Well, who’d have thought that Reading fans would have spent the week focusing more on a different set of Royals than their own team?! Not me! In truth though, without a game midweek, it felt like a fairly barren week for the club. Moreover, it was probably a good week to have on the training ground as it allowed Pauno and his staff ample time to study Forest and their squad of 64 players - any of whom could play.
To celebrate our biannual process of making Brice Samba look ridiculous, I took it upon myself to feast on a range of foods which could be considered as “awful”:
- Breakfast: pop tarts x2
- Lunch: turkey dinosaurs (one, T-Rex, one triceratops and one stegosaurus, baked beans, waffles (potato flavour)
- Lunch desert: tube of smarties
Suffice to say, once the last Smartie had been downed, I had a stomach ache. Nevertheless, I persevered with “treat day” (a term given to golfers and lady weightlifters who choose one day a week to abandon their normal diet of kale and seafood and eat a Twix instead) and tucked into an absolutely gorgeous pale ale by the Wiper & True brewery (and no, I didn’t buy it because it had a gold elephant on the can).
As I settled down to the news of the teams (or the team news, if you will), I realised I hadn’t actually purchased the match pass for the game. And then, I disappeared down a rabbit hole. Not literally, I’m not in some 19th-century novel for children. But I mused over whether iFollow would continue to go ahead when all fans were allowed back. Here are some questions I thought about at this point:
- Would iFollow continue to stream matches when fans were allowed in the stadium?
- Would iFollow be available to “away” supporters only, e.g. if you didn’t want to go to watch us play Preston on a Saturday in January (or any other day of the week or time of the year, for that matter - terrible place), could you buy a match pass to watch the game online as a Reading fan, an ‘away’ fan?
- Would they do a deal whereby if you bought a season ticket, you could also be given a season pass to iFollow to watch the games online too - a bit like those magazine subscriptions where you get the print and the digital version?
I wouldn’t say I’ve enjoyed using iFollow, but I have been able to see more games this season than any other due to the fact that the away games are streamed. And before anyone calls me a “snowflake”, getting to away games is tricky because I have responsibilities - like a big lawn to cultivate and a coffee machine to clean. And I certainly don’t want to get my white Nike trainers dirty on some northern, coal-dust pavement. So yeah, these thoughts tumbled around my head like a fat dad rolling down a gently sloping hill on a warm summer’s day at a family picnic.
Within the first minute, we’d gifted away a corner. What annoyed me most about this was that the camera panned just low enough for me to notice the absolute state of the bottom of the posts. Do they not have paint in the Midlands? And this for a “massive club” too - pathetic.
I realised I was on the ‘away’ noise setting on the stream so switched to the ‘home’ option to hear the local commentators and my God, I was not disappointed. These guys knew their stuff, they were chatting away about formations and styles of play like a diplomat’s wife (or mistress) at a formal cocktail party for Europeans discussing free trade. They really were a breath of fresh air and, here’s the thing, I wanted to listen to them. So refreshing.
We were looking lively and inventive and posing some issues in the final third. There were a few times when both Joao and Puscas could have passed but shot (a recurring theme in the game), but overall the play was good and the approach was positive. On 40 minutes the comms team let everyone (and themselves) down when they began talking about the weather (it’s not BBC Berks, lads) and the half wore down swiftly and politely.
The second half began woefully as Forest were allowed to take the lead. I say “allowed” because the ball from wide should never have crept into the box in the first place - poor defending from Richards on that one. Puscas and Joao got in each other’s way almost immediately afterwards and I had a face like Piers Morgan did after being verbally attacked by a weather man (and a good one at that).
At this point, I had literally no idea where Semedo was supposed to be playing position wise and Pauno, obviously connecting with me on a telepathic level, felt the same as he swapped him for Meite. That meant a three-up-front scenario - a tripod of attack, if you like. Or a tricycle. Or a three-legged camel. Whatever has three things, basically. The screw was being tightened slightly and Forest were playing more deeply than they had been previously. Aluko was bought on for Puscas (another good sub) and we really were becoming the only dog at the bowl at this point.
On 81 minutes the deadlock was broken: Meite lashed home an absolute thunder chap of a strike which, let’s be honest, Samba should have caught but he didn’t because he’s rubbish and silly and utterly useless. It was then a question of whether we could beat the clock as well as the 11 men of Forest before the final whistle went. We had a few more “bits and pieces” around their goal but nothing came of it and we were left to rue missed chances.
All in all, I wasn’t hugely gutted about the result. It’s a mentality shift in both the team and us fans to think that we are the favourites in any game, which rightly or wrongly stems from our excellent and consistent early season form. A point away from home is still a good result.
Granted, the top two does seem a little bit more of a stretch now due to other results in the game week, but I felt we were positive, always looking to move the ball forward and generally the better side. This may be a game we look back on as a wasted opportunity, but right now it doesn’t feel so much like that, especially as we were behind and we have, on the whole, struggled with overcoming conceding first in games this season.
It sets us up for another double-game week: two fixtures that, on paper, shouldn’t prove too difficult to gain six points from.
On a side note, happy Mother’s Day to all the mums past and present, the nans and step-mums, the older sisters and the aunties.
Until next time.