Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Incey, Incey, what's the score? - the Mighty vs Reading

What's the difference between Neil Critchley and Vladimir Putin on Wednesday night?  

One of them said he was going to attack and then he didn't, whereas the other one said he wasn't going to attack and then he did. 

Thank you very much. I'm here all week.


It's not fucking funny. It's absurd. Suddenly last week seems like the end of the past. The start of the future. The new normal didn't last very long did it? We were supposed to be at THE END OF HISTORY for fucks sake.

There's something obscenely hubristic about our complacency. About how it's not that long since it seemed we'd all slide frictionlessly into a wonderful future where the aberrations of the past would never resurface even though people have an intrinsic nature which means we never really get over our capacity for doing foolish things in the name of some pointless big idea. 

Yes. That's right. We thought Neil Critchley wouldn't go back to the front three. Boom. Tish. Fuck me, it's a hollow sound. 

The bloke who runs Ukraine is a fucking comedian. Literally. What is the world? Putin has been hiding inside for two years flexing his muscles in the mirror to pass the time and thus now thinks Stalin was a soft arse in comparison to him. He's therefore bringing his guns on to a bloke next door who played the president on telly before he became the actual president.  

Paul Ince being a football manager again and Paul Ince being back at Bloomfield seems almost normal. That's how mad this shit is. 

As I drive there, the car pulled over on the hard shoulder with a family spilling out onto the grass verge seems an echo of horrors not so far away. When I'm walking to the ground, a lad is unpacking rolls of roof insulation from a van and stacking them on the pavement. They look weirdly like mortar shells to me. It gets into your head this sort of shit. 

Finally, we're there. For two hours, we forget. Critch has named the best players in the best formation and all is good in the world. Even if there is an Ukrainian flag being waved from the north and blue and yellow encircling the pitch, we're here for one thing. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the glorious sporting conflict of Association Football. The great escape. 


We're good from the off. Our performance was ponderous on Wednesday and there's more one touch football in the first 10 minutes here than we saw in the whole match then. Kevin Stewart's presence immediately makes us look more intelligent in the middle of the pitch. He's got vision this lad. He got that knack of looking like he might lose the ball, but not doing so. For a player so flimsy, he's really feisty and tough when we actually get to seem him play. 

If Kev has vision, Gary Madine has omni-directional radar and lays an absolutely silken through ball for Bowler (who won the possession in the first place with excellent pressing, knocked it to Gaz ,span and ran forward to make the pass a possibility.) We win a couple of corners. The crowd are loving it. This is 'Pool on the front foot where we want them to be. A diagonal ball. Madine leaps, but instead of flicking, he takes it out the sky with a technique every bit as good as Bowlers. We're on top. 

Jordan Thorniley has a little look, sets his sights on the target and hits a laser guided ball forward. Madine knocks down in the box for Yates whose effort whose effort forces a diving save. We move to pressure down the left, it's pulled back and Bowler takes aim but for once in the last few week, finds the stands, instead of the net. 

Reading have a rare foray forward but it's snuffed out by a crunching tackle from Gabriel. A throw to them. The North are serenading Gabriel but unfortunately, by the time they've finished the song, he's been beaten three times in the same move and the ball is in the back of the net. I'm not sure if it's all Gabriel's fault, he at least tried to put a tackle in whereas everyone else just watched Reading score. For fuck's sake. Things were good and now they're not. 

Jordan is not someone whose head goes down easily though. At the other end, he chases a lost cause and forces an unlikely corner. C'mon! The crowd again get behind them as Bowler goes to the far post with the delivery. Madine flicks, Jerry flicks and then Thorniley tries an overhead kick that runs about two yards wide. More applause for the intent, but still no goal to reward it. 

Pool aren't as slick as they were initially and Dougall and Stewart collide in attempting to do the same job. Kev comes out of the tackle and lays it out to Sterling. He goes wide to CJ, who whips a terrific cross, Madine has a full run up at the ball and meets it head on but their keeper makes a superb stop. C'mon Pool! What more do we have to do? 

We have another corner. It's flicked. It won't fall. It's with Gaz, now with Jerry. It's knocked out, Someone has a shot, it balloons a mile high. It drops and Stewart nods it back into the box as Reading stream out of it. It's a great header, cushioned and turning their defence on its heels. It bounces in front of the keeper and Marvin charges in and bundles the ball over the line. Yes! It's a scruffy goal, but it doesn't matter. A goal is a goal! 

Madine takes it down,  and then spins into a defender. The ball breaks nicely for him though and Gaz muscles through. Gaz is tripped. It's only a corner. Referees. Fucking referees. Corner. Madine again up to flick. it falls to Bowler. He makes space with a little shimmy, and on the turn hits a shot from distance. It's saved but it's a decent effort from where he received the ball to get a shot on target. 


We've been all over them. We should be ahead. If we had a central midfielder who could run with the ball, we'd be lethal. 


