Sunday, 2 March 2014

Reading 1/3/14

Reading is a nice local game for me, it's only about 20 miles away and if you know the local back roads, it's a really quick and easy journey. I left just after half 11 and arrived just after 12, parking up on Whitley Wood Lane just down the road from the stadium. It's free to park there - and only a short walk to the stadium. Why anyone would pay to park I don't know, but then again as I work in the area, I was more clued up as to where parking was available! I met up with my dad and headed over to the pub at the Holiday Inn, for a swift pint, to meet up with some friends and to watch the first half ish of the QPR game on the big screens. We then took a wander over to the stadium, which is seriously impressive.

All around the ground, there were kiosks for food, help and information points and activities for kids. This stuff doesn't cost a lot of money, but was clearly engaging the fans and was very well received.

We headed around to Gate 9 and after a quick frisking (oo-er) we used our barcode scanny ticket things to get through the turnstiles. The Yeovil fans were already very vocal inside - I think lubricated slightly by the concourse bar :) We managed to get a seat at the top left of the section we were given, our usual standard spot, and got an absolutely beautiful view.

I had a good feeling about the game - we were unbeaten in 3 games and Reading were typically very hit and miss. Before the game I had optimistically predicted a 2-1 win. But the game was far beyond prediction!

Reading started the brighter and for the first 20 minutes were the stronger, faster and hungrier team. We looked unsettled, panicked and off the pace. But, completely against the run of play, Alex McCarthy didn't deal with a cross and Shane Duffy headed home to give Yeovil the 1-0 lead. The stunned silence of the fans and delayed celebration said it all - how had that gone in, how were we ahead? Literally seconds before the goal The Royals fans were chanting "going down going down...."

Following the goal though, Yeovil were well on top and it was Reading's turn to look rattled and panicked. They had a few shots on target, and had the ball in the back of the net but it was disallowed for offside. A real let off for Yeovil and we went in with the 1-0 lead at the break. It slowly funneled through the fans that -  due to other results around us - we were actually outside the relegation zone on goal difference. For the first time in months! But this is Yeovil -  we don't do things the easy way do we?

Now, I haven't seen any replays so this is purely based on what I saw live in the stadium.

Reading started the second half resurgent and bright. Clearly, they had the proverbial rocket up them at half time, the usual "how can you be losing to Yeovil!?" talk. They had 5 corners in quick succession, thankfully resulting in nothing, but it epitomised the pressure we were under. I think the pressure was getting to our defence and Byron Webster apparently hauled back their forward in the box and the penalty was given. As I said, I haven't seen the incident again, so I can't really say whether it was harsh or not, but he was given a straight red. The penalty from Le Fondre was well taken and it was a brilliant save from Stech, far outstretched. We didn't repay Stech though, as we were scrambling around in the goal mouth and I think there goal was eventually given as an OG on our part, on 69 minutes.

So, 1-1, down to 10 men, with 20 minutes to go. What happened next was a farce, and I still can't entirely believe what happened.

Ralls was given a straight red for a challenge on the touchline. It didn't look like he got the ball -  fair enough. It was a booking, probably. But a straight red? The referee didn't initially look like he was even reaching for a card, but the baying crowd and being completely surrounded by the Reading players seemed to sway his decision. I sincerely hope we appeal the card because a straight red was incredibly harsh, certainly from what I saw live. I can't see it being classed as a goal-scoring opportunity on the touchline, and it certainly didn't seem malicious. But the replays will no doubt show the truth!

So down to nine men, and 15 minutes to go, and we are really hanging on at this point. There were few Reading chances on target where you thought they'd definitely score, but with the space they had to create and our tired legs, it felt like it was coming.

88 minutes, and a second yellow for Kieffer Moore for a foul which probably did warrant a yellow, took us down to 8 men. 8 MEN. Against top 6 Reading!! But our defending was absolutely sublime from this point - I never really felt, for all their pressure and lumping the ball forward - that they were going to score. The laughable 8 minutes added time played couldn't phase us. The Yeovil faithful were in good voice, willing the players on and being the 12th man, or maybe it's the 9th?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the final whistle blew and we had gained a hugely valuable point following other results around us, in spite of the referee trying to give them every opportunity to take the lead and injuries and of course, the sendings off. The final 8 were absolute heroes today - seriously I know that word is used so often but their defending, their resolve and their strength really was heroic today. I am counting this as a massive point - definitely a point gained in the circumstances, and I take heart from the thought that had we had 11 men, I think we genuinely could have walked away with the three points today.

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