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View From The Dolan: Packed To The Rafters

Ben’s take as a bumper home crowd witnesses a fifth home win of the season.

PA Images via Getty Images

I should hate Huddersfield. The scars from 2017 still run deep. The only small positive from that day was seeing Sir Patrick Stewart celebrate. Hideous final, crappy day, worst game of association football I’ve ever seen.

And yet, I don’t hate the Spaniels, or Terriers or whatever they are called. They are, to me, the football team equivalent of a shrug. I don’t mean that nastily, just that I know they’ll always be there in a sort of indifferent way. I completely ignore them until we play them and that’s usually a non-event (or a horrific one if you go off last season’s cluster… well, you know).

The fact that they would break our international break-fast (see what I did there?) sort of sums up the Championship. A team that were very good last season now find themselves dwelling in the basement like a bunch of told-off insects. A new-manager bounce doesn’t seem to exist anymore (and don’t you dare @ me with stone-cold facts that prove this loose hypothesis incorrect), so that wasn’t a worry heading in to the game. I’m not trying to be an arrogant aardvark here, but if you can’t be confident when you are playing the 23rd-ranked team in the league at home, when you can be?

My confidence level of me actually getting to the ground on time however plummeted quicker than the British pound when I realised the level of traffic I was facing to get there. Yes, the M4 was partially open but train strikes + extra tickets for children = a very, very, very, very, very, very congested Reading road network.

I don’t need an excuse to complain about the council (who does?) but they clearly didn’t think ahead when designing the highway system around our town. I know I can (eventually) get to the other side of London via train in like 13 minutes or whatever but what good is that if I can’t get from Upper Tilehurst to The South Reading Coliseum in less than 46 minutes on a slightly busier matchday? NONE!

Flustered, enraged and in need of a wee, I eventually arrived at said coliseum at 2.37. After picking up my photo ID from main reception (don’t go on about it), I jumped the queue to my turnstile using said ID and was enjoying a continental lager within 10 minutes of arriving. I say enjoy, but it tasted awful. It was basically like liquid metal and not in a good way. It wasn’t the smooth, golden, refreshing, tasteful beverage that I’ve become accustomed to over the years and that saddened me.

The Dolan was packed to the rafters with extra humans, like a mouth that had too many marshmallows in it. It was virtually dripping with families, rucksacks, Mars bars and those clapper things that I hate. I’m not against these ticketing schemes, far from it, and deep down I find the chaos it brings to the catering staff, the ticket office and the overall vibe to the game quite funny.

Within 10 minutes, a chap from one of these groups wandered down the aisle waving a £20 note (a new one, thank God) and I just chuckled knowing that he’d get down to the kiosk and place his order for there to be an awkward silence and then a large explanation about how it’s a cashless stadium blah blah blah. Oh the bants.

Game-wise, it didn’t take long for us to take the lead. Tom Mc rose at a corner like a large bubble of natural gas that had escaped from a (possibly) sabotaged pipe in the Baltic Sea. It was very quickly two when Hendrick’s shot-cross was bundled over the line by the visiting keeper. At that point, everyone on the pitch knew that playing the second 45 minutes was a complete waste of time and, mentally, the Huddersfield players were shot whilst our boys had already leaned off the gas as the seconds ticked down to the interval.

Reading v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

At half time, I felt as redundant as a Tory backbencher during a policy discussion as the deadly fungus that ravaged the pitch was still prevalent. Fans of the half-time entertainment fest will be pleased to know I should be back in action for the midweek game. Instead, I watched as the snacks and drinks were unleashed across the Dolan to satisfy the hungry day-trippers that had just witnessed an attacking masterclass from the Royals. Sort of.

The second half was pretty uninspiring. A few rubber bands were lobbed about (from the clappers), we resorted to game management on the pitch and never looked like letting them back in and I pondered what minute everyone would start leaving “to beat the traffic”. Meite came on to make it 3-0 before they converted at the very end, but in truth 3-1 probably didn’t do the first-half performance justice and we should have got a few more in the onion bag.

We won’t get many first halves as easy as this one, but we do need to be more ruthless when putting teams to sleep/bed/pasture etc. Norwich will be a different basket of cod; get something from that and the confidence stays high. Regardless, it’s onto those idiots (and they are idiots) from West London on Friday, giving us two very tricky games in the space of four days. Get anything north of three points from those and we really are dealing with a different type of Reading team.

Until next time.