Really, you can’t make this game up. One minute you’re in the midst of (yet another) unsavoury atmosphere away from home, the next minute you’re absolutely battering your next-door neighbour with swagger and aplomb. This is the duality of our football club.
Reading put poor Swindon Town to the sword, and again and again and again and again. It was our second game in the competition and we have racked up 14 goals in just two matches. Both wins have seen young sides show what they are truly capable of when the league insecurities can be put on the back burner for a while.
No fear was shown in the near-simmering conditions under the floodlights. From the very start we had the high press and tempo working well.
Even before we scored in the 18th minute we could have been two or three to the good. This was clearly going to be a fun night.
This game had a fork in it by half-time. Harvey Knibbs bagged two of his three goals in the first half before the refreshments. Shortly after the break, he tucked away his third for his hat-trick. In truth, he wasn’t even our best player either. It was a lot better than the one pass that he’d completed against Leyton Orient, mind you!
While Knibbs will take all the plaudits, the work from Michael Craig and Tivonge Rushesha will go largely unnoticed. These two have formed a tidy little partnership in central midfield since coming together at the start of the season. Their experience grows in the lower ranks and one of them, most likely Craig, should be breaking through to the first team soon.
Craig, despite a very dubious yellow card, demonstrated a measured and controlled performance in the middle of the park. Never looking fussed or out of position, he was careful and mindful with his passing. In tandem with Rushesha, they rarely looked troubled by the visitors.
Another to shine was Caylan Vickers who dazzled with his nifty footwork and unselfish decision-making. At times he was simply unplayable and should have had a delightful goal from a late free-kick that was headed for the top left corner. But not to matter, Paul Mukairu snaffled up the rebound off the post to score with a simple header.
All over the park Reading were superior; this was almost men against very much young boys. The disparity was stark. Swindon had their first foray into the Reading box on 30 minutes (literally) and just one shot on target all night. The visitors were like rabbits in the headlights: it was that bad for them.
But this is the result of having a small squad of players who are largely of a similar age and trajectory and train together daily. Due to all the circumstances that surround the team, Ruben Selles has at least managed to mould the younger players to play without fear in this competition. It’s refreshing to see what is possible on occasion when the pressure is off a tad. The opposition may not have been the sternest but you’ve still got to be professional and put them away, and Reading did that to great effect.
While it’s easy to get too high about a simple victory in a Mickey Mouse competition, we still have to take the small wins into account and use them as a springboard for better things. None of the players will have done themselves any harm, save for Coniah Boyce-Clarke who seemed to have picked up a fairly nasty injury in the warm-up.
The bigger picture in all of this is that we do have a very talented bunch of kids who need to be nurtured and be allowed to grow into established league players. Currently, the step-up to League One appears to be tough, but we do have to factor in the overriding circumstances at the club as a whole that undermine the efforts on the pitch.
Wins like this can help them go into the international break with some semblance of confidence. It’s a little win, but it can only be good to let their minds rest and recharge with some positivity behind it.
We now have 10 days without any on-the-field issues to worry ourselves with. The off-the-field shenanigans take centre stage yet again. With thoughts of the club going into administration appearing to be bogus, the focus again shines on a possible takeover. With a few parties reportedly being interested, fans will be hoping for swift developments with a new, reliable, trustworthy, candid owner.
After a result like this, even in the condition the club is in, there’s still a lot of potential and basis for some optimism. We are clearly far, far superior to our neighbours down the M4, even if we are battered, bruised and barely functioning. That’s got to be worth something.