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View From The Dolan: Onwards And Upwards

Hash brown baps, a near miss with a Bristol City player in the car park and plenty more...

PA Images via Getty Images

Three losses on the bounce, morale slipping and desperation creeping in quicker than a removal company arriving at Number 10. Perfect time then to play a team who’d just won 2-0 on the road, right? RIGHT! Let’s do this!

I’d spent the morning food shopping. Normally I’d do it online but I didn’t book a slot so I ended having to physically go to a shop. Now, if there are any supermarket brand managers reading this column, please know I’m not loyal, so am open to a sponsorship deal if required. However, I do insist on shopping exclusively at Waitrose and Marks & Sparks during the month of December, so we’d have to work that into the body of the contract.

Anyway, I digress… basically I saw loads of people wearing Reading shirts and attire (three people). This was encouraging because a) it was a good five and a half hours before kick-off and b) it was just nice. It might sound twee (such an underrated word) but I will never tire of living in the local area and seeing local people wearing the replica kit of their local club.

A luncheon of hash brown baps (honestly, try it - it’s basically a hash brown in a bread roll) and a hearty pint of coffee, then it was off to the football. The traffic was light and as my little boy wasn’t attending (he had a friend’s party, the plastic) I was able to put on music that I wanted to listen to.

My afternoon was nearly over before it began however with an incident involving the Bristol City coach and their players. Effectively, the driver had parked the coach on the approach to the ground instead of near the players’ entrance. That meant the players had to walk through my car park to get to the entrance to the stadium.

Chris Martin (yuk) strolled out into the road, failing to use the pedestrian crossing as per highway guidelines, which was bad enough. But it was Nakhi Wells who was the real daredevil. After I’d joked with the steward about running the players over and how we’d defo get three points if I’d done that (we laughed, but deep down I think he knew I had a point), I expertly manoeuvred my vehicle into the car park, only to have the striker stroll nonchalantly across the trajectory of my car and carry on his merry way. Well, how I didn’t hit him (with the car, not my fists) I’ll never know. But honestly, I was livid.

Car parked and no RTAs recorded (road traffic accidents), I headed off to the hotel to catch the dying embers of the Liverpool game (side note: I’ve just realised in a paragraph above I said “it’s basically a hash brown in a bread roll” and that’s not accurate: it IS a hash brown in a bread roll. Just wanted to clear that up). Say what you want about Steve Cooper but that right there is a proper manager - struggling to get points on the board, reflecting and then changing tactics to beat one of the better teams in the league. Fair play.

Premier League interlude over, it was off to face reality in the Championship. Nothing too crazy about the line-up or selection. I guess there would have been people who had their eyebrows raised over the inclusion of Hendrick, but in reality we don’t have huge options in midfield right now. I suppose the other “controversial” nugget would be the exclusion of Long, but personally I was happy with the team and presumed formation.

Reading v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

The first half kicked off. Some things happened. We won about 26 corners. That was about it. It was a bit of a snooze fest which I guess was needed to calm everything down after the last few games. There was a solidity to the play and we weren’t hugely aggressive going forward whilst being defensively sound of mind.

That all changed in the second period when Loum, who for my money was terrible in the first half, nodded home a decent corner to settle the nerves and put the wheels in motion on a possible home win. But would Nakhi Wells stop those wheels as well as my physical wheels like he’d done earlier in the day? No! He was subbed on 56 minutes, possibly because I’d spooked him a few hours previously with my aggressive braking…

A few timely changes and another goal in injury time enabled the Royals to bag the three points. In light of the win, here are some questions and their answers:

  • Was it vintage Reading? No, we can play better.
  • Were we better than in previous games? Absolutely, but also bear in mind that Bristol offered very little.
  • Are the striking positions up for grabs? Joao was better in this game, but still looks out of sorts. Either way, it can’t be Joao and Carroll together ever again.
  • Is Joe Lumley brilliant? He certainly is! He’s the ultimate pantomime villain and he’s excellent playing that role.
  • Should Mbengue get a longer contract? He had a good game, but we’ve been down this road before in terms of getting carried away with one or two performances (see Loum being the best thing since sliced Sidwell based on his earlier season form).

Effectively, this was a very important result. Of course, we lacked composure in the final third throughout the game and could have scored more, but it was encouraging that we went 1-0 up and played 40-ish minutes without looking likely to concede. We didn’t sit back, we tried to be proactive and did the basics that have been lacking in recent weeks to earn the win.

Onwards and upwards from here? Time will tell, but the landscape around the club would have looked a lot darker had we lost this game.

Until next time.