Look, I like my job. I love what I do every day. But football has always been a decent little distraction from the daily grind. Not so the last few days: to be honest, I nearly phoned the club up ahead of this game and called in sick, such was my desire to not attend. Indeed, work was the distraction from football - how the tables have flipped.
BUT ATTEND I DID! I left a little earlier than usual for an evening KO to get diesel (next car will be electric, chill out) and do some STAR bits. I chose to visit the Esso on Berkeley Avenue, which is easily one of my least favourite petrol stations in Reading. Easily. If I had to pick my favourites, I’d probably go with:
BP on Tilehurst Road
Shell on Norcot Roundabout
Sainsbury’s at the Savacentre
I won’t bore you with why. There’s also a pretty decent one in Shinfield that has a Greggs in it, but that’s a bit of trek out for me.
The biggest news pre-game was that Rafa was out. Apparently, he punched a whiteboard (probably said “see out the win” or “don’t look like muppets out there” or “score more than the oppo”) and broke his hand. I’m not going into detail about that because I wasn’t there, but on paper (or a whiteboard) it looks embarrassing all round. Yet another key player out for the foreseeable future.
Once I’d got to the Auto Dome, I headed to STAR base to grab the new travel posters, as the ones displayed in the ticket office needed changing. Listening in on people buying tickets is fascinating. Some chap said “I wanna sit where there is noise, that Club 1891 thing”. I nearly dropped the drawing pins at this- 1891?! Have a day off pal! I resisted the burning urge to go right up to him, point in his face and tell him to look at the bloody replica shirt he was wearing which quite clearly states that the club was, and I quote “EST.1871” (he was wearing last season’s home kit).
Instead I tutted, breathed in and then breathed out loudly (sighed), tutted again, rolled my eyes and shook my head, all whilst balancing a Perspex screen on my head and holding posters and drawing pins. I returned the key back to base (because Pete would have literally killed me had I lost it) and made my way round to gate five.
For the first time in ages, I went to the concession stand to buy food. Of course, what I wanted (balti pie) wasn’t available so then I politely and calmly requested my second choice (sausage roll) which of course wasn’t available either. At that point, I placed my card back in my wallet and walked off without a word to anyone. Utterly pointless. For the second time in four days, I left the concourse empty handed and empty bellied.
The first half was minging. I mean really minging. We were slow, turgid and devoid of any spark to light the darkness that surrounded the Berkshire Stadium. The second half however was a different jug of fish altogether. It was like we’d suddenly become one of those greyhounds that chases the fake hamsters or guinea pigs or whatever they are. We’d turned into Piers Morgan interviewing Matt Hancock: savage, relentless and hungry to embarrass. Swift (who the flip else?) tucked away a fine free kick before a well worked cross by Puscas was slotted home by little Tom.
Things got mildly sweaty when Peterborough scored from a set piece (I mean, how else would they score?!) to suck the atmosphere, joy and positivity out of the seated bowl like a hoover taking out all of the air from one of those vacuum bag things that middle-class people use to store their winter (and summer, depending on the season) bedding in.
You could hear and sense the nerves jangling all around you. Questions rattled round my brain like a steel bottle in the boot of a family saloon car: would we concede another goal? Would we score another goal? Would the game end a draw? Would we or would we not get three points from the game? Would I make a sandwich or toast when I got home? It was relentless.
I needn’t have worried because Tom popped up with another absolute peach of a goal to seal the deal and send everyone home happy for once. There was to be no repeat of the horror show four days earlier. The result has probably kept the wolf from the door for a few weeks at least. We still look as disorganised as an abstract painting at times, but the main thing was the big fat W. To hell with the semantics of it, we got the +3 and that was all that truly, truly mattered.
As I drove back into our road, I realised that it was bin day the next day. “Don’t worry Ben” I whispered to myself “you’ve just witnessed the second league win of the season, seen three very delicious goals and are now supporting a team up to the dizzying heights of 15th, so don’t worry, go to bed happy, the bins can wait”. And with that, I tiptoed up the stairs, got into bed and fell asleep. I was glad I hadn’t “phoned in sick”.
Until next time.