Ben has, somewhat impressively, been able to jump over to an alternative reality in which coronavirus didn’t affect Reading’s 2019/20 season. You can find the first part right here.
Welcome back! Are you sitting comfortably and at least two metres apart from any other human life? Great, then I shall begin.
After the defeat to Brentford, Reading had a wonderful opportunity to get points on the board with a visit to lowly (and I mean lowly) Luton Town. In a bizarre twist, the Hatters announced on their website in the days leading up to the game that they were consigned to League One, with five games to spare:
“The chairman and the board are realistic in our expectations for the remainder of the season. We’ve been rubbish, absolute rubbish, this season. Nothing good has come out of it. We’ve been useless in every area and to be honest, we are getting relegated.
“Therefore, anyone attending the last few home games will be rewarded with a full refund and will be sent home so they don’t have to watch us. We’ll even provide you with a takeaway pie and pint so you don’t have to sit in and around the stadium and soak up the misery. See you in League One.”
This bizarre message prompted several hundred extra Royals fans to make the journey to Kenilworth Road, dressed in Luton shirts, to grab their refund, pie and pint (it was Carling), then bin the shirts, sneak round the back and into the away stand to watch Reading pick up another three points. Our Saviour Mark Bowen went all out, settling for a front three of Meite, George and Baldock.
As it turned out, all three scored goals (not sure how and when they scored, but they did, trust me) to take the points back to the Royal County. This moved the team up to eighth in the table, which led Bowen to announce an open training session to celebrate the highest league position in years. This was to be held on the Tuesday after the game and would coincide nicely with the commencement of the Easter Holidays.
Held at the MadStad, the event was well attended by young and old alike. Players were put through their paces and showed the kind of class that had seen them reach eighth in the table (not sure if I’d mentioned that). Training was halted midway through however as three men dressed as fruit pieces (apple, banana, orange) entered the field, or rather the track around it, looking very sweaty.
When confronted by the stewards, it turned out that all three had been running the Reading Half Marathon, held on the Sunday before, and had got lost during the course. They’d been running to raise awareness for the ‘five-a-day’ scheme. “When we decided to do it, we actually had five members, but two were unfit to run as they were obese. We didn’t know the area and got lost on the outskirts of Whitley. The rest is a blur.” Stewards quickly escorted them off the pitch, gave them a silver foil blanket each and a Mars bar and told them to be on their way.
The sun was rampant in the skies above The Berkshire Arena as we welcomed inconsistent Huddersfield Town a few days later. Like the sun, Olise was also rampant as he tied the visiting defence in knots. It wasn’t long before the pressure told and Reading were 1-0 up, a fine cross by Meite allowing Rino to slot home. He celebrated by grabbing an Easter egg, smuggled into the stadium by a youthful fan in the Dolan, and chewing a bit off before giving it back to the young boy. When the lad tried to question him, he along with his dad were ejected by the stewards for making too much noise.
Not much else happened. Reading huffed and puffed but failed to build on the goal and Huddersfield, content to soak up the sun, did nothing to threaten Rafa’s goalmouth. In truth, the game was instantly forgettable but did cement Reading’s position of eighth. Results elsewhere (don’t ask...) meant that we were now just two points off the play offs and with a quick turn around in the shape of the fixture against Charlton two days later, Bowen and the team really were in the ascendency and had their sights trained on getting into the PO’s at the expense of *insert team here*.
On a rainy Easter Monday in Greenwich, Reading found both the weather and the task of winning very difficult. Within 30 minutes, they were already 2-0 down. At half time, Bowen could be heard comparing opposite number Lee Bowyer to an estate agent and telling the team that Charlton were now a “new version of what we used to be”. “Look at them” he shouted. “They are a joke club - they’ve given their fans clappers, some have bought balloons into the ground and their stands are sparsely populated. And you lot are losing to them. Sort it out!”
This rousing speech did the trick as Adam pulled one back within 10 minutes of the restart. Rino equalised five minutes later and the game was tied at 2-2. The Royals couldn’t squeeze another one in to take home all three points, so settled for one, as per the league rules and regulations when a game is tied at the end of 90 minutes. However, this result did push them up to seventh with three games to go.
Could Our Saviour Mark Bowen complete the most unlikely of turn arounds by guiding the team into the death zone of the play offs?
To be continued...