When you walk something like three miles to the theatre of pipedreams on a cob-freezing day, eventually take your seat and realise a couple of your mates and several of your acquaintances haven’t managed to attend for various (unknown but hopefully solely weather-related) reasons, the least you expect is to be entertained by events on the pitch in terms of compensation.
I thought the magpies I saw on my way to the ground were baby penguins. Maybe they were.
In any case, I didn’t feel let down on Saturday.
Said entertainment started with a James Maddison corner from which a gentle flick-on from Grant Hanley set up Mario Vrancic at the far post. Followed up by a Hanley bullet header that surely left the Reading centre backs slightly more than embarrassed. He had more space than the USS Enterprise but made the most of it and I’m delighted for him – he deserved his first goal for the club.
Then of course, when we’re 2-0 up and in cruise control, overdrive or whatever it’s called in these modern times, disaster strikes. Ping pong in the box, finally finished off and we’re back to 2-1. A very unfortunate concession but a class finish from Reading’s young Liam Kelly.
Then a cross from you-know-who (I’ll return to him later), Madders is totalled and it’s 3-1 via one of the coolest pens I’ve ever seen courtesy of The Man Who Was Clearly Taken Out By The Keeper.
Second half: sublime cross, followed by a great finish between two of Reading’s academy lads, aforementioned Kelly and one Sam Smith to give us a shaky final 40.
Which wasn’t that shaky at all really. It was just our collective sense of nervousness as supporters, coming back to haunt us via revenance of on-pitch sins committed in the past. We expected the worst, but it did not occur. There’s some steel in this Farke outfit, although I confess I am much happier with a 3-5-1-1 or a 3-5-2, whichever way you choose to enumerate it.
Yes, Reading had their second-half chances but so did we. Our favourite Cuban-German squirmed a shot against the post and Dennis Srbeny could have put the match and the points out of sight. He didn’t; hopefully, he’ll learn from that dreadful miss when clean through and establish himself next season. In that thankless task up front on his own, I am sure he will get close to surpassing a sulky Nelson, who will surely be off shortly, even only if because of NCFC wage cull rules.
Respect to Mario Vrancic – this was his best game in a yellow shirt by far. Harry Reed proved a great foil for him and it’s just as well as we had nobody else to team up in the holding midfielder roles. A couple of passes from Vrancic were exquisite, and he got stuck in too.
Now I’m sure we’ve all heard of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. But yesterday was the Josh Murphy Renaissance. Active, quick, involved and seemingly a very mature performance. As others have suggested maybe the presence of Onel Hernandez has put him back into gear. I dunno, but I thought both were excellent on Saturday.
I truly feel the hardest player to replace next season will be Angus Gunn – see, it’s March 19 and I’m looking at next time round already.
To all those who didn’t make it to the ground on Saturday – it was an enjoyable and open game of football and three lovely points for us at the end of it. The points are meaningless in the great scheme of things but to win was enjoyable nonetheless.
If only the referee could have coped with the final 20 minutes in the way he had managed the game before. Lots of naughties were going on and he gave them consistently one way. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Anyway, we’ve got our 13-day break to get the lumps and bumps resolved.
That game was worth freezing my walnuts for – and cheers to Reading for at least playing football.
Lastly – well done Wes: you got on the pitch on Patrick’s Day!