Date:Monday February 25 2008
Attendance: 23 889
No doubt about it. A Sunday drive down into beautiful Berkshire to play 'The Royals' is a considerably more appealing prospect when you know that the venue is the modern Madejski Stadium, as opposed to little old run-down Elm Park, which was the destination for those of us who were around for our brief sojourn in the old Third Division days back in the late 60's/early 70's. Even so, the lack of adequate parking and drinking establishments around the new stadium hardly wins it my vote for 'Favourite Away Trip Of The season'. Fortunately the former complaint didn't cause us concern this time around, with us stopping off in sleepy Basingstoke, to meet up with a couple of exiled Villans, very good friends, who also well remember the Elm Park visits.
The pre-game conversation centred around MON and what his team selection would be, with only yours truly speaking up for an immediate Gabby return, my five associates all going with a start for Marlon Harewood, based obviously on his recent game turning performances. Certainly a starting spot for Marlon wouldn't have dismayed me, its just that I believe that Gabby gives us more options, and is a handful for any defence he comes up against.
We arrived at the stadium to once again when on our away-day trips, be greeted by a sea of claret and blue. Our away following this season has truly been second to none. The Royals were out in force too, despite their favourites having lost a very worrying seven games in a row, a run that has seen them fall to the embarrassing position of being in the bottom three, and even worse, of being below Birmingham City Football Club.
Our opponents had designated it 'Blue Day'. Pre-game their Chairman, John Madejski, was out on the pitch in an attempt to whip-up the fervour of the supporters, in an attempt to get them to cheer their lot onto victory. Sadly his efforts failed on both counts.
The game started with the hosts quickly on the offensive, Harper, their goalscorer at Villa Park unleashing a curling effort, which Scotty C. handled very much in Croatia style.
We should have taken the lead shortly afterwards, Big JC reacting to a mix-up between Cisse and Sonko I believe it was, only to hit his shot across the face of the goal, just wide of the post. An opportunity squandered.
Readings sole tactic seemed to be based on hoofing the ball up to Kitson, while we were frankly not that much better. Certainly a disappointing opening, but after thirty minutes or so we at last witnessed something to get us going.
Finally bit of excitement! It didn't unfold out on the pitch though, rather on the sidelines, in front of the dug-out.. Reading won a throw in, but MON picked the ball up and gave it to Freddie Bouma. Harper snatched the ball off of our Dutch legend (that's for '48, if he should read this!!) and then gave St Martin O'Neill a push in the back. It was really nothing to get over excited about, but MON played to the crowd and got them going. The most animated they would get all afternoon. Referee Atkinson came over and calmed everyone down, though MON still seemed far from happy about the 'attack'.
A couple of minutes or so later, 'Penalty ref'. Maloney I believe it was, tried his luck from outside the box, and his effort hit the arm of a Reading defender, and that very nice man Mr Atkinson had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, much to the surprise and annoyance of Coppell's lads. Up stepped Gareth to put us deservedly one -nil up, only of course he didn't. Very much shades of Chris Waddle back in the '90 World Cup semi-final.
Reading continued to look poor, a pale shadow of the confident outfit who turned us over in this very stadium just twelve months ago, and ran us so very close at Villa Park in our opening home league game of last season. We though stepped up a gear, and on forty-four minutes we finally broke the deadlock, and took a deserved lead.
Gabby broke clear down the right, avoided a rash challenge by Sonko, squared the ball across the face of the goal to Super Ash, who joyfully slammed the ball into the roof of the net. One-nil to The Good Guys. Now we can enjoy the half-time break.
The second half was much more entertaining as a spectacle, with us pretty much in full control, and the travelling army just waiting for goal number two to finish the locals off. We were cutting them apart almost at will, but while only 1-0 behind, the concern was always there that Reading could grab an undeserved share of the spoils.
Marlon made a well received appearance on seventy-five, replacing Super, Super, Super, Shaun, and it was the new Holte End hero who made the game safe about ten minutes from the end, superbly finishing off an Ashley Young pass. Great goal, cue the victory celebrations.
Yes, the home lot nabbed one at the death, throwing a false appearance on the scoreline. They were well beaten though, and they'd be only fooling themselves to think otherwise. Another double for MON's lads, another three points, another away win, another step towards a top six finish, and another pleasant drive back to Brummagem.
Come On You Lions! Everybody up for The Emirates?
Date:Monday February 25 2008
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