Bowler lifts a free kick conceded by Tom Ince (whose Dad's a cunt and so is he) into the box. Madine and the keeper jump. The keeper drops the ball and Marvin lashes wide.

Reading have a free kick because Kevin Stewart breathed in an aggressive way on a defender. It's a sharp swerving effort, Grimshaw saves, perhaps more spectacularly than he might have done which is out of character for him so I'll assume he didn't read it as well as he might have done. 

CJ has space wide again. He drives it across the box. Yates touch is delicate but sadly he only delicately takes it off Bowler's foot as he looks set to lash it home. 

Pool have a corner. Dougall is still taking them despite the fact his delivery hasn't been great. In fact at times during the game he's looked to have put his boots on the wrong feet, dropping passes short and playing the ball out of play. Here though, he finds the centre of the box, he finds Madine, not so much lurking like a shark but leaping like a dolphin above the static defence to nod the ball home and then wheel away in delight. All goals are great goals, but Gary goals are the greatest of all. Was it me, or did it look like Gaz hitched a ride on the defender's shoulders? Who cares though? The ref is terrible. He lets blatant stuff go and whistles for nothing. 

We're off again and Madine, who has been simply imperious today, shows sublime vision to stun it short for Yates. Jerry scored some absolute blinders last year and he dances and dances, he's stepping over, he's performing a high wire dribbling act of great daring and the ground is willing him to find the space for a shot, but he's finally bundled out of danger. 

Reading foul and foul. Ref doesn't care. Refs don't seem to care about us getting fouled that often to be honest. Reading get to the edge of the box. Reading shoot because they don't seem to be sure how to get much further. It's blocked. Repeat for a while. The game is really scruffy. Marvin has a rare moment where he doesn't look classy as he knocks it out of play for no reason. 50p head as I believe the coaching manuals would have it. 

For all the world, it looks like Madine is shoved over in the box by a two handed push. Oh well. As if we'd get a decision like that anyway! Reading put on more pressure without really creating much more than some balls across the face of goal. Jerry gets booked for tackling someone really cleanly. He's tracked back really well today, more than once making an extra man to tidy up a bit of a mess. 

Jordan Gabriel hobbles off. More injuries! Injuries and referees are things we're not having a lot of luck with. Reece James comes on to look like a bloke who might be in a Stereophonics tribute act but who doesn't look that much like whichever one of the Stereophonics he's supposed to be, playing in a pub on a Sunday night to 14 people for 30 quid each which will only pay for the petrol money and a pint. That's a long winded and frankly torturous way of saying he looks quite Welsh. Which, funnily enough, he is. 

A long ball, Gaz, Jez, Josh play it quickly between them.... CJ in space, he lashes a shot... Wide. 

It's still tense. We've struggled to make much in the second half and Reading seem to have had more of the game than they did. Lavery comes on. The ball is bouncing in midfield. Madine backs into his man and heads it square to Dougall with the purposefulness that Madine gives us. Kenny must definitely have his boots on the right feet now because he hits a lovely ball for Lavery. Shayne has space to run into but a bit to do. He does it brilliantly, Lavery's on fire as he twists between two defenders and deftly finishes. That's it! 3-1. We've huffed and puffed a bit, but we've blown Ince's house down and he stands looking hard done by in his technical area as he survey's the wreckage and the ground lights up with noise and the warmth that a goal brings. 

Madine takes the applause as he trots off and YTS Madine (Jake Beesley) come on. The ball is out wide. Beesley is wrestling for it. CJ takes over and surges forward. Bowler points, CJ delivers and Bowler knocks home a sensational half volley, falling away as he hits it and finding the bottom corner. This lad is just magic. It's a wonderful goal and it feels like we just expect him to do this now. What a player.

Incey! What's the score? 


Did we play well? Yes, we did. Was it a 4-1 game? No, probably not, but equally, there was no question we were by far the better side. For a team that have some undoubted quality individuals, Reading were neither solid nor especially dangerous. They couldn't handle Madine and whilst I thought they did quite well against our wide players, especially CJ as soon as they pushed forward, they looked (and were) vulnerable to the counter attack. 

Stewart adds real quality to midfield. He's so tenacious both in and out of possession and his use of the ball is a step ahead of what we've been used to. That said, whilst Dougall had a very rough spell, he did set up two goals. Otherwise, the rest of them did what they do. Yates still didn't score, but he looked busy today and played football and probably played the pass of the day in the first half, a ball for CJ that was weighted to perfection. He was waspish and tricky and I enjoyed his performance. 

The last time I saw us play Reading in the flesh, we lost to their reserves and got outplayed in the cup under Larry. That night underlined how far we had to go, even to beat a second/third string mid table Championship side. Today didn't prove anything in particular, but we've just thrashed their first team so that, I think says quite a lot about how far we've come in 2 and a bit seasons. 

I'm going to say it. I think we're safe and nothing can go wrong now!

Back to the real world now though... 


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