Tim Dellor's Royals Watching: Reading need to kick on after memorable win at Fulham
It was entirely appropriate that midway through the second half the ball should burst. You don’t see that very often nowadays in Championship football. When pig’s bladders were used for kick-abouts it was a regular problem, but not now, writes BBC Berkshire's Tim Dellor.
Fulham against Reading at Craven Cottage was a wholehearted contest played out in front of a baying crowd. It was the first “post lockdown” game that really had the atmosphere and excitement back. How we have missed it.
Reading fans will look back at the away trip as one of the best, not least because the team won 2-1, surviving a late onslaught after Ovie Ejaria scored two beauties. Ejaria really is a mercurial talent, capable of producing audacious moments of brilliance. He certainly got the fans out of their seats last Saturday.
When Tom Holmes went down clutching his right leg 15 minutes into the game those fans feared the worst. The central defender hobbled on for another five minutes, seeing Reading 1-0 up. He then exited, and on came former England midfielder Danny Drinkwater. As well as having one of the best surnames around, he has bags of quality and drew on all his experience to marshal Reading’s midfield through 75 minutes of savage football.
The fans will have all gone home with headaches. The noise of the crowd, the hangover after over-indulging in one of the many watering holes by the ground, or the deafening volume of the loudest tannoy in world sport will have accounted for that. Once the builders have completed the impressive new riverbank stand at Craven Cottage they might like to get an audio expert in to tweak the volume levels on the loudspeakers before the council’s Environmental Health Department pay them a visit.
After the game I spoke to Danny Drinkwater, who was anticipating a 15 minute run-out tops, Luke Southwood, who was suitably upbeat after several excellent match-winning saves late on, and Veljko Paunovic, who was back to his charming best after an uncharacteristic spat after the win against Peterborough a few days earlier. The stress of getting points on the board was getting to everyone, but now they are mid-table hopefully everyone will chill out a bit.
Next up it’s Middlesbrough at the SCL on Saturday. Quite why a TV company has selected this game for telly nobody can be quite sure, but it does make a mess of fan’s diaries. The game kicks off at 12:30. Before then Paunovic has some deep thinking to do, and he needs to smile. The photographer charged with taking the official 2021/2 squad picture at the training ground this week will be the most relieved of all of us with the Fulham result.
Who plays in central defence? Junior Hoilett or George Puscas starting up front? Is Rafael fit enough to return in goal or do you stick with the faultless Southwood? These are all big decisions. We are still only eight games into the season, but a win could put them into the play off zone, or defeat could see them scrapping it out in the relegation zone.