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View From The Dolan: Huff And Puff

Ben’s reflections on a bright first half, but a ‘huff and puff’ second half as Reading have to settle for a point at home to Leyton Orient.

PA Images via Getty Images

In some respects, this game posed a greater challenge than the Derby County match. A team in very rich form against a team still trying find their feet in this division. How much did we have left in the tank after Tuesday’s night exploits? According to the team selection, still a fair bit as the boys in the hoops were unchanged.

As I pulled up Northern Way, signs saying the car parks were full littered my eyeline. Why though, I asked myself. And then it dawned on me: the pavements were filled with families. The car parks were busy. It was a grassroots fixture. And I’d forgotten about it. I genuinely couldn’t wait to fight my way through the bags of Moams, clappers and tantrums to my seat.

What was lovely was seeing the little lad Dexter on the pitch before kick-off and his gleeful, innocent run off the pitch before the action started. Ruben Selles had a little chat with him too and honestly, without sounding cheesy and cliche, that stuff is the absolute best. The absolute best. I hope he’s at more games soon and enjoying the experience like that.

I have to say, we were fizzing with confidence like a family-sized bottle of pop in the first period of the first half. We were probing but without having the final bit of the probe - I guess the goal?

And then of course that confidence splintered like a badly made mirror that couldn’t withstand a medium fall onto a hard surface. Officially, the 12-yard death kick was given for a hand felony, but either way the angry hordes of children and their colourful wrapped sweets, combined with the vicious noise of the clappers, couldn’t put Dan Agyei off and he converted with aplomb.

The celebration made me chortle and roll my eyes before my steely glare turned to our players to say, via telepathy, “get us back in the bloody game for which we richly deserve to be in, lads”. Sure enough, exactly four minutes later, a textbook training ground goal saw us level and the home fans sent into raptures.

Reading v Leyton Orient - Sky Bet League One - Select Car Leasing Stadium Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

One thing I did notice was Dave Button. Not for his footballing skills, but for the fact that every time the ball person passed him the ball, he gave them a thumbs up. And I respect that. Too often, players don’t acknowledge the ball people and I respect the fact he did. Simple but noticeable.

At half-time, the stand emptied quicker than an effective drain in a well maintained bath tub. It became pretty evident that a) the queue was massive or b) they’d sold out of chocolate because people were returning with frowns on their faces and empty hands at the end of their arms.

Based on the first half, I expected us to to kick on and win the game, but what transpired in the second half was a mess of huff and puff, with a sprinkling of endeavour and a massive shortage of end product.

Towards the end of the match, we looked like we might nick a win, but ultimately a draw was reasonable. The subs were odd, I have to say. Taking off Charlie Savage and Jeriel Dorsett wasn’t logical given the balance of the side and the trajectory of the game at that point. What we needed was to get a bit closer to Sam Smith and neither of those subs were designed to do that.

We take the point, we move on and we keep looking up. I still think we can get out of this, but for all our sakes, I’d prefer we started to make the great escape a decent-looking proposition sooner rather than later. Have a good week and see you at Oxford United next Saturday.

Until next time.