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View From The Dolan: A Sobering Night

Ben’s take on a 4-0 battering at Bramall Lane.

PA Images via Getty Images

Top of the league, you’re having a laugh!

It turns out we were, really. In truth, it was never going to last. We’d had a decent run and got a bit giddy, but this game proved to be the turning-on of the lights at the discotheque.

To be honest, I was excited about the game. I felt it would be a nice little yardstick to work out how good we were. Sheffield United are a decent team, we all know that. But in terms of the mathematics involved in the league table, so were we.

Passing the time pre-match was easy: I stuck in my Panini World Cup 2022 stickers, ate some pasta and rounded up the cats so that I wasn’t in the garden at 10pm trying to get them in and being mocked by my neighbours.

When the team news dropped, it was hard to tell if the rotation was down to just that, or if there was something more deviously tactical at play. I went for the latter in my pre-match thoughts and covered myself in positivity. In the first 10 minutes of the game, we behaved like a child lost in Tesco, milling around the aisles/pitch without any direction or purpose, looking for something that could not be found (possession, completed passes).

On 11 minutes, the floodgates were opened on what was to become a very sobering night. Apart from the fact that the midfield were behaving like ghosts, the main takeaway was that Royals TV (rebranded iFollow, basically) is proper swish. Replays! In-play scores from other games! Crisp graphics! Different camera angles! So that was a consolation in itself.

How we were only 1-0 down at the interval I’ll never know. But the problem was that this, like other Royals I’m sure, gave me hope and possibilities. We got better in the first half, but only in the same way that a house eventually dries out after devastating flooding. We held on, basically.

The break saw me grab a bag of kebab-flavoured crisps, a half pint of water and a beer from Double Barrelled. Named “juicer”, it was a lovely zesty citrus wheat-type beer, and at 3.5%, it was very, very drinkable.

At half time, I mentioned (virtually) that I didn’t want to see a collapse. Ideal then that after a mere minute of the second period, we were two down. That two turned into three and eventually four and it was all too easy for the hosts at that point.

This game won’t define our season, but I’m pretty confident that the Stoke City one will. I don’t mean that overly dramatically, but the reaction is key to this result. The players were trudging off at the end and rightly so: they should be disappointed in that result and performance and need to bounce back quickly. We did it after Rotherham United with the Blackburn Rovers game and we can do it again.

We didn’t get promoted after the last three games and we haven’t been relegated because of this one. If Paul Ince can fire the players up once more on Sunday then we really are seeing a different Reading side this season.

Until next time.