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View From The Dolan: A Game We Could Have Done Without

Ben’s take on Reading’s 1-0 loss at Derby, which ended a four-match unbeaten run.

PA Images via Getty Images

This was just like old times: watching on the telly box from afar as my heroes trudged off to another non-descript northern town like some modern gladiators. I was going to compare them to Vikings but didn’t want the petty violence against civilians to act as a negative link with our lovely, gorgeous team.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure this game was the first of the season on the dreaded ‘red button’. I say dreaded because it’s, well, pretty minging. I just don’t understand how, with a company of Sky’s resources and creativity and spunk, they can churn out the appalling coverage of the games on their side channel.

No replays, a blank info screen before, at half time and after the game and just a general lack of interest in making these games visually and audibly acceptable. And I’m not ungrateful: I do appreciate that I can watch this for ‘free’ (the cost of the game being absorbed into the overall monthly fee I pay the corporate giants) as opposed to chucking a tenner or whatever at Royals TV, but I just think it could be less rubbish.

The lead-up to the game was pretty eventful. I went to bring the bins in and the garage roller door got stuck half way - the control had run out of bloody batteries. This meant that I couldn’t get the actual bins in as the gap was too small and the height of the roller meant that I had to bend down awkwardly to unscrew the panel to put the new batteries in. At a time when I should have been chilling some beers and lining up the snacks, I was knee deep (not literally) in tool boxes and metal panels and DIY misery. Job sorted, it was time to peruse the team selection and to compound my horror, my sweet Canadian Prince had been dropped…

Fulham v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

I don’t know why, but I get very star struck when I think of our Junior. I have this perception of him being really good in the Prem with Blackburn and some team from West London, both in terms of skill but also fantasy points. Maybe I’ve got it completely wrong, but he just seemed to be a good player from afar. And now he’s in South Reading and I’m tripping over myself to see him. Of course, he’s a decent player, but I feel like if we were in the MLS or, god forbid the SPL, he’d be our marquee player. Love him.

I missed the kick-off because a) I was getting 50% of our cat gang in from the garden and b) I genuinely always forget where to find the red button (not on the remote! The channel I need to get on to access it, thank you!). I joined just in time to see the players taking the knee, which I clapped heartily.

We didn’t start too badly, but weren’t spectacular either. Shaky and a bit subdued, like a fisherman enjoying his post-trip pint but preoccupied with thoughts of tomorrow’s shipping forecast. We just didn’t really exert ourselves; we made some nice passing moves in the final third without really forcing the issue in the penalty box.

The shakiness turned into full-blown meltdown when Forsyth (I mean, had he ever scored a goal before?!) looped a header over the defence and just under the crossbar to put the Rams 1-0 up. I was notified of this goal at least 90 seconds before it went in from the Sky Score app, so when I actually saw it with my own eyes, it basically doubled the pain.

I don’t mind admitting that, as the half wore on, my brain wandered off and began thinking about another game of online Match Attax. My little boy is very much into his football cards right now and there is an online version of this one, which is free and where you play against other people around the world without having to give your blood type or ‘make of first car’ as sign-up information. If it can appeal to me, a man with a deep distrust of any online game, it must be good.

Half time sprang up on me like a speeding fine through the letterbox and it was off to the fridge for a muller rice and cup/glass of water. I also found a bag of chocolate currency which a grandparent must have brought around at some point, so I helped myself to three 2p coins and a 5p piece. Pretty sure they weren’t for me, but whatevs.

As the second half began, I seriously thought about putting the heating on, but then realised I didn’t want to give EDF the satisfaction. No, I’ll just layer up until at least the clocks have gone back and by then I’ll probably be burning books for fuel anyway…

We started the second period quite badly. No real cutting edge and no real cohesion to the play or with the ball in transition. This was disappointing as I felt that Derby were there to be pushed back behind the ball. We were giving them too much time in possession and space to spot the passes. Puscas was hooked 11 minutes in and at this point, I needed a wee. I didn’t want to leave as I now had the added warmth of a blanket on me and didn’t want to miss a minute of that Canadian dreamboat on the field, who had just come on.

Pauno made ANOTHER sub (not sure he’s ever done two like that in quick succession) and, while the change in shape did disrupt Derby a little, it wasn’t enough for us to find the breakthrough. Around the 75-minute mark, I felt my eyes become heavier than a noose around a 17th-century thief’s neck, but kept myself focussed and awake by flicking through the scores around the other games. Nothing really changed in the game and it ended with another one in the ‘L’ column.

Gone was the fluidity, pace and attacking aggression we saw on Saturday. This was a game we could have really done without as we looked tired and slow and lacking creation or that intensity and press we’ve seen in games gone by. In truth it was probably a predictable result and the fact it was a first loss in five games shows that the team have really knuckled down in the last few weeks.

As for me, I’m off to the club at the end of this week to get some answers about the current state of, well, everything. There’s no doubt that recent results have calmed things down a bit, but those questions still need answering and the fans still need a clear idea of where we are at as a football club. Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that they can start to shed some light on how we move forward.

Until next time.