RAMBLE | Reading 1 – 2 Wednesday

RAMBLE | Reading 1 – 2 Wednesday

There are a few select dates which people look forward to every year – their birthday, the last day at work before two weeks in the sun, a reunion with mates they haven’t seen for ages and the most important one, Reading away. The ‘Jewel of Berkshire’ is one of the most glorious places in Europe which welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The beautiful cobbled streets, classy bars, wide array of restaurants, wonderful theatre scene and glorious architecture makes Reading the envy of other world-class destinations such as Barcelona, New York, Sydney and Tokyo. On to the local football club and the passionate support of the Royals’ fans is as fervent as that of Boca Juniors’ ultras as they get behind their team in the red-hot atmosphere of the iconic Madejski Stadium.

Of course, most of the above is utter tosh. The best thing about Reading is the road out of it and apparently, the great selection of quinoa available. As far as away days goes, it is pretty much one of the worst in the league. Yes, there’s a scattering of half-decent hostilities if you look hard enough but the town is pretty much non-descript and the dull, bland identikit stadium is way out of the centre in the middle of nowhere. Despite living in London since 2007, this is only my second visit to Reading. Due to being out of the country, working or having long-standing commitments, I haven’t made the relatively short hop to this part of the world very often. Looking back at some of our performances over the years here, lucky me. My first visit to this Mecca of football was actually last year’s borefest, where both teams were lucky to get nil in one of the dullest games I have had the misfortune to watch.

After attending the Brentford game recently, I left thinking Wednesday were lacking leadership from senior players. That seemed to resonate with Jos too and his team selections since then have raised a few eyebrows with some big-name players missing out. At the Ipswich game last week, there seemed to be a new vigour from the team, with Penney impressing, Thorniley showing great maturity, Bannan orchestrating and Reach putting in a top shift. Compared to the ‘performance’ at Griffin Park, it was night and day, although we still in parts made hard work of putting the Tractor Boys to bed.

So game day arrives and I wake up as enthusiastic as a kid on Christmas Day because of my excitement of going to Reading for a day out. After inhaling a big breakfast at the greasy spoon opposite my dwelling, I embark onto the London Underground transport network. Getting to Reading is a pain in the arse at the best of times but I was hoping next year it may be better. It was announced the much-anticipated Crossrail had been delayed for a year so my direct 76min trip to this part of the world from Woolwich will have to wait.

After multiple changes, I get into the unpleasant town of Reading and immediately head to the pub by the station where Chris B, Jordan and Craig are already consuming alcohol and copious amounts of bacon. Once Chris S and Phil join us, we are a few pints in and we wandered to a cool German beer house where they enticed us with their happy hour offering of £7 steins, which we indulged in perhaps a little more heartily than we initially planned. Dan joined us and grabbed a novelty two-pinter before we headed to the ground following a rather frantic taxi scuffle.

Steins

In the breeze-block stadium, we had a quick pint of dreadful European brand ‘beer’ and then headed into the half empty ground to be embraced with the delights of the game.

THE MATCH
The same team that started against Ipswich were the XI who took the pitch against the Royals. An early shot from Joao raised the temperature and raised our spirits that this would be infinitely better than Brentford.

Eleven minutes in and good work from Penney saw his pass come to the edge of the area. Up stepped Reach who curled a beautiful shot into the bottom corner from edge of box. We were bang behind it and it was going in from the minute it left his boot. Brilliant goal. Limbs everywhere.

Reading weren’t offering much but on seventeen, Baldock showed how creative he can be with a great flick but we cleared for a corner. Penney got booked soon after following a challenge where Matias went down like he’d been shot and the Wednesday left back may have retaliated in frustration.

Reading then camped in our half without really troubling us. They did get a free kick on the right and Meyler headed wide from the set piece.

The pressure was building and a few minutes before half time, Baldock again brilliantly set up Meite but Dawson saved well to his left.

