Twelve minutes. Jason Roberts takes advantage of some dire defending.
Travelling Gooners “Come on Arsenal!”
Eighteen minutes. The Laurent Koscielny horror show gets worse. His own-goal makes it 2-0.
Carrot crunchers “Are you Swindon in disguise?”
Twenty minutes. Damian Martinez gets a big hand on Leigertwood’s drive, but merely helps the ball into the net.
Carrot crunchers “Robin van Persie, he’s laughing at you”.
Thirty seven minutes. Hunt heads home at the far post as Arsenal’s defence implodes again. There is a shuffling of feet. Incredibly some, and I repeat some, Gooners have had enough.
Carrot crunchers “Ducked on the telly, you’re getting ducked on the telly”. I may have misheard this slightly.
Last minute of the half. Theo Walcott finally bursts into life and the consolation goal is scored.
Travelling Gooners “We’re gonna win five four!”
The half-time summary? Do I need to go into that? Let’s just say it is a blessing that the signal in the MadStad is non-existent. I don’t mind admitting I attempted to send one tweet that would have come back to bite me. All around agree. In all my years I have never seen an Arsenal side play so badly. However the goal has given the thousands that remain something to cling to. Even at four down we were outsinging the locals. That must have been a factor in the most dramatic turnaround I have ever witnessed.
Sixty four minutes. Olivier Giroud, introduced just two minutes earlier, heads home Walcott’s corner. 4-2.
Travelling Gooners “Na na na na na na na, na na na na, Giroud”.
Eighty-nine minutes. More Gooners have left but still the volume in the South Stand is ramped up further when Koscielny grabs what appears to be a third consolation goal.
Travelling Gooners “We love you Arsenal, we do!”
The time-wasting that has been employed by the hosts throughout the second-half extends to four added minutes. This is made greater by a substitution intended to run down the clock. In the added time for that substitution Walcott looks to have scored, but Carl Jenkinson makes certain and the bulk of the four thousand visitors, who are still in the ground, go off the head.
Travelling Gooners “Four nil and you ducked it up”. That’s what I think I was singing anyway.
Full-time summary. The substitution that sent Giroud alongside Chamakh turned the tide. It was Arsene’s King Canute moment. Worryingly though as Reading players prepared for extra-time both Olivier Giroud and Francis Coquelin came over to the South Stand and chucked their shirts into the crowd. They had to retrieve them when the skipper told them they were playing on. Something missing in the preparation?
And so to extra-time. One hundred and three minutes. Print the teeshirt. Marouane Chamakh scores.
Travelling Gooners “Are you Swindon in disguise?” The simpletons in the East Stand are ducking boomerangs.
Four minutes remain, and a penalty shoot-out looms into view as Pogrebnyak equalises.
To be fair the travelling Gooners join in the celebratory dirge that gets played only when the home team score. Everybody is singing themselves hoarse.
In the last of one hundred and twenty unbelievable minutes Theo Walcott gets his second. The South Stand erupts.
Travelling Gooners “Robin van Persie, he’s laughing at you!” The simpletons have a collective head in hands moment.
It’s not over. Chamakh has the scoring bug and makes it 5-7 with a deft chip. Strangers hug and shake hands. It is a special night.
Travelling Gooners “Ducked on the telly, you’re getting ducked on the telly”. Revenge it seems is a dish best served when gripped by delirium.
“Five against Arsenal, you should have scored more”. Time to grind them into the dust, not that many remain.
It truly was a night like no other I have witnessed in all of my forty-fifteen years, and unlikely to be repeated. I just have to thank Tone for the ticket. Despite my suicidal feelings at the half I have to say it was a privilege to be there as it unfolded. I owe Biggy and Toasey a debt of thanks for keeping me positive when I was in danger of going off on one. The messages at the end were a lot different to those earlier.
I’m not sure I will be sleeping tonight.
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