, stuff like that. It became evident fairly quickly that we would suffer not having someone up front who could hold the ball up. We’d get two thirds up the pitch and any attack would quickly break down and melt like a dropped ice cream on a hot pavement. That’s not a slight on Baldock, but he doesn’t fit this system. If only there were someone else to play with him in a two-man attack...

Ejaria was struggling to get into the game in much the same way that I was finding it hard to get off the sofa and go for a wee. If I’d been feeling this way at the Berkshire Arena, I would have gone instantly but for some reason I held it in until half time. One thing I don’t miss about going to football is the toilets at half time, I really don’t. And when you consider how human beings behave hygiene-wise in those situations, it’s no wonder that a virus has swept the globe.

Toileting done, ‘twas time for a beverage! Stocks had been running low in the fridge, but I found a little drop from Vibrant Forest Brewery, which was full bodied and flavoursome with a smooth aftertaste. 7/10. I spent the rest of the interval looking at pictures of cats on Instagram and considering all the advertising I was exposed to on the tellybox.

Swansea City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

During the second half I had a pleasant and efficient exchange with a chap on Twitter whilst finishing my lager. We made some changes and went completely striker-less around the 65th minute with the intro of John Swift. Baldock had run his race like a steady if not spectacular race horse who knew his best races were behind him and he was subbed for the wonderfully wonderful number 10.

Rafa made another great save to deny Ayew which was becoming the central battle to this chilly slug fest in South Wales. Another poor game from Ejaria resulted in him being hooked for Richards and the formation was shuffled ever so gently. I was feeling peckish but again refused to leave my nest on the sofa (I’d added a blanket by now) and rode out the hunger pains.

Bizarrely, we sprung into life around the 82nd minute with headers and shots peppering their goal. Tom Mac, who had put in another great performance, had our best chance of the game with a bullet header that was just tipped over. That proved to be the last proper action of the game and we held on for a point. A richly deserved point I might add, one which anyone connected with the club would have taken in a heartbeat before the match.

It’s yet another game we would have lost last year, no doubt in my mind about that. It keeps us moving forward and keeps us in the hunt and that’s exactly what we need heading into a slightly lighter period of games when we have more recovery time. If there were a yellow bar on the bottom of a screen to sum up this game, it would say we snatched a draw or that Swansea failed to beat us. That’s ok though because, as I’ve learnt already today, yellow bars only give you half the story. And our story for this season is nowhere near finished.

Enjoy your New Year celebrations and I’ll see you in 2021.

Until next time.