Nothing compares to competitive football, I’d rather watch a league/cup game over a friendly any day of the week, but pre-season does have its merits. The main compliment I can afford it are the cheap ticket prices (See what I did there…?). My visit to Reading was no different, as I picked up tickets to Sky Bet Championship side Reading vs my newly found friends over at Swansea City for a measly £7. I’ve been meaning to visit The Madejski for a while, and if I’m honest, it was too good an offer to turn away.
Notts County fan James (I know, weird decision, but each to their own) joined me for today’s trip as he too liked the sound of the cheap, good quality football. I met him on the train at New Milton (proudly bearing his County shirt in anticipation for their visit to Preston North End on the opening day of the season) and we headed for Reading. A quick change over at Southampton Central, and we were soon where we needed to be. Stood outside Reading station without a real idea of where we needed to be going. Typical me, really. I made the executive decision of checking online how to get to the ground, and on finding out that there was a shuttle bus from where we were stood, we had a chance to have a stroll around the town centre with a good hour or so to kill.
Reading itself isn’t too bad, but it didn’t really do it for me. I can’t pinpoint why, I didn’t see anything so unbearably wrong that I was running in terror, I just don’t think I’d be able to live there. It took James five minutes however to start calculating his mortgage with the bank manager after realising Reading has a Greggs. I shall explain. Living in Weymouth, James is apparently without a Greggs. Clearly they don’t see Weymouth as a Greggs loving town. Well, if that’s the case, they need to pull their finger out because based on his reaction and picture-taking on spotting the establishment, they’ve made a grave error of judgement.
We jumped on to the number 50 bus to the ground (costing a a slightly extortionate £4 return for the 20 minute journey) and soon found ourselves at The Madejski. First impressions of the place were good as we picked up our matchday programmes, excuse me, newspapers from the toll booth outside. After taking a couple of pictures, I wandered over to the club store where I found myself a pin badge, before paying up and exiting the store to biblical rain. It really hammered down, so much so, I actually had to take my jacket out of my bag. It really was wet. James and I soon headed over to the East Stand where we’d be sat for the afternoon, and after a photo with Reading mascot ‘Queensley’, we made it onto the concourse through the electronic ticket barrier.
It’s here that I must mention the available food on the concourse. There are burger bars outside, but inside, you don’t stand a chance. You can have a 5″ Margherita pizza if you fancy looking like an idiot though. James plumped for a £3.70 hotdog, and soon threw about £3 of that hotdog into the bin. Rubbery and disgusting were his words. Take these words as you will, but I won’t be in a rush to get my dinner there any time soon.
With about 30 minutes to go, we made the walk up the stairs and out into the stands, perching ourselves pretty much smack bang on the halfway line. I won’t lie, I was impressed. I’ve heard a lot of negativity about the place if I’m honest, and yes it is similar to a lot of new builds, but I quite liked it personally. The pitch looked immaculate, but the stairs heading up the East Stand are as steep as anything. I haven’t trained for two weeks, as all my fitness work came from me trying to crawl my way to my seat! I got my teamsheet sorted, and we were soon chatting about the players who’d be lining up.
As they had done the previous week in their visit to Plymouth Argyle, Swansea got off to a good start and immediately showed who the Premier League side were. Some quick passing, and excellent movement was originally counteracted by neat passing of their own from Reading, but that faded from the game after about 20 minutes. Swansea won a 14th minute penalty for what I can only presume was handball as a cross was whipped in from the right, but Wilfried Bony promptly slammed the spot kick against the bar, much to the amusement of the home support.
10 minutes later and the visitors found themselves in front, as Wayne Routledge rounded Alex McCarthy in the Reading goal to tap home. He soon doubled his tally just a couple of minutes later, after a quick break saw Routledge find himself in acres of space to find the net, after some good work from Gylfi Sigurdsson had created the space. Reading weren’t offering anything of real note, until on 43 minutes striker Nick Blackman picked the ball up 30 yards out. Out of completely nothing, he swiveled, set himself, and launched one into the top right hand corner of Lukasz Fabianski’s goal, much to the appreciation of everyone in the ground. If you’re reading this Nick, your goal is currently my Stadium Trotter goal of the season, so well done you. City restored their two-goal cushion in the second half as new signing Batefemi Gomis charged beyond the Reading defence, to cooly dink the ball over substitute goalkeeper Adam Federici.
Full-time score; Reading 1-3 Swansea City
(Blackman 43′) (Routledge 23′ 25′, Gomis 64′)
All in all though, it was a good day and another ground ticked off my list. Cheers Reading!