Reading has the closest League club to where I live and as it is also a venue where Mrs Bazza likes to go shopping she accompanied me on the train from our local station Blackwater to Reading station and whilst off I departed to the Three Guineas immediately outside the station, my wife went off towards the town.
The Three Guineas has a wide selection of beers and I commenced my visit with a pint of ‘Organ Morgan,’ a light-coloured, sharp, tangy, citrus tasting ale that slid down very nicely whilst I watched the end of the first half of the Forest-Derby game. It was soon time for a refill and I changed to a glass of ‘Moorehouse’s Premier Bitter’ which shared the golden hue of the pint before but had a smoother less astringent taste but was just as enjoyable for all that. There were a few noses in the pub who had come down from Birmingham and they seemed in good heart after the last two matches against Wednesday and Swansea. An air of optimism pervaded the atmosphere and judging by the standard of the aforementioned game on the screen we agreed that there was no reason why Blues shouldn’t do alright in the league this year although talk of play offs or better were not on anybody’s lips. What was on my lips in fairly short order was my third pint; this time, a darker more traditional ale called ‘Upham Stakes.’ The half-time interval had come and gone in the televised match and the second half commenced with Derby trying to get an equaliser against their neighbours; they failed and eventually lost 1-0 in a lacklustre encounter. Nigel Clough was to lose his job a little later in the day which was a surprise to me I must say but I dare say the story will come out. There was enough time for a final pint of ‘Crossbay Hurricaine Bitter’ before boarding the bus for the stadium.
There was a hog roast van outside the stadium and I availed myself of a baguette with large portions of pig inside it. The blond girl behind the counter with a husky foreign accent asked “Do you want stuffing?” to which I replied rather too enthusiastically “Yes please!!!!!” She smiled sweetly although she probably wouldn’t have if she’d visualised my impurity of thought! 😀 Having added apple sauce and devoured the baguette, I got into the ground just as the teams were kicking off. It had been a splendid afternoon so far but that is where the enjoyment ended. The game was a carbon copy of the stultifying fare dished up by Forest and Derby. There was little flow throughout the match although the home side provided most of what little entertainment was going. In truth Reading could have been 3-0 up in the first quarter of an hour if their strike force of Pobgrebnyak and Le Fondre had been a little sharper and Blues simply have to be focused from the first whistle otherwise slicker teams than Reading will fill their boots. After that, the game became pretty attritional and was decided in the end by two well-directed free kicks from Guthrie. Whether either should have been given is arguable but if you fail to defend set pieces properly as we did for the first goal which came about as the cross was drifted in towards the far post for someone to get on the end of. We had no one covering that area and to the surprise of the players who all to a man watched along with all the spectators as the ball continued its trajectory clipping the post and in for the softest concession of a goal you will ever see. The goalscorer was the most surprised man on the pitch! The second was a cracking free kick from 25 yards, placed right in the postage stamp, Randolf’s right hand top corner which to the keeper’s credit he got a hand to but couldn’t prevent it going in.
According to the stats I read last night each team had 17 attempts on goal with five each on target. The possession was also fifty-fifty suggesting that there wasn’t much in the game and I suppose that is true but Reading passed the ball a little bit better when they had it, they looked a little more dangerous going forward than we did and they used the good fortune they got with the awards of the free kicks, the bizarre nature of the first goal and our inability to get behind them, to win the game which in the end they deserved because frankly we weren’t good enough.
Randolf was our best player which tells you everything you need to know. The back three defended OK for the most part although Burn was guilty of giving a soft free kick away for the second goal. Robson-Kanu had no problem hitting the deck and anyone that did all afternoon was given a free kick by Mr Adcock, the referee. Our midfield were largely second best throughout but any advantage Reading did gain from this they weren’t good enough to achieve sufficient penetration with to make it count so it was always going to be set pieces that settled this rather dull encounter. As for our attack force of Green and Linguard, it was non existent largely due to scant service from a misfiring midfield. Our full backs failed to get forwards, Burke rarely got behind the Reading defence, Reilly looked subdued and Adeyemi had a quiet game by recent standards. Reading weren’t that much better but they did enough to merit the points and Blues can have few complaints. We need to be far better next week with home games coming up.
I got back on the bus wishing I had stayed in the pub. I got back there and had a final pint back at the Three Guineas while I waited for Mrs Bazza to return from her shopping trip; a pint of ‘Stones Cask Ale’ which was another nice pint although it never tastes quite as good when you’ve lost does it?
The Good: The fine beer in The Three Guineas. The hog roast baguette. The fact that Chris and Will were spared and missed this game.
The Bad: The pint I had at the Madjeski at half time; yuk! The entertainment value of the match; very poor.
The Ugly: The sound system at the Madjeski; why play ear-splitting, execrable music (if you can call it that) when a goal is scored? This American trait has been adopted by a few clubs in this country and it defies English culture and football heritage and most fans I speak to hate it. The proponents of triumphal music at sporting events claim that it provokes atmosphere; I disagree, if anything I feel it kills it stone dead. Fans should raise atmosphere not artificial aids like unwelcome blasts from loudspeakers. If we do get new owners I pray they spare us ever have to put up with such a racket at St Andrews.
Reading: McCarthy 6 Gunter 6 Morrison 6 Pearce 6 Bridge 6 McCleary 7 (Obita 81, N/A) Baird 6, Guthrie 8, Robson-Kanu 7 (Kelly 85, N/A) Pobgrebnyak 6, Le Fondre 6 (Akpan 79, 6)
Subs not used: Federici, Cummings, Gorkss, Sharp.
Goals: Guthrie 31, 75
Birmingham City: Randolf 7, Spector 6, Burn 6 Robinson 6, Caddis 5, Reilly 5, Adeyemi 5 (Elliott 71, 6) Murphy 6 (Fergusson 76, 5) Burke 5, Green 5 (Zigic 64, 5) Linguard 5.
Subs not used: Doyle, Bartley, Lee, Shinnie.
Booked: Spector 64, Zigic 90.
Referee: James Adcock 4: Not very good throughout but he was at least consistent; poor for both sides. His game was summed up by an incident very near the end when Zigic standing near the keeper was told by the referee to withdraw to allow McCarthy to clear the ball although there is no law that says he can’t stand where he likes as long as he doesn’t actually impede the keeper. Zigic obediently turned away and took a couple of steps towards the half way line at which point McCarthy deliberately punts the ball into the middle of Zigic’s back. The big Serb is then booked; a ridiculous decision in my view.