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View From The Dolan: Not Rock Bottom, Not Yet

Ben’s take on a horrid evening as Reading sink to a particularly depressing midweek loss to Fleetwood.

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I’m not one of those fans after witnessing whatever that was that who goes “ooh I don’t have words to describe it, I’m lost for vocabulary”. I’m not and I do. I have plenty of things to say. However, full disclaimer: I thought about not writing this edition of the column. Who would read it? Why would they read it? But then, I figured I could say that about another editions I’ve written. So off we go then!

On the podcast, myself, Ross and Bobbins were in an averagely confident mood ahead of this game. We had no reason to be of course, but we assumed there would be a response of such. And this is the first point I guess: what little hope fans of this club have heading into the next game are always short-sighted and misplaced because they find new ways to let us down and make us feel sad.

It was a torrid night, both weather-wise and atmospherically. I left the house as late as I could to stock up on warmth and clothing before making what I’d later look back on as some sort of death march to the seated bowl. I stopped at the petroleum station in Berkeley Avenue which I won’t name by brand for legal reasons because, quite honestly, I didn’t want to pay £18.50 for a stale piece of chocolate and some coffee-coloured dishwater on the concourse.

Instead, I got an express version of a coffee made by company that is named after something you’d find in a clear night’s sky and the slang word Americans use for currency, plus a nut-based confectionary item. This, honestly, was the best part of the night.

The car park I use was unusually busy but then again it was 10 minutes until kick-off. I popped into the mega shop briefly - fully stocked on training wear FYI, some of which is fairly easy on the eye. There’s also what appears to be a new range of mugs and some stationary items, which is splendid heading into the “secret Santa” period of the year.

Changes were of course made to the personnel of the team but the formation remained the same, which is a bit like putting a wash on and then leaving the clean washing in a basket to “dry naturally”. You solve one thing (making dirty clothes clean) and then create an even bigger problem (damp-smelling clothes). Ewww.

It took less than two minutes for The Cod Army to exploit the players’ bewilderment and unease by slotting home the opener (delicious finish, by the way). Of course, at any other club, conceding so early might be looked upon as a positive - plenty of time to get back in the game etc. Not here. Not at Reading FC in 2023.

The despair, general annoyance and anger grew from the stands. Some people left. Some people booed. Some, like the bloke in front me, sat with his head in his hands for a good two minutes. This is what it does to us.

Aside from David Button and maybe Nelson Abbey, the majority of those players had no idea what they were doing. Charlie Savage and Lewis Wing, absolutely desperate to get on the ball and play it forward, were confined to mopping up loose balls and passing them sideways. Sam Smith and Dom Ballard up top got in each other’s way. Tyler Bindon and Nesta Guinness-Walker couldn’t get forward for fear of losing the ball and not being able to get back.

It was all on the system and formation. The narrowness of the play restricted any creativity we do have in the team and passes were short, safe and ultimately unthreatening.

We did get back into the game of course. That was after a prolonged period of going forward (generous to call it pressure) but the hope for a point was extinguished quicker than a cheap firework. The visitors swarmed over the midfield and back four like a pack of cod fish attacking a small fishing boat and ultimately tucked home the winner in the 92nd minute. As I walked down the aisle towards the exit in the aftermath of Vela’s goal, the boos intensified, and for what were maybe 6,000/7,000 home fans, it was reasonably impressive.

How many will be there on Saturday remains to be seen. I’d say it’s 50/50 if Ruben Selles is still in the dugout come 3pm against Pompey, but technically there’s no one to sack him. From my point of view, I’d love to work at this club right now, even for a month. I’d love to go in and just do some firefighting, to help the club I love and change a few things around. At least then I might feel useful as opposed to being a disillusioned fan.

The worst part of all this is that I don’t think we are at rock bottom yet. I still think that’s to come. Cracking thought that, isn’t it?

Until next time.