The story of the season - Reading (a)
2010/11 season v Reading in the league at The Madejski, Saturday 2nd April 2011.
For a trip for me to watch Pompey to start with me not having to leave my home until 10am and still be home by 10pm is a dream - an absolute dream for me, which is made even better by the fact that this, even if it sounds like a long day, is all the more shorter - and cheaper - given that there was no driving involved and this was all done by train without any major rushing, or delays necessary.
So, with that in mind what a treat Reading was and that was without a doubt penned in when the fixtures were announced.
Having moved into my new life, and new home, in Dawlish - I am gradually getting closer to 'home' (Pompey) - on the Friday I could not really get much sorted but that could wait until the Sunday, Saturday was football day, and glorious morning awaited me when I woke. Those of you that know 'sunny Devon' and in particular Dawlish will know that when the weather is good this is a cracking place to live, minutes from the sea front with plenty of scenery around to occupy the mind!
The sun was shining and all was good in the world, well as far as I was concerned, not that I was particularly confident that Pompey would get anything at Pompey, which we had to if we wanted to keep those 'lingering' play-off hopes alive...
Plan of the day was to get the 11:06 Exeter St Davids - London Paddington, which took us direct to Reading in under 2-hours. I could have 'pushed my luck' and got a slightly later train but thought I would settle for the 10:01 and just wait around St Davids station for Richie and Ken to arrive. Diamond that she is Trina wanted to walk down with me to see me off, or was this to make sure I went! First to show, at a little after 10.30am, was Richie who was fresh, perhaps the wrong choice of words, from a nightshift so was not quite at his best but he found form as the day went on. Ken - who was joined by a Pompey fan I had not yet met, Dave, was not too far behind.
The usual football chat, Pompey and otherwise, would be on the agenda and then there was the sinking of a couple of early morning beers that Richie has purchased - with the sun over the yard arm it was perfectly acceptable, especially on a football day, to be drinking at 11.30am, right?
A smooth journey, in the comfort of 'the land of leathers', 1st class, went without a hitch and we arrived pretty much as scheduled into Reading for 12:52. As I had tickets for Sneakay and his mates I arranged for him to meet me outside the station, so there he was waiting - The Three Guineas, right outside the station, was rammed and not really looking like a crowd we wanted in with to be honest, so we left that although not before seeing a blast from mine and Ken's past. A guy called Kevin, who used to travel regularly with us when he was in Devon, was spotted - not that he spotted us. We knew few pubs were letting in away fans, but had heard of one, The Friars Retreat, we could get in, so would head for that one. Sneaks stayed at Vodka Revolutions although we agreed to try and meet later.
This later meeting came much sooner than anticipated as we were refused entry into The Friars Retreat, so back to Vodka Revolutions it was and to be honest it was not too bad. At least my round was cheap thanks to Sneaks' membership card! It was not long before Tony (UKTony) called me to see where I was so he and Gill joined us, they would not stay for long but the drinks flowed for us, as they do...
Around 2.15(ish) we decided we should head to the ground so jumped on one of the shuttle buses and off to The Madejski it was - funnily we bumped into Dave, who had gone off to meet his sister and got into The Friar's, and some others we knew from our travels. Pretty pain free, even if £3.50 seemed a bit steep, we got to the ground and made our way in, well not before Richie insisted on a 'quick beer' before the game so I downed that and in we went.
We found one place, seemed it was pretty much - on the whole - go where you want, although a few people insisted on having their seats so we moved, not in the most ideal of places to be honest so soon moved on again to the back, top corner in the Gods but a good view and we could stand - as it happens SAF, I would eventually find out, was only a few rows ahead of us...
The game was better left forgotten, something I wish we had done when it came to faxing through the paperwork to sign Dave Kitson, who continues to blatantly pose as a footballer when he is anything but! A hatful of chances were missed by The Ginger Whinger and we eventually paid for this when Paddy Ashdown dropped a clanger to let in a Shane Long effort I really think he should have saved, when Rocha John Rocha was sent off for a professional foul it was all over, although the penalty award for Reading was somewhat generous I thought. To be honest Reading did not look special, and we continued to create - and usually waste - chances, but the difference was they took theirs, and rode the luck given them, we did not.
It threatened to turn ugly and the actions of some of those seeking their '5 minutes of fame', both towards SAF - on the whole - and looking for a ruck with the Reading fans was embarrassing, and very cringe worthy. Hats of to Steve Cotterill though who tried to defuse it by trying to get those that were looking for trouble away from the Reading fans, not that they seemed to take much notice!
The plan was to make the 18:32 back to Exeter St Davids, and as we had plenty of time this was 'expected' to happen, although with the number of shuttle busses laid on after the game significantly lower than that when you went in this was looking a little doubtful at one point although in the end this was made, and with time enough to have another crafty point in Revolutions, where I also saw Sneaks and the gang again - who had just managed to get on the bus ahead of me and got most on it to mock me as it pulled away, buggers... Richie also found time to sneak off and get another bunch of cans for the journey home, he was certainly on a mission!
Train safely made, and again in the land of leathers, we set off back to Exeter and were back in time, more than enough to get the 21:01 - Dawlish, this was good as I was invited to one of my brothers housewarming party (he too had moved recently), I had managed to get Richie an invite too, so wanted to get back fairly early. A swift short, Whisky, in The Railway at Dawlish and a nip into my place later and we were at Lee's where the night continued well into the early hours!
Not the result we would have wanted against reading, although it was a bloody good day out nevertheless. Next up was a return to Fratton for a doubleheader against Preston and Coventry - play-off hopes over, surely, I wondered what the final games of the season would bring?
One thing that I knew was that I wanted them to bring us some decent performances and some results, and although far from a given was looking for 3pts as a return from the Preston game - bring 'em on...
PLAY UP POMPEY!