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View From The Dolan: Winning With Aplomb

Reading’s return to league action (finally!) was worth the extended wait as the Royals saw off Coventry with ease at the Mad Stad.

PA Images via Getty Images

It feels like three years since our last league game. The monotony of general life and the postponement of the Brentford game genuinely left me feeling like we’d never play again. Of course, we had the distraction of the cup, but in the end that was a non-event for us.

What I personally can’t get my head around is that I actually went to the Norwich game a month ago and now, I’m not supposed to leave my house. With that in mind, it’s easy to feel detached from the club even more so than before, as we are fast approaching a year since we were, in theory, allowed a full capacity crowd in to the Berkshire Megaplex (although I have literally no idea when the last time was that we actually had a capacity crowd in).

The game against the Sky Blues began a period of games which has been dubbed “Revenge Month”, which basically sounds like a terrible wrestling pay-per-view that would last longer than it needed to. In essence, we play all the teams that have already beaten us this season, although why it has to be called something is beyond me. Surely it’s just the next “block of games”, “the continuation of the fixture list” or “a bunch of games that the club are legally and contractually bound to play”. Granted, none of those have a good ring to them, but you know, let’s leave the drama out of it thanks.

The game itself proved to be the only high point of the day for me. Admittedly, I collected the bin which had been emptied by Reading Borough Council earlier in the morning, but apart from that, I didn’t leave the house, or at least the boundary of my house. I watched a squirrel prat around in the garden, I home-schooled my children, I had a cheese sandwich for lunch: so yeah, the game at 6pm was a welcome relief to life to be honest.

As the match kicked off, it was clear that the weather was as wet as an egg. I know this because a) it was raining outside my house and b) it was raining in South Reading, proving that Coventry at home on a Tuesday in January in the rain on an odd-numbered day (hate odd numbers) was indeed, an avocado skin of epic proportions! It was also my Cov-supporting mate’s bday, so I was pretty sure we would lose.

We started like a team that hadn’t played for two weeks or so. Not in the league, anyway. The visitors were nearly 1-0 up inside five minutes and at this point, I was already pretty stressed. The play was turgid and slow and we didn’t seem “at it” (which is a football term developed by Sunday League players to motivate and inspire their teammates).

Reading v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Madejski Stadium Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

But of course, I needn’t have worried because Lucas Joao was back and it took him little time to score. A wonderful assist by the lovely John Swift was converted with aplomb (love that word) by the big man up top and the nerves instantly disappeared like an average person’s faith in the current government (ooh, political). It really was a very good goal and one that, had there been fans in attendance, would have definitely seen stewards scrambling the radios for back-up and desperately asking fans to not stand up for too long.

The rain continued to pour down like... well, rain and the pitch was truly sodden. However, huge props to the ground staff who have worked wonders over the last few weeks to keep it looking like a green space where men and women of all ages roll balls that are a bit like big heavy tennis balls. Huge thanks to London Irish for leaving too: that’s massively helped the playing surface stay in splendid condition.

Half time arrived and I sent a tweet with my personal thoughts - more on that later. I also used the interval to bath my children (quickly) then leave them in the capable hands of my spouse to read them a story while I sloped off downstairs to continue the game day experience. No lagers, beers or anything fun: it’s January and it’s outlawed to enjoy yourself until at least February, pandemic or not.

I was hoping for a little bit more all round in the second period. I still felt like we were capable of messing the game up (not trying to be negative, before Twitter goes mental... again) and so needed a quick start. AND WHAT A START WE HAD! (I read that writing in capitals emphasises the point made to the reader and builds drama - hopefully it worked for you). Rino, on what must have been 45/46 mins on the timepiece, lashed home the second to celebrate his 100th appearance in the blue and white hoops. Side note: what a player he is. Genuinely feel like he can be mentioned in the same breathe as Sidwell in a year or so’s time - phenomenal player.

Time ticked by and we had a few chances to improve the lead. Some proper awful defending from Coventry saw Olise bought down and then take the subsequent free kick. Later on, Swift had a go from roughly the same distance and score what teenagers call a “peng” goal. It was an outstanding reminder of the qualities of a player who is, easily, my most favourite of all the current players. Just a great goal from a great chap. To celebrate this goal, I ate an apple (January remember) and filled up my water bottle. The third goal proved to be the last significant piece of action and a welcome and needy three points was staying in the Royal County.

A quick word on that tweet. Within it, amongst other things, I mentioned that talk of Olise’s potential move to bigger things had gone to his head as he was sporting a new barnet. This was intended as a joke. Not a slight on the player or his performance, or indeed the lad himself. If you are reading this Michael, I apologise to you if you were offended.

What was slightly bizarre was the level of abuse I received from our fan base who failed to see the funny side (that’s fine, I’m an acquired taste) and, I feel, quite over the top and pretty abusive. Michael himself replied to the tweet with a cryptic response: that’s fine. After all, Twitter is a forum to share ideas and opinions, right? When I tweet something, I don’t expect people to agree with me. I welcome the discussion to be honest. But don’t make it proper personal: I had to delete the tweet because the abuse was so heavy that I didn’t want my wife seeing it.

Next up is a trip to the proper north, with a 12.30 KO on Sunday against PNE. And if that isn’t a warm up for the bizarre kick off times in the Premier League, I don’t know what is...

Until next time.