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Oh I Do Love Playing Away

To make us all that little bit more nostalgic in these times, here’s my rundown of the five best away days of recent years.

Norwich City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

I, surely like all of you, cannot wait until that first game back at the Madejski, with 20,000 or so Loyal Royals packing out all four sides of the ground, ready to see our team play for the first time in God knows how many months.

However, there is nothing quite like an away day. And they will be even better when all of this is over and we can get back to travelling the length and width of the country via all modes of transport to watch Reading.

And we have had far more than our fair share of bad away days in recent years - the 6-1 loss to Birmingham City in Nigel Adkins’ last game in charge and the 7-1 defeat to Norwich City in Jaap Stam’s first season are the first that spring to mind.

But we have also had some very good days on the road too. And I decided to write a piece on the top five away days we've had in recent years just to make us all miss it that little bit more...

Ipswich Town 1-2 Reading, March 2019

For me, there is no other place to start. The best away day I can remember. A must-win game, a sold-out away end and a last-minute injury-time winner - it doesn't get much better than that does it? I still remember that moment when Mo Barrow raced through and slotted home to this day - a moment that will live long in the memory of every Reading fan.

It also came at a time when we needed it the most. The club was pretty much at rock bottom and this win, coupled with the dramatic last-gasp victory against Wigan Athletic seven days later, seemed to reignite a flame among the fans that would be key in us staying up.

The game itself featured Nelson Oliveira’s famous celebration infront of the Ipswich faithful, a string of wonder saves from fellow loanee Emi Martinez and, of course, the incredible full-time scenes with skipper Liam Moore leading the celebrations in front of 2,000 ecstatic Royals.

Norwich City 2-2 Reading, April 2019

Another game from the back end of last season, and another that signalled exactly what Gomes had instilled into the whole club in the last half of last season: determination, fight and passion for the badge.

An away game against the eventual Championship winners and best team in the league while we ourselves were fighting for our lives at the foot of the table, you wouldn’t have been blamed for expecting a comfortable home win - but Gomes and his men had other ideas.

A first-half Yakou Meite goal had us a stone’s throw away from what would’ve been an incredible win. However, two late goals from the hosts had Carrow Road rocking and the Canaries on the brink of sealing a victory that would’ve gave them one hand on the Championship trophy.

But then up pops academy boy Andy Rinomhota with another last-gasp goal, this time to seal a draw - but a draw that felt like so much more than that.

Aston Villa 1-3 Reading, April 2017

A win that pretty much secured a place in the top six, and a day that will live long in the memory because of one man and one man only: Joseph Mendes. I went to that game with my Dad, step-sister and girlfriend and when the teams came out I told all of them that I would give them each a fiver if Mendes scored - but I still love him.

It was also a performance and result that perfectly summed up a handy trait that Stam’s team picked up that season - the ability to bounce back after a defeat.

The win at Villa Park came a matter of days after the 7-1 humiliation to the hands of Norwich City I alluded to earlier on in this piece. We suffered some pretty heavy defeats that season, but also found a way to bounce back and keep ourselves in and around the play-offs.

Two goals by the aforementioned Mendes, plus a Lewis Grabban penalty, sealed a great day out for all 3,000 Reading fans that made the trip up to Birmingham.

Aston Villa v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Fulham 1-1 Reading, May 2017

London away days are always good, but they're even better when you manage to grab a key result in a play-off semi final in the glorious early summer sunshine.

Fulham were hotly tipped to go up in the play-offs that year, and with our somewhat questionable away form that season - which included a 5-0 drubbing to the Cottagers - it may have been easy for that day to have gone very, very badly. But, it actually went very, very well.

Obita’s second-half opener sent the Loyal Royals into raptures behind the goal, and even after skipper McShane was sent off for a rash challenge, Stam’s men managed to hold on to draw 1-1 and put themselves in pole position for a spot at Wembley, upon which they duly delivered... but we won't talk about that day too much.

Charlton Athletic 3-4 Reading, February 2016

In a similar way to the 3-1 Villa game being Joseph Mendes’ shining light in his Reading career, the 4-3 win against Charlton in early 2016 was Deniss Rakels’.

A Yann Kermorgant brace and a goal from Benfica loanee Ola John cancelled out an early Charlton strike to put the Royals in cruise control at half time, only for the Royals to crumble and concede two second-half goals and find themselves staring down the barrel of yet another collapse - something we had become accustomed to that season.

Step forward, Deniss Rakels. The Latvian international had just joined the Royals from Cracovia the month before, so he was still very much an unknown to the fans. And that is the beauty of this sport. Within the matter of minutes, Rakels had gone from a nobody to a fans favourite because of one moment.

The other four games all had a lot riding on them for the Royals, this one not so much. However, it was a game packed full go goals, and ending in favour of McDermott’s side thanks to a last-minute winner. A decent day all in all.