It ain’t over til it’s over…

and other sporting cliches such as it’s only yet half-time, all to play for in the second leg, the lads needed just a bit more luck in front of goal, etc. etc…

Travelling back from Belfast yesterday from a pensions seminar with @porawe and others, I finally pitched up for the game (or, at least, the second half of the first half) at the Sports Bar in Stirling, a late-running train having made me miss a connection for Perth. This was a slightly surreal experience since, despite the name, and no less than at least 300 TV screens scattered around the pub,* the staff were getting ready for Stirling’s Friday night disco crowd and all the sound from the TVs was off in favour of some bangin’ tunes. Still, at least that meant I missed the probably rather inane ramblings of Neil ‘Colin’ Warnock and Aidy Boothroyd (and where indeed, @kmflett, was rising star Robbie Savage?), to say nothing of the Sky commentary team (whose cliche-ridden post-match interviews (which I heard via the technological magic of my son’s mobile phone pressed up close to his TV set) owed all to standard pre-prepared patter rather than the evidence of the game just witnessed). Safely esconced in a more or less private annexe I could, and indeed did, supply my own commentary where there was no need to apologise for language used in the heat of the moment… (And a serious ‘thanks’ to the staff and other customers for their indulgence of the madman in the corner!)

It is indeed only half-time and, while we may yet come to regret missed opportunities, especially in that first half period subsequent to Bellamy’s departure when we had something like 70% of the possession and Cardiff could barely get out of their own half, I’m confident enough about the performance the mighty Royals put on to think we can do a job down in Cardiff: certainly the Cardiff players know they took a beating last night and, although they may well play better at home – they surely couldn’t play any worse – I reckon we should still have their measure. Certainly the start will be absolutely critical: a good one will add to the existing pressure on the Cardiff players who will have to come out and play a bit of football on Tuesday night rather than hold out for another 0-0. And the prospect of the god-like genius that is Jimmy Kébé finally being unleashed in those circumstances in this year’s play-offs is a mouth-watering one (as well as his replacement, @Hal_RK played last night).

I’m missing the second leg, too – another story involving a train and a work trip. It’s probably a good omen – and I’m definitely hopeful.

* I may be exaggerating a little

Back from the game – Boro

Boro is the furthest game away for the mighty Royals this season – but it’s the nearest thing I get to a home game and with the Rz unbeaten in five, I set off with a quickness of step yesterday morning to the game, and one which wasn’t affected by National Rail’s habitual autumn shut-down of the rail line between Edinburgh and Newcastle, and the subsequent diversion via Carlisle, making a one-way five-hour journey of the trip.

The return was a different story, though: a 3-1 defeat meant that the miles back hung heavy. The lads gave themselves a mountain to climb after conceding a goal after 24 seconds (it was our kick-off too, which meant that we’d kicked off twice within 1 minute and 2 seconds of the start of the game 😦 ) and Brian McD was probably right to criticise the ‘flat‘ nature of the performance. Truth to tell, the second and third Boro goals came somewhat against the run of play and we didn’t play that badly. We were punished heavily for mistakes, though, and never turned a significant lion’s share of the possession into meaningful sustained attack which put pressure on the Boro goal. And a game plan on keeping Boro quiet from the off – well, that worked well and, as a reuslt, the Blue Army never really got goingeither.

With three goals leaked and a three-game suspension after a straight red (it’s not clear from this that it was a sending-off) to provide the opportunity to swap things around, we can expect some changes for Barnsley at home, including Khizanishvili for Pearce (who was horribly at fault for that first goal), and probably Church for the suspended Howard. Get Tabb and Griffin back from injuries and I don’t think we’ll be far off. Still, this was indeed a bitter pill to swallow (as my iPod on random shuffle gave me at one point on my return).

More reaction to the game from the HNA? back to the game thread here.

Torquay away? Thanks FA!

Just the first round draw all northern-based Reading fans were wanting : roll eyes:  Even for a Reading-based fan, Torquay is about as far as you can get – and further than some clubs in the ‘northern’ section of the draw. Still, a summer away game in a holiday area can’t be all that bad…

Full league fixtures out tomorrow: ones that I’ll be looking out for include all the northern away ones, obviously, but especially the Smoggies, plus Bristol City and the return to the MadStad of Sir Steve Coppell.

So, farewell then…

Marek Matejovsky (der der der).

Never able to realise your potential with us, partly because you were only rarely on the same wavelength as the rest of the team – though, to be fair, neither were you on the same wavelength as yourself a lot of the time. You need to play; we need to save your wages and spend them on someone else – so a deal’s the best thing for everyone, really.

But still, the scorer of one of the finest goals that Anfield has ever seen – thanks, at least, for that.

Fifteen years ago today…

… and still gutted for Archie, for forcing me to wake up from what had been a glorious dream (Reading? Elm Park? In the Premiership?) – ultimately only redeemed by the madejs-tic triumphs of the 2005/06 season – and for all the injustices of the day itself and before it. A patched-up, threadbare Reading side just unable to hang on to the result their football and approach to the game richly deserved – just take a look at the breathtaking speed of that opener and the 1-2 punch of the finish. Yet, at the last, a side run too low on resources and unable to push itself over the line into the Premiership – a better metaphor for what life in top flight football has become you couldn’t hope to find.

Ahhh football, dammit. She’s a hard, cruel and unforgiving mistress.