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View From The Dolan: Three Out Of Three

Ben’s latest column covers frozen beer, mistaken player names, and the sad realisation that much of this season will pass without (non-cardboard) fans in attendance.

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I feel like I’ve spent most of this week convincing myself or other people that we might be quite a good team. It feels like everyone outside of Reading (and quite a few inside) have repeatedly written us off over the last few years. Honestly, it’s moisture off a pigeon’s hind leg, it really is. As a fanbase, we know we’ve been pants because we have been pants. The last few years have easily been the worst I’ve experienced in nearly 30 years of watching the team.

But how good are we now? That’s the large question. Cardiff would prove to be the first real test of that. Last week was not a classic. Had there been fans in the ground, it’s a game we would have drawn or lost, such would have been the roaring anxiety among the masses. As it was, we got the W and that was all that mattered. Cardiff themselves had a good result to get points on the board and so the stage was set for, hopefully, a decent game and a positive outcome for the Royals.

What has also been interesting this week is the fact that Reading fans have been spending more time thinking about the players we don’t have rather than focussing on the players we do have. Yeah, Gibson seems like a good signing, but I don’t see the point if we then give McIntyre a loan move. I’m really against bringing other clubs’ players in on loan to stunt the growth of our young players. I’ve never really seen the point to be honest. Hopefully both will provide a decent challenge to the Moore/Morrison axis and that McIntyre, who can be a future club captain in my eyes, will be tied to a longer deal regardless of whether he goes out on loan or not this season.

I suppose the other massive rhino in the room is that we won’t be at The Berkshire Dome for at least six months now, in light of the news this week. That’s not a massive shock to be honest, but it does make the club’s season ticket pricing rather redundant. They’d be better off giving us a deal for iFollow (for which I am becoming ever more grateful) for the foreseeable future as that is going to add up quickly at £10 a match.

General Views of Sport Venues after events postponed due to Covid-19 Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

I’d spent the morning of the game doing jobs and general life admin. Sadly, the most excitement I get right now is going to the shops. One of those included taking my son to a toy shop which I won’t name for legal reasons, but it’s next to the stadium. As a result, we took a little drive round the MadStad. It just looked really lonely, stood at the top of the gently sloping hill like a forgotten sandwich left behind at a picnic. Honestly, it was like seeing your ex girlfriend in a pub or leisure centre and just feeling sorry for her. Unlike an ex-girlfriend, I genuinely missed going to the MadStad and drinking in its many pleasures. The idea that this season will probably pass without a single fan inside (who isn’t made of cardboard) is a tough samosa to chew on.

Before kick-off, the usual furore around the group bet (#gambleaware) was intensified when a member of the group chose Cardiff to beat us. Perfectly reasonable (he is a QPR fan after all), but when you consider the same person chose Derby to beat us in the first game AND knew that this week’s bet was using my money, I felt he really was taking the piss. Indeed, I warned everyone the bet would fail because his sheer arrogance and contempt.

As the game kicked off, I was heartily surprised to see Ovie in gloves. Earlier on in the day, I had completed another 5K (don’t go on about it) so could testify that the weather had turned chillier, but gloves? Nah, too early for that stuff mate. More mundane commentary from the BBC Berks team (traffic cones, goalie kits and confusion over players’ first names) turned into, at best lazy journalism and at worst, something more sinister when he confused Meite with Joao after the first real effort of the game. This would have been a genuine mistake, had he not consistently done it all the way through the end of last season. All I’m saying is that he has previous and it won’t be long before serious questions will be asked.

On 34 minutes, we should have been awarded a 12-yard death kick. Sean Morrison tripped Olise and I felt it should have been given. A fully formed swear word fell out of my mouth, which was directed at the ex-Reading man (who I hate) and it took me a while to chill out (side note: both my children and wife were out - I’m not that kind of dad).

At half time, I was in need of refreshment. I went to the fridge to take out a Heineken 0% (they are alright to be fair). Suddenly a feeling crept over me like a shadow covering the well-polished floor of a mansion: the beers weren’t in the fridge - they were in the bloody freezer! I’d put them in there to chill them quickly, but had forgotten about them. As I took one out, I could see it was frozen and resembling something more akin to an alcohol-free slushie, thus rendering the half-time refreshment useless.

The second half kicked off and the beer was left on the side to taunt me, just as we had begun to do the same to Cardiff’s defence. On 47 minutes, we struck gold. A delicious ball in from Olise was met by ‘Our Morrison’, flying in with his head. I honestly haven’t seen a better header since Jason Roberts at Southampton in April ‘13. Wonderful stuff.

One of the most encouraging things about the team this season has been their work ethic off the ball. Time and again players were working hard to win the ball back and not give the Bluebirds a second to settle. Richards in particular was savage in his pressing game, like a fox sniffing around a guinea pig cage. After Araruna went off injured (big blow for him), Dellor suggested the club call Chris Gunter. Regular readers will know how I feel about Gunter, but will also know that Dellor has repeatedly moaned about the Welshman during his later seasons with us. What an absolute farce of a man he is (Dellor, not Gunter).

On 65 minutes, Joao was rewarded with a goal. A really fine strike was nestled into the onion bag to effectively seal the win for the visitors and put us on the way to a third 2-0 league win. Before Lee Tomlin ruined it with a scrappy consolation goal, Meite had shown sublime skill to nutmeg and bamboozle two players who gave up the chase and threw their hands in the air. A really lovely moment, that had John O’Shea shouting “skill them up Yakou” from the touchline (probably).

Joao was taken off with a nasty-looking arm/shoulder injury and the Royals were left to see out the final nine (nine!!!!) minutes of injury time. Puscas looked lively and was clearly desperate to score, but the game fizzled out and ended in the Berkshire side’s favour. Another win, another three points, another two goals scored but most importantly, another week at number one spot.

The thing about haters is that they will always hate: keep writing us off and we’ll keep winning. And as for me, I’m now convinced we are quite a good team.

Until next time.