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View From The Dolan: Hat’s All, Folks

Ben’s view of Reading’s 0-0 at Luton Town on Tuesday night.

PA Images via Getty Images

The last time I tried to write a midweek one of these was the debacle against the South Wales Mega Swans. I say ‘tried’ in that everything I wrote was absolute rubbish (even more than usual) so just gave up and confined it to the “writer’s reject pile” along with my unfinished novel about a time-travelling viking who solves mysteries with his pet yak (should really look into getting that started again, actually…).

I was genuinely, genuinely delighted that we weren’t on the red button and instead featured on something called Sky Sports Arena (which, if you were classing Kenilworth Road as an arena, is technically sport fraud). Indeed, having switched on at exactly 7.32pm, I was able to catch the dying embers of the MIA/SAC NBA game which was delightful as a) I like American things and b) basketball is my third-favourite sport.

I’d spent the hours prior to the game doing things such as cleaning out the guinea pigs, doing some life admin via email, eating a jacket potato and beans and standing in the garden in the middle of a rainstorm trying to get 50% of my cats in. You know, truly pedestrian things.

As the game was about to start, the other 50% of the cats wandered into the living room and despite being outside for a large part of the afternoon, decided to do a poo in the litter tray which I needed like a wet pair of suede shoes. A genuinely awful smell filled the air as I scrambled to get the tray out of the room and into the garage to sort out said business. A dreadful start to the evening’s proceedings which I hoped wasn’t an omen.

Team news perused (it was a sort of rejigged 3-5-2 which, I think, *checks notes* was deployed in pre-season at Wimbledon) and confidence level raised, it was off to the fridge for a lager. I’ve been making my way through a box of Tetley’s Premium No 4 that I bought cheap from a discount shop locally. They aren’t too bad, considering they are famous as a brewer for bitter and fairly drinkable. Would I buy them again? Probably not, but I’m a better man for trying them.

I would have made the journey to Luton had I been able to finish work in time. And also if Luton wasn’t one of the worst places in the south of England full of broken dreams and two-star kebab shops. Yuk. Life is too short to eat substandard takeaways - always said that.

Luton did some weird holding-arms Haka-type thing with their odd-looking freak of a mascot lurking in the background. A quick Google search reminded me that it “is a smiling man wearing a straw boater, in reference to the club’s nickname, the Hatters, which comes from the town’s links to the hat-making trade”. And at that point, I went down a rabbit hole looking at all sorts of trash mascots from around the UK. Southend, Patrick Thistle, West Brom - hang your heads in shame.

Luton Town v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship - Play Off - Semi Final - First Leg - Kenilworth Road Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images

Fair to say the first half wasn’t vintage association football. Lumley made some decent saves (gawd bless ‘im), we had some chances whilst Luton defended like stallions and we generally looked pretty lopsided. The back three grew into the game/got less rubbish and the half ended 0-0.

I headed off to the kitchen to eat the rest of the Halloween goodies and settled on a bag of little chocolate balls covered in fiddly and annoying tin foil. I ate, what, 19 of them, and then gave up as I couldn’t be bothered to keep unwrapping them. It doesn’t make sense to me: the chocolates themselves are so small, why not do away with the tin foil, pack them in protective packaging and then people would eat more?

Dave Edwards on Sky made some OUTRAGEOUS claim about Kenilworth Road being a great ground to play at (they aren’t going to give you a free pie, Dave) and we were back to it. Carroll went close on 51 minutes with yet another attack down the right.

You could hear both managers squawking like world-weary eagles that had returned to their nests after a long hunt to find their eggs missing and consistently chucking out expletives like sweary vending machines.

Hendrick’s shot on 64 minuten (bit of German for you) bought the first real “salmon gasping for air” gasp from me. The game ticked on, with the Berkshire Boys making all the right noises but with little to no product.

With the game ending 0-0, it could be looked at in two ways. On one hand, it’s a clean sheet and a point against a side who had been in reasonable form. On the other, any sort of sensible decision-making in the final third would have seen us snaffle all three points back to the Royal County. Too many touches, shots when it could have been a cross, taking on a man when it could have been a pass, weak shots off target when unchallenged: generally our play going forward was lacklustre and inconsistent. They were there for the taking and Ince will know that.

Still, at least we don’t have to wait until Saturday to do this all again, eh? See you Friday!

Until next time.