Southampton v Reading….What a Night!!!

Posted on April 15, 2012

A couple years ago, I thought I was losing my appetite for football, it felt like the continued renewal of my season ticket was for sociable rpurposes only as it has been the best way of keeping in touch with old friends I would only see rarely otherwise. However since George has become so passionate about watching Reading it has re-ignited me to such an extent I have even started going to away games again, I had honestly forgotten what a laugh it is, even the hideous trip to Peterborough had its moments.

On Friday, we had the football trip of dreams, a visit to St Marys to watch Reading taking on league leaders Southampton, a team who had lit up the league with exciting football and a striker who scores for fun and is already a legend on the south coast. Contrary to popular  belief there are football fans other than those at Newcastle United who love their strikers and if I hear one more pundit on MOTD saying “Oooh don’t the Geordies love their number nines” I will drive to the BBC studios just to vomit on Mark Lawrenson and Gary Lineker. It’s just as bad as when they say all good teams are built on a solid defence, well fuck me Sherlock there’s a thing, stopping goals flying in to your net helps you win matches?

Anyway, back to the Hants/Berks derby, George and I arrived nice and early and  in the concourse the atmosphere was already building, but for some reason (both teams were on 82 points) there was an air of trepidation around the Saints fans and what seemed like outrageous expectation and belief amongt the Reading supporters, it was as if though belief was contagious and it had spread from the team and management to the supporters, a bit like a pleasant airborne virus. By the time we went in to go in to the ground for kick off, Reading supporters were celebrating like I have never seen before, it was extraordinary stuff and surreal to be part of, we are normally such a pessimistic bunch, which is understandable when you see the the 140 odd years of history at the club. If I am honest, I was preparing myself for a huge metaphorical custard pie in the face.

Premature celebration from Reading fans?

My worst fears seemed to be coming to the fore as Southampton and Lambert in particular, tore in to Reading from the start. With two key midfielders missing our defence resembled four men holding plywood up to stop a tsunami, it was obvious that if the resistance broke, Reading may well have  been on the end of a good beating. Then, suddenly, a swift counter attack, a fantastic cross from the erratic Kebe to Roberts, the signing of the season, a thumping header….. 1-0 to Reading and total delirium in the away end, fans falling down steps and hugging strangers as an eruption of ecstasy engulfed us. The thrills didn’t stop there either, back came the Saints, wave upon wave of attacks stemmed by the brilliance of Federeci in goal backed up by stoic and heroic defending, this was compelling stuff leaving my seat totally redundant.

Half-time came and the celebrations grew louder, Reading were top of the league, for now at least. The second half quickly came and within minutes another scramble in the Reading area was followed by a thunderous roar from four fifths of the stadium, Southampton were level through Lambert, who else?  All the cockiness had gone from our end, now it was just  fear of defeat, how on earth could we stop the tide for another forty minutes? However, from nowhere the belief reignited in the players, if not yet the fans and Reading started find something approaching equality. Roberts and Hunt were a handful and Southampton looked like they just might be vulnerable to a counter attack, they certainly didn’t defend as well as they attacked. Then, a masterstroke, the substitution of the decade.

Adam le Fondre came off the Reading bench, replacing………………a midfielder. Adam Le Fondre is not a midfielder, he does one thing well and that is scoring goals, this was signal to everyone in the ground and watching on TV that McDermott (the Reading manager) wanted the game won when us fans would have gratefully seized a draw. More importantly, it rattled Southampton, they didn’t expect that, they expected to be the team in the ascendancy. First a cross, again from Kebe, left by Hunt allowing Le Fondre to smash it in to the roof of the net, then in the dying seconds preying on defensive uncertainty Le Fondre pounced again, rounding the goalkeeper before side footing gleefully home to send us in to utter chaotic delirium. It was one of my greatest footballing moments, I have never seen scenes like it at an away match. Reading had reached the summit.

Le Fondre finishes off Southampton and the celebrations start!

This was a brilliant night for the Championship, this wasn’t the spitefulness of Leeds United and the detestable Neil Warnock or the arrogance of West Ham, it was just a great football match where Nigel Adkins ( the Southampton manager) was dignified and accepting of defeat and Brian McDermott was delighted but not boastful in victory. They are two managers deserving of a shot at the big time, though they may find the brutal cynicism of the Premier League hard to adapt to as unlike the Championship, it is a place where cheats prosper, I witnessed it between 2006-08. I often wonder if the promised land is not just a poison chalice, but if you don’t try to compete with best, what is the point in it all?

A six 6-0 win for West Ham who feature the hideous cocktail of David Gold, David Sullivan, Karen Brady (the feminist who works for wank mag publishers) Sam Allardyce and Kevin Nolan, means that nothing is certain yet for the Royals and the Saints, though one of them will definitely make it. I sincerely hope it is both of them, Southampton need a new rival due to the demise of Portsmouth and Swindon and Oxford are so far behind Reading these days it is hard to see if they will ever meet again, at least in the next five years or so.

Bring on Tuesday night and Nottingham Forest at home, I could do with a slightly more conservative evening on our own turf.


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