I have witnessed a lot of things at the Madejski Stadium. Yesterday I saw a game that finished with a score of 5-7. Depressing thing is I didn’t go back on my promise never ever to watch another London Irish rugby fixture.
Even as I now write it in the cold light of day I can barely believe it. Going into the game I thought we would lose, I always do. Even when we won the Championship (English Second Flight) with a record 106 points, until it was mathematically certain I thought we would conspire to lose it. It’s the Reading way, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory with un-erring accuracy.
Even I, the most pessimistic of football fans, thought we couldn’t possibly lose at 4-1 up at half time. We had dominated, with only Theo Walcott appearing to want to play for Arsenal in the first half. He deserved this goal. More was to come. Before the Walcott goal at 4-0 we gave it the big un. Taunting Arsenal fans, and at 4-0 it was like shooting fish in a barrel. The classic jibe about Robin Van Persie “Laughing at this.” Should have stuck in my memory for years. At half time sections of the crowd were asking for a change of board. “We want our Arsenal back” they shouted. Unfortunately for us they got their wish sooner than even they could have hoped for.
We knew Arsenal would come out all guns blazing. The old cliché “If we can keep it tight for the first twenty minutes” was uttered. Wave after to wave of attack, we weathered the storm for twenty four minutes. Then opened the flood gates. I watched in a kind of drunken nightmareish haze. No-one not even us can lose from 4 nil up. I’ll wake up in a minute.
Various people have mentioned the referee, who deemed it right to play for 96 minutes instead of the 93 he had previously stated. In those added three minutes Arsenal scored their forth goal. This makes no difference to me. In all sport, you play until the end. If the ref saw fit to play until midnight (however wrong) then the teams must play.
4-4 Extra time. Thousands of Londoners (some from “Just round the corner) jumping around like loons at a Sex Pistols gig. Three sides of the Mad Stad silent. Dazed, onlookers. Arsenal scored to make it 4-5. Ludicrous. But at least it was over, the torment of the turnaround. Done.
No but wait. Step forward Pavel Pogrebnyak to offer more false hope than a cheap rancid psychic medium searching for a missing child. 5-5. Now it was our turn to pogo like punks. Game on, we can do it. Get in! Push for a 6th.
Caught upon a wave of optimism. We lost the ball, they scored.. twice more. I would describe it but like a person involved in a horrific accident I have blocked it out. It is a blur.
Usually when we suffer a defeat, I think to myself, it’s part of the reason I go. Not to see us lose, but to experience the lows so that when those oh so infrequent highs come by I can take it all in. But 5-7…. All I can think is maybe we’ll get a sponsorship deal with Heinz next year and for all I hate my job I’m pleased I’m not a football manager. Where the hell do you go from here.