It’s almost fun to walk away utterly freezing from the
Mad Stad SCL Stadium in the Papa John’s BDSM Bristol Street Motors Trophy on a bitterly cold evening via a penalty shoot-out. I guess more apt than a fun feeling is light relief. Maybe a little bit of both. But in a competition where we’ve had the most fun, we just wanted more fun. And we got there in the end.
With a surprisingly strong line-up we looked well placed to continue in the competition, but then Charlton rock up with an equally strong-looking line-up. Without looking up their entire team on Google, a number of names jumped out from their team sheet. Replete with Alfie May up front and Batman’s sidekick Robin in goal. It’s a shrewd career move, I’m sure.
But obviously our line-up, while fortunate to be so strong, raises some questions regarding the team selection on the previous Sunday in the FA Cup versus this game and considering we’re back to the bread and butter in just a few days time against Barnsley. It’s a head-scratcher to say the least.
Seeing Tyler Bindon and Nelson Abbey return to central defence was bold, but was it wise? Ditto for Sam Smith and Lewis Wing. The rest are up for debate but those selections did seem a bit… odd. But then again, this is Ruben Selles here, a man known for tinkering ad infinitum.
Of those selections, it was good to see the return from the cold to the cold of Caylan Vickers - replete with new black boots that made him look like he was in PE slippers, and sporting even less of a shin pad than he’s ever had before. Given his youthful looks (because he’s a youth), black boots and rolled-down socks, he did appear to be fresh out of school, like, yesterday fresh.
I wonder when he’s ever going to look like a proper adult when his feet are way ahead of him in doing adult things? That said, he did miss an open goal of sorts. Other than that he had a tidy return with some nice flicks and other Vickers things that we know and love.
Ben Elliott also appeared and thankfully, for once, it was in central midfield. He was very much marked tightly throughout but did seem to find his poise and control as the game progressed.
And for once, he wasn’t hooked (for not performing in a position that he’s patently going to be rubbish in). At times he was bullied out of possession or didn’t anticipate the speed of his opponent closing him down, but it’s all a learning experience for both he and Vickers. They have to go through all this to become bigger, stronger figures.
It’s for this reason that we’ve not seen these two, plus Matty Carson and Charlie Savage to a point. They all need to be physically bigger and stronger to cope with these brutes in League One and the Lovehoney Cup. They can hold their own, just about, but it’s not a comfortable watch.
What was a comfortable watch was Nelson Abbey. The man is a pure Rolls Royce as he glides in majestically to recover yet another potentially troublesome situation. Well, in truth, there were no troublesome situations for Nelson. He just flicks on the afterburner for a second and whoosh, I’ll have that ball thankyouverymuchlyta. The confidence he exudes with such ease and power has been one of the real joys to watch in a season that we’ve not really wanted to watch much of.
The big burning issue with Abbey is that his contract is up in the summer and he could easily be snaffled in the summer or even before then. In the current situation with Dai Yongge being an obstreperous arse and no takeover in sight, there’s no hope for a new deal to be offered, even if he might want to stay.
With our rose-tinted specs on, we’d all love to think that he’d love to stay, being the Reading boy that he is and one that’s definitely allowed to kiss the badge. However, money talks, it’s a short career, who’d blame him for moving on… and all that kind of stuff.
It’s sad to say, but we’d better savour our time with Nelson. We all know he’s destined for much greater things. We’ll all implore him to SIGN DA TING, naturally, but he could be gone before we know it.
Obviously, the same can be said for a lot of the squad, but one that has a (potentially) slightly longer stay is Joel Pereira, who we are beginning to see what is all about. El Gato certainly has a bit of the Joe Lumley about him, none more so exercised than in the penalty shoot-out.
He truly came into his element when faced with Alfie May, Charlton’s toppermost striker. Pereira lured him perfectly via motioning to go to his left, or maybe the right, or… right down the middle where Pereira snaffled up the strike with aplomb. Beautiful scenes. He continued to sh*thouse his way throughout the entire shootout, really testing the referee’s patience with his antics. It’s the kind of thing you LOVE when you have him on your side, but would have you spitting feathers if you were among the away support.
Very pleasingly we put away all our penalties rather comfortably; they were all very well taken indeed. Especially Matty Carson, who, in the normal 90 minutes, put in some absolutely gorgeous crosses too. His penalty was bashed away with gusto.
Sometimes, even if you’ve never seen a player take a penalty before, you know what their style is going to be from the spot. As soon as Carson took aim you knew he was just going to leather it. And so he did. BANG. Very satisfying indeed.
And so we move on in the cup of joy. A competition that we’ve had some fantastic fun with and one that some of us have half an eye on actually winning the whole damn thing with the wind blowing in the right direction.
It certainly gives us more opportunity and more minutes under their belts for some that aren’t quite ready for the rigours of League One. Some, like Charlie Savage, who put away a trademark beauty to keep us in the tie, need games like this to adapt and learn away from the high-pressure stakes of the league.
If we can go a bit further in the competition that would be nice, but, imagine an unlikely trip to Wembley? It’s unlikely, but there’s nothing to fear. All aboard the Fun Bus (sponsored by Horseman Coaches).