Monday, April 03, 2006

SCHADENFREUDE Reading 5-0 Derby County

April 1986 and a young Floyd on Football watching RFC for the very first time, witnesses Reading beat Derby County at Elm Park to all but clinch the 3rd division championship as the supporters invaded the pitch in joyous celebration. April 2006 and an older, wearier if not necessarily wiser Floyd on Football watched on once again as Derby County were defeated to take the Championship title as once again the pitch was awash with thrilled fans at the end.

And in this story-book season, what better victim of a demolition job in biggest-win-of-the-season style than Derby County who were more Darby and Joan in the second half when Reading ran riot. It was way back in 2002 and our first game back at Championship level took us to Pride Park, Derby - home of the newly relegated Rams. The Derby programme wrote along the lines of "you know you've been relegated from the Premiership when you're first game the following season is against Reading". The home supporters obviously believed their own hype, and chanted "you're only here for the champions" (remember, dear reader, this was the first game of the season) and as their team notched up a flattering win "3-0 in your cup final/to the champions". It has in fact taken Derby four subsequent seasons to seperate themselves from little old Reading - we have left them well and truly behind in our wake, just the fifty points ahead of them.

The sad fact is, as Reading supporters serenaded the handful of Derby supporters stupid enough to want to gatecrash our party, those few visiting fans probably had no recollection of the background to our triumphantly familiar chants of "you're only here for the champions" and "5-0 in your cup final". Not that that takes any gloss off another deadly and decisively emphatic performance. The first half may have been exhbition stuff at times with Reading enjoying plenty of the ball without being able to fashion any good chances, but the team clicked into gear in the last half hour to well and truly Ram Derby's misplaced arrogance down their throat. The crowd was lifted by news of an early goal for Stoke against Sheffield United, in the knowledge that if the Blades failed to win and Reading could beat Derby County as they were destined to do so then the title would be ours, won on our own patch in front of the home fans. And win we did - in style.

An hour of frustration gave way to a roar of relief as James HARPER pounced on Kitson's back heel to muscle past Idiakez and bury the ball past the helpless Lee Camp. This was the start of an astonishing fifteen minute spell; Little thumped an effort into the side netting with half of the ground momentarily acclaiming a second goal, and unmarked DOYLE headed Convey's cross, unfamiliarly from the right hand side, easily past Camp. Enter the substitutes - it was fitting in a season in which Reading have used barely twenty players in the league campaign that two patient squad members should wrap up the rout. OSTER pounced on Derby's embarassing failure to clear Hunt's hopeful looking centre and Shane LONG also made an immediate impact heading home Murty's wonderful cross for a picture book goal. Four goals in fifteen minutes was like our season in microcosm as we showed what Reading FC in 2005/06 has been all about - hard work, talent, accurate service and class finishing. As the massed ranks enjoyed pointing out five times over: that's why we're champions.

By now there was a Walls Carnival Stores atmosphere of colour, balloons and inflatables as the hoardes began to make their way down the gangways onto the perimeter of the pitch, taunting the stewards with cries of "you ain't gonna stop us, you aint's gonna stop us". It was abundantly clear that a good natured putch invasion was the order of the day and when LONG stole in on fellow substitute Hunt's pass to smash the ball across that only heightened the desperation for a right royal knees up. Long's second of the game as a subtitute, the teenager's 4th goal of the season despite only having played in ten matches, with only four starts. It was also his third goal against Derby this season having scored the unbeaten run saving late equaliser on New Years Eve at Pride Park in the return fixture. Long, who has only been playing competitive football for just over a year, sums up much of the recent luck we have had in the transfer market which has transformed our status as perennial hard-luck-story also-rans to a Premiership side with games to spare.

There was time for John Oster to hit the post with another skidding effort as news filtered in that Sheffield United had equalised late on at Stoke. The final whistle was prompt for streams of supporters to take to the pitch as the scoreboard flashed up the final score of Stoke City 1-1 Sheffield United, which prompted a triumphant roar around the Stadium. Floyd on Football, ever keen to soak up history in the making, joined the party on the pitch before a tannoy announcement warned supporters that the team would not be coming out to take the delirious plaudits of the spectators unless the pitch was cleared. There followed an uncertain couple of moments of hugs and handshakes before yet another roar came up - the team were desperate to show their faces asnd had emerged in the Director's Box. For the second Saturday in succession Reading supporter were in the mood to celebrate and shower their heroes with songs of praise. In reality, it was the Reading players who did the showering using bottles of champagne to douse that wild child Steve Coppell and the front few rows upon rows of pitch-bound supporters.

The spring sunshine shone down on a mild day as scores of well-behaved Reading folk acclaimed their heroes with songs, chants and applause with another wild night of celebration out on the town in prospect. A perfect way to clinch a perfect title against perfectly chosen opposition. We had only come to see the champions.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Sonko, Little (Oster, 68), Sidwell, Harper, Convey (Hunt, 68), Doyle (Long, 72), Kitson. Subs not used: Stack, Gunnarsson.

Floyd's Favourite: Harper. The George Gershwin to the RFC Symphony Orchestra.


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