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View From The Dolan: The Magic Of The Cup

Ben’s take on Reading’s 1-0 defeat at Luton Town, as a young side is knocked out of the FA Cup.

PA Images via Getty Images

Well, what a year we’ve had! And thank God it’s coming to an end!

*Checks notes and calendar*

Ah. It’s only the 10th of January. Still, lots to look forward to, no doubt...

The first of these things to look forward to was another game against the Bedfordshire side, the 27th time we’d played them this season. Honestly, I’m about as sick of Luton as I am being in lockdown and I’m genuinely glad we can’t play them again now... until late April.

The game came around very quickly in terms of the timing of it. I’d been for a run (more on that later) and smuggled some PB on toast into the stomach and then bang! Game time. I’d spent all week meandering through the days like a Tory member giving a press conference to the nation, building up to the “magic of the cup” and when the game came about, I couldn’t have been less interested.

The first battle was working out what platform I was supposed to be watching the game on. I’d discovered that we were to be broadcast live, with one commentator (ONE COMMENTATOR! Who are we?! Swindon?!) on a channel which sounded like it was made up this week whilst someone was hungover:

BT exec: Right, we’ve taken on too many games and we need new channels to show them on.

BT intern: OK.

BT exec: So I need some catchy, memorable names for the channels.

BT intern: No problem. Leave with that with me. Just gonna have a nap and a Monster energy drink.

*hours pass*

BT exec: So, you got a title?

BT intern: Have I got a title?! Of course. The channel shall be called... BT Sport Extra!!!!

BT exec: But we need at least six new channels.

BT intern: Right, gotcha.

And so, BT Sport Extra 1-6 was born, with us being on the very last channel to be created.

The team sheet proved interesting. A delicate blend of experience and youth interspersed with Sam Baldock. Nah, I’m not knocking him and I was genuinely delighted he was El Capitan for the game, having bigged him up last week on the podcast.

I settled down with the remnants of the delivery I had received from The Nag’s Head the day before: a wonderful ale, with a full-body flavour and a biscuity aftertaste. I know it was 12 noon, but it wasn’t like I was going anywhere else, was it? On a serious note, support your local where you can chaps. The Nag’s Head have adapted to the current climate, as have lots of other local businesses, and if you can, buy from them.

I tuned into the channel five minutes early and was greeted with a black screen and music which seemed like it was considered, but deemed not good enough, for the film ‘Interstellar’, which is a movie about Matthew McConaughey going into space in a white suit. Musical interlude over and it was game time! Oh yeah!

I was very interested to see Bristow, Southwood and Pendlebury play. Considering that Bristow could well be the last natural LB at the club in a few months, it was a big chance for him to excel. As the game kicked off, the foul and demonic light fog was replaced with sun which made it basically impossible to see half of the pitch. God knows what it was like to play in, but I had no idea what was occurring in certain areas.

From what I could make out, we weren’t doing too badly, but Luton were turning the screw slightly. Some of the players seemed a bit overawed with the occasion - and when I say “occasion”, I mean having to make their debut in Luton, of all places. I clocked around 39 seconds of the commentator talking about Olise’s contract clause, which was followed by the hosts taking the lead. Bristow had seemed calm and assured, as had Dorsett, but we were lacking penetration.

Luton Town v Reading - FA Cup Third Round Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Half time arrived and with the ale from Russell Street depleted, I switched to non-alcoholic lager. A light snack of some McCoys (cheese and onion flavour) and a quick glance of The I paper (great read, it really is - I take it daily) and I was back to it.

The second half was very much “our” half. We were much better and were able to test Simon Sluga in the Hatters goal a bit more. Esteves looked lively and many of the others stepped up too. NML came on in the latter stages of the game and whacked one against the crossbar for our best chance before the follow-up was wasted. The game ended very much in our court, but it wasn’t to be and our cup run was extinguished like an amateur bonfire which had been made by a husband for the sole purpose of burning old payslips.

Pauno will have learnt much about the “fringe” (hate that phrase) players and the club will have taken great pride in the amount of academy products playing. No doubt the chap that this column is named after would have been looking on fondly, knowing that his legacy is still strong and creating high-quality young players that are eager to make their mark on the first team, now and in the future.

A note on that run I talked about earlier: myself and eight other chaps from our five-a-side team are trying to run, walk and cycle (some of them are lycra-clad fatties) 1350 between now and the 14th of February. We are raising money for Mind, the mental health charity, so if you want to and can donate some English pounds, you can do so here.

Stay safe, support your local businesses and a very happy New Year to you all.

Until next time.