Half time came so while some of our party went for a beer, I had a wander to see if I could see any old mates. I caught up with a few folk here and there and then my attention was drawn to the TV screens which were all showing the same thing: glorious moments in Wednesday history. I don’t know how this happened but the highlights of the triumphant 2011-12 were our interval entertainment on the various screens. It made me realise how far we’d come in such a short time. But as I was watching the video, the results worsened. On came defeats to the likes of Exeter, Chesterfield and Stevenage. Then came the defining moment of that season when Chris O’Grady headed home to beat the Snortbeasts. A cheer erupted as his goal went in on the rustling video. I could write a separate piece on that day in Brentford a few weeks later. Ahhhhh, memories.

O’Grady’s memorable header

I settled down just before the players came out and I called my old man. ‘We’ve been ok but they’ve had a lot of possession…’ The game kicks off and I still carry on. ‘We need to be more clinical this half, hold on, wait….. Yeeeeeeeeaaaahhhhhhhhhh, Lucas Joao you beauty!!’ The Portuguese has curled a peach into the bottom corner straight after the restart. Literally fans were still taking their seats with their Bovril and balti pies and we were 2-0 up. From our group, I was the only one who saw the goal although they said they celebrated under the stands by watching it on the same TV screens where O’Grady’s header nestled so perfectly in that bottom corner minutes before.

From here, we played some great keep-ball and eventually got a corner after a Reach shot was blocked. Bannan and Penney linked up after brilliant play but the latter couldn’t get the cross in. Penney for me is a cracking player. Reminds me of Ian Nolan who served us well in the 90s. Brilliant positional sense, not afraid to talk back and gets forward well when the opportunities arise. Both Penney and Thorniley look to be the future of the club. Both have really impressed me when I’ve seen them play.

However on sixty-four minutes, all our good work came crumbling down. A brilliant corner delivery from the left was headed in by Moore. Just like Reach’s goal, I could see that one nestling in the back of net from the other end of the stadium. Dawson had a very good game but he was nowhere near it.

This is where Jos perhaps should have brought on Forestieri. We needed to keep the momentum and he’d have given us that. Our fans were calling for Fessi but nothing. It does annoy me this… let the manager do what he needs to and be patient. As much as we love Fessi, he needs to fight for his place to get into a side who’ve won the last two games without him. He eventually came on ten minutes later and some of our fans will think themselves happy that they forced this on the manager. He was always going to come on.

Wednesday’s mercurial Argentinian won a few free kicks which were well lauded by his teammates while Nuhiu continued to keep and use the ball well. Some fans were having a go at the old scapegoats like Atty, who in my opinion was much better than recent showings, and Palmer. The academy product had another solid game but some sections are happy to have a go when they may lose the tenth ball after winning the last nine. After five minutes were held up, I thought we’d capitulate. Fortunately we didn’t have that killer moment from the home side because they were absolutely gash.

Goal!

FULL TIME

The final whistle went and we celebrated. As high-fives were struck, it dawned on me what a vital win this could be. Our third on the bounce, and with games coming up verses teams relegated from the Premier League and those who are aspiring to be top two, the remainder of September and October on paper could be hard work.

As many fans groaned as they left the stadium, I tried to bite my lip. I don’t know what some of them expect. We scored two cracking, precise goals and won. I feel if we beat Barcelona 7-1 in the Champions League final, some our our fans would want to moan because of Messi’s 97th minute consolation. This year may be a struggle, let’s not hide ourselves away from that. If we win, by hook or by crook, let’s celebrate it and have a good weekend. I was delighted we got our maiden win on the road. Alas, many wanted to do it in a more convincing fashion or were happy to berate certain players. In fairness, we should have used a game against poor opposition to ramp up the goal average. But you don’t get more points for playing like Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final.

After the game, we all met back at the hotel next to the ground. We all had a few beers, met my mate old Rob, before getting the hell out of this rather sombre part of the world and making our way home to various parts of our nation’s capital.

Three wins out of three against teams who you would think will struggle is great. However, let’s see how we deal with teams who have higher aspirations. One of our party was saying ‘a draw would be a good result’ all day but this was always a game we could win for me. We can’t complain with our recent form going into the international break and this is the best we’ve started a season points wise for some time. Let’s hope it continues.

Andy

Owls Alive

Email: owlsalive@gmail.com

Twitter: @OwlsAlive and @andymcelwaine

Images: swfc.co.uk unless stated otherwise

 


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