A long day came to a blissful end. Fair play to everybody who managed to get to the Grove eventually. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one experiencing travel chaos.
A shorter than usual pre-match analysis sprung to life when the team news came through. “Gervinho’s in”. We didn’t get the full flavour of the changes after that. “What on earth has Poldi done to miss out?”
The supporters made the theme of the day the late and great David Rocastle. The attempt to sing his song for seven minutes, always a tough task, was cut short when Gervinho silenced the doubters, and everybody else, with the opening goal. It seemed fitting that the man playing, notionally at least, on the right wing should set up a comfortable victory.
Of course Gervinho is rarely tied down to a solitary role, and roamed at will causing havoc for a poor Reading defence. On the opposite flank, and equally mobile, Santi Cazorla added to the visitors discomfort with a masterclass. Yet as half-time arrived there was still a nagging thought that overwhelming supremacy required a second goal to be comfortable.
That second goal should have arrived when former Gunner Stuart Taylor upended Olivier Giroud. Everybody in the stadium except for the officials saw it as a penalty. Fourth official Mark Halsey, he who missed that disgraceful assault at Wigan a couple of weeks ago, went over to the tv monitor, shook his head and sneered at the fans in Block 32. Glad though I am that he is a fit and well man again, perhaps the job is proving too much for him these days.
Three second-half minutes had elapsed when the excellent Cazorla was set up by Gervinho and the second goal arrived. “How many more can we get for the goal difference?” Our League situation was still at the forefront of the mind of those around me. From a Reading corner we broke with pace and Gervinho ensured man of the match honours with a pass that Olivier Giroud converted for 3-0. “Too soon for the ‘holic pound” I muttered to the neighbour, and I was right. Unfortunately it was Reading who struck within a minute to sink my bet.
The arrival of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a substitute did nothing for Reading defenders confidence. Barely had he replaced Gervinho than he was tripped in the box and Mr Foy had no option to award the second blatant penalty of the day. Mikel Arteta netted and the crowd departed happy with what they had seen.
The problem with games like this is that people will say it was only a poor Reading side, and that is true, but we made them look a lot poorer with the quality of our performance and should not underplay that. We will have tougher challenges between now and the final trip to Newcastle, and need to build on the confidence that must have been gained yesterday.
Chelsea are within reach after their defeat at Southampton, and the neighbours too given we are only four points behind them with a game in hand. Who is going to blink first?
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