Well, that was a bit of a day, wasn’t it? It was a unique day, much like trips to Wembley and other defining historic moments in supporting our football club - and like many such days that have gone before, we lost too. But that’s for later.
It would be remiss if this column didn’t cover the march as I was one of the lucky ones who had the honour of being a marshal. As such, I saw the start, the middle and the end as I traversed the crowd. Hearing Reading songs being sung on the Castle Hill roundabout, hearing more songs behind me when the massed crowd had effectively closed the A33! Seeing a Reading legend, Dave Kitson, at the head of our march, it really was a very proud moment.
The sheer numbers that turned up with banners, placards and even a coffin was just an incredible thing to be a part of. The weight of love and feeling for our club could not be underestimated. It was simply a beautiful thing to walk and talk with the fans.
I spoke to many fans that I had known before, some that I met for the first time and some that have suffered me for years. We have a superb set of fans, we really do. I’m sure we were all proud of what we had achieved. The message was strong, unified and will not have gone unnoticed. The entire march seemed to fly by. 2.4 miles that seemed to take mere minutes.
At the end of the evening, a band of us marshals and Sell Before We Dai stalwarts sat and shared a drink or few. Drinks that were bought by another fan from over the pond. It’s that kind of moment that unites us as fans, no matter where we are. The love runs deep. It’s a love that will continue on and, hopefully, in the not too distant future, the club will begin to begin again.
One day we’ll drink again in much happier times, I’m sure of it. I’m very grateful for them as they helped share a very unique day in our history. I’m proud to be a Royal. I’m sure everyone felt that, too.
Onto the game itself. Finally, we saw a change in formation. And it almost provided us with something to enjoy. We did enjoy being 2-0 up for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, but everyone felt that this was still a 2-3 game just waiting to happen. Both the goals came as a surprise - we weren’t in control of the game - but they were very well executed nonetheless.
Lewis Wing, showing that his left leg isn’t just for standing on, put away a fine finish, but it was bettered by Charlie Savage slotting home a delicate stroke into the opposite corner. We were in dreamland for a while, but the nightmare would soon return.
In normal circumstances a team would be galvanised and could or would hunker down and just be tough to beat. But that’s not something we’re capable of right now, if at all. It always felt like a goal could undo us at any moment. Portsmouth had all the momentum and the confidence of having an unbeaten record to do damage: that was plain to see.
What will annoy Reading fans the most is when defenders - yes, we’re looking at you, Nesta Guinness-Walker - fail to defend against crosses coming into the box. It seems like such an obvious action; just stop the damn cross! But both the first and second goals came from his side. The lack of conviction from him and the entire squad throughout this season is what compounds the damage time and again.
And this is now why we’re bottom of the league, and yet it’s a terrifying realisation that it’s still not the worst thing that is happening to our football club. It’s strange that we now sit at the bottom of the pile and yet this still isn’t the thing that angers us the most. The survival of the club is obviously absolutely key.
Sam Smith could, and should, have given us a chance to go in at half-time 3-1 up but he fluffed his lines with a near open goal. Had this gone in then we might have been looking at scraping a draw from this game, but instead, the visitors pulled back an equaliser and that was effectively that. We’ve seen enough from this team to know that going ahead again in the game was a very distant possibility.
However, with the introduction of Ben Elliott, something fans have been clamouring for for weeks, he gave us something else: a bit of poise and calmness. Surely he has to find a place in the starting XI. We should be building our team around him and not just for him to have bit-part cameos with limited time to affect games. He’s just too good not to start.
Hopefully with this new 4-1-4-1 formation we can find a place for him. Hopefully it’s a formation that Ruben Selles will stick with. The players looked a bit more comfortable and (some of the time) the bodies were in the right places. Ironically, if we can get players such as Tom McIntyre and Tom Holmes back again, we could look a lot more solid, too.
That said, we should be relying on Amadou Mbengue as he was brought on for the hapless Guinness-Walker and instantly the defence looked a lot more solid, but then he contrived to get himself sent off (after the game) for grabbing a Portsmouth player by the throat. I guess that’s enough to get a three-match ban in anyone’s language!
Once again, like Andy Yiadom before him, we manage to invent other ways of shooting ourselves in the foot by getting sent off and getting banned for three games.
Next up, an FA Cup game to experiment further with this new system (hopefully), a small chance to gain some confidence by putting away League Two side, MK Dons. But, as we all know too well, it won’t be that simple. This is Reading FC after all: we have the capability to damage ourselves in all sorts of ways!
But on this day, the game was secondary to the second-in-a-lifetime march that will not have gone unnoticed. On the day that we hit rock bottom and lost at home for the second time in a week, it could well be the day that we begin to rise again.