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View From The Dolan: A Lack Of Intensity

Ben took in a frustrating home draw for Reading from the comforts of hospitality for a change.

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After an expected but very, very welcome win last weekend against the South Wales mega swans, it was pretty lovely to have a little breather from footie. And in actual fact, it was a pretty quiet week at the club given previous events. As a result, come KO time, I was buzzing for the game to start and with all due to respect to the Yorkshire Tigers, confident of a win.

I had been invited into hospitality for the game by David Sansome, director of local estate agents Sansome & George. Regular readers will know that my heart is always with the Dolan, but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, do you? More on that later.

I took the bus into town to meet both my dad and my mate. Because of the excellent and regular transport links in upper Tilehurst, I didn’t need to wait long for the double-decker which was to be my carriage into easily the best town in Berkshire. Heading down the Oxford Road was a bit of a chore, with people getting on with massive pre-lit Christmas trees, buggies, shopping, upset children... the only thing that was missing was some sort of animal.

As the bus finally rolled into town, I could feel my mouth begin to salivate at the thought of the taste of the afternoon’s first beer. We’d agreed to meet at The Grumpy Goat - a shop on Smelly Alley which basically sells lots of beer, cheese and coffee. They have plenty of fridges which are filled with interesting lagers, ales and stouts. The problem of course is that you end up spending more time choosing a beer than you do actually drinking it. Alcohol selected and a plate of pickled onions ordered (it’s Christmas, after all) we settled down to discuss all the big topics of the moment.

After a couple in here, we headed to Revolution de Cuba (don’t know why) for one last pint before heading up to the Mad Stad. To be fair, it was pretty busy with people seemingly having their office parties at lunch (controversial!), so we propped up the bar with some Spanish lager. Those polished off, it was time to head up to the Whitley Stadium.

It takes a very generous and gracious person to invite not one but three people he’s never met in person into a private box for a game and David was just that. He had very kindly invited me earlier in the season but I wasn’t able to attend, so this was the first opportunity I’d had to take him up on his invite. He didn’t hesitate when I cheekily asked if I could bring my mate with me too and upon arrival, my thoughts were confirmed about him being a really great guy. It was brilliant to meet him and his other guests and talking to him pre-game, it was clear to see his passion for the club and football in general but also his chain of local estate agents.

The seats were excellent and you get a completely different perspective of the game, with them being positioned just past the half-way line closer to the away fans. On the sixth minute, the stadium rose in unison to celebrate the life of a little boy who deserved so much better. As a dad of six-year-old twins myself, I’ve actively avoided reading any of the reports and details about what happened to Arthur but it was great to see the supporters from both clubs clapping him, even if the incident itself should never have been allowed to happen in the first place.

Reading v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

I expected more from us in the first half. I felt pre-match and in-game that Hull were there for the taking. We didn’t do a good job in defending basic set pieces and found it hard to break them down going forwards. There’s an argument to suggest that Hull were the better team but I won’t go into that here. All that mattered was young Thomas Holmes’ wonder strike to send us in up at the break. The celebrations and reactions from that goal will stay with me for a long time - a great goal at a key moment.

Hospitality at half time is a different world to the Dolan. Mainly, the quality of toilets on offer. Sparkling white tiles accentuated with black trim and a choice of fine hand soap and lotion made the experience a thoroughly pleasant one. Food arrived in the shape of a hot dog with onions in a rustic bin and plenty of proper French fries. I washed this down with a bottle of 106 lager and felt confident of more goals in the second half.

What I didn’t anticipate was that Hull would be the ones to score next. The goal was a real mess to be honest - again, won’t analyse that here, but it’s not one to replay over and over again. Horrid. This briefly put the visitors’ tails up and we struggled to really force the issue in getting another goal. That said, the penalty claims were as close to dead cert as you could possibly get and how both the referee and the linesman missed not one, but two 12-yard death kicks baffles me in the same way that I’m baffled by the fact that standard mince pies contain over 250 calories (I mean, what’s in them?! Seriously?!).

We became a little bit more confident in going forward towards the end of the game but couldn’t unlock a well-organised and disciplined Hull team. Credit to them - once they got the goal, however fortuitous, they shut up shop and defended in a low block that we had no answer to. At the final whistle I felt an overwhelmingly sense of frustration at the lack of intensity, particularly in the final third where Hull were at their most vulnerable. It’s another home game which has passed us by, meaning that we haven’t won at home since October 16. Take that how you want, but it’s not good reading in black and white.

After the game, we said our goodbyes to David and his guests and went to the hotel for a final drink. I bumped into Johnny Hunt, who many of you will know. It was great to see him and have a chat. I got home later than I’d planned due to an error with a taxi booking and jumped onto the podcast. We always like to leave it at least 24 hours to be more objective about the game, but other commitments meant that it had to be done straight away. I’ll let you judge whether that’s a good or bad thing when it comes out but hopefully you’ll get something from what Adam and I were able to put out.

Until next time.