Sunday, April 23, 2006

OWLS OF DESPAIR Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Reading

Yesterday's fixture at Hillsborough, Reading's final away game of the campaign, was like coming down off a high from an acid trip of a season. The match was already a bit of a dead rubber after Sheffield Wednesday had secured their Championship status with a win at Brighton on Easter Monday and this tame game was played out with testimonial-esque tepidity.

Reading needed a win or a draw yesterday to give themselves chance of breaking the points record for an english league season against Queens Park Rangers at the MadStad next Sunday. The points record is currently held by Sunderland who notched up 105 points in their 1998/99 Division 1 title season. This drawn game yesterday moved us a step closer to that target but having led and dominated the first half it was a minor disappointment to be pegged back in the second half. At last, something to moan about - however trivial - in this sensational season.

Hillsborough was a fitting venue for the last stadium gig of the 05/06 Reading FC Promotional Tour. It is a massive arena and the Owls crowds are the envy of some Premiership teams. You get the sense that this is a club desperate for a bit of success and the way in which relegation avoidance was acclaimed as a triumph seemed a bit like Abu Hamza clutching at straws - being better than Brighton, Crewe and Millwall is a hollow boast indeed. Not that Reading had anything to brag about performance-wise on an afternoon in which we showed little of our usual style and swagger. Despite a succession of early wretchedly wasted short corners we made few, if any, inroads on the Sheffield Wednesday goal. Floyd on Football is of the opinion that short corners are entirely pointless, the footballing equivalent of driving from Reading to Oxford via the M4 - you could have used a more direct route.

With Reading unusually looking more toothless than Iwan Roberts, the first clear cut opportunity of the game took half an hour to arrive and came the way of Wednesday. The Owls striker MacLean was once linked with Reading and he proved that our loss isn't exactly Hillsborough's gain as he was granted the freedom of Sheffield to bounce a free header down into the arms of the grateful Hahnemann to the derision of the 3,000-odd Reading supporters behind the goal who entertained themselves throughout a dull match with the usual array of random inflatables on their final away trip of the season. The coaching manuals always teach a good striker to head the ball down, but unfortunately MacLean most certainly isn't a good striker. Clear cut opportunities, much like Swindon women, are like buses - you wait half an hour but no sooner had MacLean wasted Wednesday's best chance, KITSON had swivelled down the other end to put Reading ahead with a delicate clip over Carson following good work from Doyle and Oster.

Reading were only denied what would surely have been a clinching goal early in the second half when Kitson's neat volley from Sidwell's centre was ruled offside and from that moment the home side, urged on from the sidelines by their kilted buffoon of a manager Paul Sturrock, were lifted and seemed keen to put on a show for the Hillsborough faithful. They began to dominate as Reading continually gave the ball away as if were full of risin and it was no surprise when referee Mason pointed to the spot after Convey clumsily felled Simek in the box. Even MacLEAN can get a penalty kick on target, sending Hahnemann the wrong way for 1-1. Coppell made a string of substitutions which freshened things up but truth be told failed to really inject any new emphasis into the team and MacLean again was wasteful, putting the loose ball well wide of the target having been initially foiled by Hahnemann.

Reading rallied briefly with Long's snapshot deflected wide after hard work from Hunt, Oster rashly stabbed straight at Carson following a corner like a nervous young ASBO with a carving knife in a post office raid. Floyd on Football appealed loudly for a penalty when Sonko's shirt was almost ripped clean off his torso at another Reading corner kick but 27,332 others barely acknowledged it; were this offence to occur anywhere else on the field of play but the opposition penalty area it would be punised with a free kick without any doubt whatsoever. The final salvo in a desperate match was fired by Deon Burton whose header from a corner was denied by the unlikely intervention on the goaline of John Oster and the draw was ultimately a fair result. Lines of police and stewards prevented the Wednesday followers from invading the pitch in their final home fixture, instead they waited patiently for the promised post-match player parade to mark the achievement of avoiding the drop; this is in reality a little like having a lap of honour to celebrate finishing above Bella Emberg in a Miss World contest and Floyd on Football left them to it. After all, we have something more significant to celebrate next weekend.

Reading: Hahnemann, Makin, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Oster, Sidwell (Gunnarsson, 65), Harper, Convey (Hunt, 65), Doyle, Kitson (Long, 70). Subs not used: Stack, Murty.

Floyd's Favourite: Sonko. Immoveable object.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home