Date: 14 April 2015
Eddie’s always quick to point out the injustice when we undeservedly lose a match, so I wonder if he’ll be honest enough to admit this match was an undeserved win? Either way, of course, we’ll take it – and any team needs its share of luck sometimes!
This evening out bore a lot of similarities to Brighton four nights earlier. The weather was equally sweltering (and, once again, still over 20C indoors when I arrived home at nearly midnight!) and the journeys were equally straightforward (though the guard on the Basingstoke to Reading train felt it necessary to make a public apology for the congestion, and blame it on a certain football game!). The match wasn’t dissimilar either, in that we played the same starting eleven, (and Fraser for Stanislas was the only change on the bench,) played in red and black again, and didn’t play especially well! The players looked very tired, and it’s hard to see how the same eleven will last through to a play-off final if it comes to that. Wilson and Pugh looked especially exhausted, though we’ll forgive Wilson as he scored another cracking goal!
Only four minutes were on the clock (well, actually it showed 41 minutes because Reading’s stadium clock counts down rather than up!) when a Surman shot rebounded off the post – cries of “ooh!” all round as that seemed to be that – but Wilson appeared on Bournemouth’s right to score on the second attempt. 1-0, but who’d have thought that would be the only goal of the game? The only other event of note in the first half was a world class save by Boruc on seventeen minutes – more reflex than judgment – when with his hand he palmed away a close-range shot by Reading.
You can’t cure tiredness at half time so we started the second half – though now playing towards our own supporters – much the same as we’d ended the first. The best shot by a mile was a long range curling effort by Ritchie on the hour mark. Fans thought for a moment that it had gone in (and it would have been a wonderful shot if it had) but actually it had skimmed the crossbar. Eddie soon brought on Smith for Pugh – very necessary, but unfortunately Smith didn’t exactly set the game alight as he had on Friday. Later Pitman would enter the fray for Kermorgant and Jones for Wilson, but both Brett’s and Kenwyne’s roles would prove to be mainly defensive. The last quarter of an hour in general, and the five minutes’ added time in particular, consisted of wave after wave of Reading attack. But we held on for a nervy, messy, undeserved but very welcome 1-0 victory.
Otherwise the story was about the crowd rather than the players! Over 4000 Cherries' fans attended what for many will be their last away match of the season proper – because only 2900 can be accommodated at Charlton in two weeks’ time. There were about 14,000 Reading fans there but still we sang, “Your ground’s too big for you” – a bit ironic as the attendance tonight was more than can be fitted in to the Goldsands Stadium when full! Reading fans sang, “Where were you when you were sh*t”, conveniently ignoring the fact that many of us were at Reading’s own Elm Park ground whenever we played them; but otherwise they mostly sang about their upcoming FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal (Doris Day’s “Que Sera, Sera ... we’re going to Wemberley”) which – interestingly – the stadium DJ also played at the final whistle.
But he played that music to empty home stands, while we stood our ground and applauded our team – and they applauded us back.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (7), Elphick (8), Cook (8), Daniels (8);
Ritchie (7), Surman (8), Arter (7), Pugh (6);