Reading at Home 2016/17 – Winning Ways

That’s as good as it gets.

Ohh, look at me, giving the end away at the start again. But come on. If you’re a Brighton fan reading this blog this morning you almost certainly have the warm glow of satisfaction and the overwhelming desire to relive last night one more time. After a shaky period recently it was very much back on message.

But stories do have to start at the beginning and it was one of those days that went well from the start. A decent training session with The Boy’s Under 10 team in the morning, a leisurely lunch and time for the kids to do something together in the afternoon for a change all made the evening kick off far less stressful than a 3pm one in some ways. None of us were quite sure when the right time to leave was but we met at the station for a train that seemed reasonable. An old face turned up out of the blue as we waited. “I wasn’t quite sure when to leave” he said. See?

It turned out we’d picked exactly the right time. We linked up perfectly with a Falmer bound train before the train queue had really got going. There were plenty of people around when we got there but enough time for the boys to lazily get a programme and Steve, who had not dressed for the occasion, to really appreciate how cold the wind was. What’s more, our arrival on the concourse was greeted by a huge cheer.

It turned out that the whole West Upper wasn’t pleased to see us but that Barnsley had just equalised at home to Huddersfield. There followed some very urgent watching of the telly and staring at the phone. One thing’s for sure when you kick off at 5.30 on a Saturday, you will know exactly the result you need. On the train Bristol City had been two up at Newcastle. The wise Vicky aka @ThickBlueLine had tweeted to remind us all of how they’d blown a three goal lead at Derby and it turned out to be prescient. Nevertheless, with just injury time to play, both our rivals were dropping points and four out of five of my accumulator picks were correct with the cash out option now removed. If only Brentford could score. Score they did – twice – and score no one else did. We hadn’t kicked a ball yet and already both our nearest rivals had dropped points and I’d had a five result acca come in. If that doesn’t get you up for it nothing will.

I’ve no idea if our players had been glued to Soccer Saturday and Paddy Power – though I doubt it – but they emerged similarly up for it. The additional couple of hours of voice lubrication that a late kick off allows was present in a gutsy rendition of Sussex by the Sea and Steve, as he often does, spotted something I didn’t. “Knockaert looks well up for it” he said. This can sometimes not be a great thing as the adrenaline can affect his touch but it turned out the players were just the right side of pumped.

You can usually tell how we’re going to play within the first few minutes and this one settled in to a pleasing pattern very early on. In possession we looked zippy. Without the ball, determined. Reading knocked it around nicely at the back but never kept it in dangerous areas looking a little like an undercooked Garcia special. We pressed at exactly the right times. Hughton had done his homework.

One thing that was true when we were playing tippy-tappy was that we would often struggle to come back from a goal down, plan B being sadly lacking. Here it looked like we’d stroll it if we could take the lead and early on we very, very nearly did. Reading were attacking down our left but a pulled back cross fell neatly to Murphy on the edge of our area and we broke in a wave. Baldock found himself in acres of space on the left and cut inside behind a defender, before rasping a brilliant curler towards the far post. It hit said post to an Amex groan. However, it was clear to see how Reading could be undone. It didn’t take long for Baldock to snap open the bra strap.

Having the ball any higher than ankle height seemed to perplex this purest of footballing teams and they headed the ball straight to Bruno on the halfway line. He immediately lobbed it in behind them, a perfectly weighted ball that Super Sam killed stone dead with a mix of skill and good fortune. Now he was the wrong side of the defence with McShane desperately fighting for the ball. With The Boy screaming for a penalty Baldock instead kept his feet and lashed the ball in to the roof of the net before scaring a cameraman. 1-0, thirty five minutes gone.

It wasn’t quite scare-free though. A good break down the left and excellent cross saw Danny Williams with a free header at our goal from eight yards out. Duffy, somehow, acrobatically cleared off the line in our best piece of defending of the game, early in the second half. Reading were also afforded two free kicks barely on the edge of the area but put both straight in to our wall. Other than that, though, it was a watching brief for our defence and the whole ground knew a second would kill them off.

It came, again, on the break. Another toothless Reading attack was broken up and the second ball fell to Knockaert who drove at their defence before finding Stephens on the centre circle. A beautiful pass – Lennon and McCartney song beautiful, Monet painting beautiful, Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation beautiful – split the Reading defence and Murphy maintained the theme with a gorgeous chip over Al-Habsi to make it 2-0.

That was it as a contest. Knockaert should have put it beyond doubt but lashed it in to the side netting. Just as Baldock had made up for his post-strike so Knocky made up for this. Another quick break found him in space on the left and a brilliant drive nestled in the far corner. The Amex was going potty.

To be truthful days don’t come much better. Back to top and it is now Newcastle and Huddersfield looking nervously round each other. Get a result on Tuesday and the run in looks relatively innocuous. The players must know this, Hughton knows this, and with “we’re on our way” echoing round the Amex and Falmer station long in to the night, the fans most certainly do.

The Boys Ref Watch

So little did referee Banks get involved that The Boy was unable to come up with a rating. This was a game that was all about us rather than the ref (Roger East take note) and he left mark-less. For me that is the very measure of decent refereeing and I’m going to give him a nine.

 

 

 

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