The story of the season - Reading (h)
2010/11 season v Reading at Fratton, Friday 13th - Monday 16th August 2010.
We were just a week into the season but it seemed as though we had been going for an eternity as the first Fratton game of the season, against Reading, came around - trips to Coventry and Stevenage, the Saturday and Monday before last respectively, coupled with a sleepless night on that Monday due to travelling back home and then pretty much going straight to my girlfriend Trina's on the Tuesday took it out of me, although travelling the day before a game, and the traditional weekend in Cosham, would help here I thought...
The journey kicked-off with the now 'common' 18.01 out of Ivybridge, arriving at Exeter for 18.56 where I wait for the 19.27 to London Waterloo. This brief wait allows the time to nip across the road to the shop and collect food and/or drink if needed, not that it was, before the fairly long journey to Basingstoke, arriving in at 22.07 for the final leg to Cosham at 22.21, which arrives in at 23.19 - yep it is a long old journey but the need to keep costs down makes this an ideal train, price wise. A netbook in hand leaves plenty for me to do and keeps me busy with various work I have to do.
Ordinarily I would not eat so late, but when I arrived at my Aunties to be met by a bowl of chinese in the microwave, I could not say no - how can anyone say no to chinese food!
So, having started the trek on the Friday for this game when Saturday arrived it was time to greet the family, who were all in bed or out when I arrived the night before, and prepare for the return to my church as the first of the home games arrived. Those same old 'lucky pants' were washed after failure the week before; they would be lucky this time of course - the usual thinking applied. Once again I toyed with the idea of 'no replica shirt', but I knew that I could not do it so the packed home shirt from the mid 90s was selected and used.
Another of the usual actions would be to be picked up in Cosham along Southampton Road, but as Chixy was away on a family holiday - missing the seasons home opener, blasphemous behaviour! - a different means was needed so I decided I would forgo my pint, or three, in The Rutland and try another 'old school' method of travelling with my cousin Paul and our friend Saunders, catching a bus down then getting a Monster Mick burger. Oh how I had missed the Monster, as more often than not these days the drinking time, taking place on the other side of Fratton, prevented this. You know what it is like when you are in the pub, food or pint...the pint usually wins out and you decide to leave the pub about 15-20 minutes before kick-off, in order to 'squeeze in' that final pint too!
In typical Pompey fashion I anticipated problems with the new season ticket card - why they wasted the money of sending new ones because the old said 'Barclays premier league' and these said 'npower' is beyond me - although these were fine. So, with time to spare, plenty of it, Paul treated me to a beer, Saunders opted against this though. Having spotted Tony and Gill as I entered through the turnstile we went and joined them, with Paul going off to place a bet. My tip was a 2-1 win, with Nugent and Wilson scoring, which one would open this scoring I did not know? I think I tipped Nugent in the end, so no doubt he went with Wilson, neither of which would have been right...
Having placed his bet we decided to head into our seats, I cannot remember the last time I was in the ground, let alone in my seat, anything any earlier than 14.55(ish) so 14.30, as I was, was alien to me! It was a whole new world, I thought the nets behind the goals were new to act as a safety barrier against our, and Reading's, shooting although Tony soon corrected me that these were always there as the players warmed up and removed at kick-off, again this highlighted that I was in my seat way too early!
The crowd, some 16,500 or so, were fantastic - to be fair when they wanted to have a go Reading were not bad either - although it was always a game that you feared we would 'regret' not taking chances in. Nadir Ciftci's opener, not that I was convinced it was his, nor am I still despite not seeing it again yet, got us off to a flying start but it was the countless other missed chances that you knew would hurt us, such as the gift wrapped Dave Nugent misses, his inability to present that ball to gift wrap chances for others - to be fair the guy worked bloody hard so I cannot fault him on that score, the poor final pass from various players or no one being on the end of some fantastic balls into the box.
And so this proved!
We could not say that we were not warned, as we were. Reading missed some top quality chances themselves with the post saving us once but one needlessly conceded corner too many and an inability to clear a ball with enough chances to do this saw us punished as Kebe equalised in the dying minutes - even then there was confusion on this, the goal, which seemed perfectly legal, seemed to be ruled out with Jamie Ashdown placing the ball for a freekick, this then went towards the half way line again, before being sent back to him. Eventually the referee made it perfectly clear that it was a goal, and on we went for the remaining minutes and 4 minutes of injury time. Positives could, and would, be taken from this, although it did not alter the fact that this draw felt like a defeat, they always do when you concede so late...
Back to my Aunties I went after the game, the heavens opened as we left Fratton to punish us further. The usual 'what went wrong' and 'what went right' talk was shared on this journey back.
My journey, and indeed weekend, was not over as I still had a couple of days to stay in Cosham - this journey would normally end with me walking through my front door at around 23.20 on the Monday night, although this time I decide to go to Trina's in Dawlish, so caught the usual 18.39 from Cosham, arriving into Westbury for 20.05 where I wait - I hate Westbury, always have and always will - until 21.05 for the final train, well usually. This was slightly delayed so plans to go through to Newton Abbot, get off and catch a train back to Dawlish were abandoned and I just got off at Exeter to catch the 22.37, Richie was on duty that evening so we had a bit of a chat before I jumped on. After briefly dropping into Lee and Charlotte's, my brother and his girlfriend, to collect Trina's front door key I finally arrived back at her place to end the Reading journey for around 23.15 on Monday night, she was already in bed and asleep although briefly woke up to say hello.
Next up, Preston this weekend, and a first trip to Deepdale for me. Nugent will break his seasons duck against his former side, surely? Although would he celebrate...
PLAY UP POMPEY!