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Reading 2-1 Bolton Wanderers: More Than Three Points

Harry’s take from a day full of emotion at the SCL.

Reading v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images

I’m going to be frank with you, everything that happened prior to Charlie Savage’s equaliser was a bit of a blur for me today. For obvious reasons, the actual football match taking place seemed to play second fiddle for large proportions of the day.

This week’s point deduction - our fourth in under two years - was the breaking point for the fanbase as a collective it seemed. Emotions were high and fans were coming to the game understandably frustrated and angry, and willing to show it.

For me it was emotional numbness. I rang my dad in the car on the way down and told him how it genuinely took a monumental mental effort for me to actually leave the house.

There was a moment just before kick-off when the situation we find ourselves in dawned on me in a horrible irony. The pre-game big-screen montage of this club's finest hours was playing (Leroy Lita’s goal against Middlesbrough, Jobi McAnuff’s at Cardiff City, Mikele Leigertwood’s against Nottingham Forest et al) to the soundtrack of Ashes by Embrace.

But that tune - which I associate with the some of the greatest times i’ve had following Reading - was quickly overshadowed by the bellowing of ‘We Want Dai Yongge Out’. How far our club has fallen.

The anti-ownership chanting did not stop there. From the first whistle the message was clear: we're here to back the players and the manager, but the owner? Well, not so much.

It was the 16th minute when the pre-planned protest begun, with hundreds of tennis balls being thrown onto the pitch. Whether you agree with it or not, it certainly made a point. And it was really nice to see the away fans show their support to us too - Bolton are no strangers to this kind of thing.

Straight after the break in play that the protest caused, the away fans were celebrating as Dion Charles put them 1-0 up. But, again, it didn’t really register with me. There was so much else going on, so much more to think about, it was almost as if the game was just on in the background.

It was a scrappy game really. We seemed a bit frantic, a bit over eager, and Bolton found themselves with far too much space in dangerous areas far too often. We had our chances too - a Femi Azeez shot that cannoned off the crossbar and a half chance fluffed by Dominic Ballard (who was very impressive) - but, of the football I did process and register in the opening 60 minutes or so, perhaps the occasion was getting to us a bit.

That all changed with two moments. Ruben Selles’ double substitution when he brought on Ben Elliott and Paul Mukairu, and then, of course, Savage’s stunner to draw us level.

I thought Elliott and Mukairu changed the game for us. The former is clearly going to be a huge, huge talent and the latter added a bit of dynamism and energy that we were lacking.

The big moment though came when Savage found himself in space on the edge of the box and whipped in a beauty to level the scores. I don’t think Savage played that well in all honesty, but even so he popped up with a moment of quality - the kind I feel we’re going to need quite a bit more of throughout the season.

The equaliser got the crowd going, but what happened a few minutes later sent them into orbit. Amadou Mbengue’s pull-back found Caylan Vickers who tucked home his first goal for the club, and my oh my what a time - what an occasion - to get it.

And it was after Vickers’ goal, in the minutes between then and full-time, and the scenes after the whistle, which will live with me the longest. To an outsider it doesn’t look much more than a good win against a good team. But it's so, so much more than that.

That was Reading Football Club. Up against it, backs against the wall, but we stick together, we keep going and we don’t give up.

It was made clear to the players and staff before today that the protests, the anger, the frustration were in no way aimed at them. We’re in this situation because of one man and one man only, and while we’re going to make our feelings known to him, we’re going to be backing the team every step of the way too.

Genuinely my emotions sitting here now, writing this, couldn’t be further from what I was feeling last night or even on my way to the game this morning. I feel so proud to support this club, this group of players and this manager.

The fans were awesome - the perfect balance of anti-Dai and backing the players (with the We Want Dai Yongge Out/Ruben Selles’ Barmy Army remix a particular personal favourite). And while the performance was by no means perfect, the players managed to dig deep for an incredible comeback and result.

We made one giant point about how we feel our club’s being run off the pitch, and the players and Selles earned us three massive points on it. It felt like a seismic day.