Andy Munro shreds his nerves watching Blues beat Reading.
A win is a win is a win but we certainly rode our luck at times, particularly in a nervy second half.
Things started well early on, however, in front of a bumper (in Blues’ recent terms) crowd. The backing was boisterous, optimism was high and there was a general feel good factor around not seen since the reign of King Hughton.
In reality, opening exchanges were fairly even, verging on the innocuous, with Blues arguably having a slight edge. Donaldson was causing the Reading defence all sorts of problems with the new midfielder Tora encouragingly always in close attendance, ready to take advantage. Yet, as so often happens, it was that man Cotterill who typically made the breakthrough with a wicked free kick, even more wickedly deflected.
At that stage things looked fairly comfortable with Cotterill and Caddis combining well and causing mayhem down the right, finding the space that the boxed in and double marked Demi Gray was denied. It didn’t help that the defensive minded Grounds rarely gave the besieged young winger a decent option. However, a bonus was the new Dutch midfield master who looked at ease on the ball whilst still being combative which also allowed Gleeson to blossom a bit.
However, the wheels started to come off this Blues bandwagon in the second period, despite going two goals up when Tora finished off a magnificent piece of Donaldson skill with an even more magnificent header. Strangely, Blues seemed to slacken off and become defensive as Reading increasingly went on the attack. This wasn’t helped by a rather nervy and erratic display by Kusczak and after he’d spilled the ball, not for the first time, Reading reduced the arrears. They then hit the underside of the woodwork but luckily the Russian linesman was nowhere to be seen.
Gary Rowett then made several subs which, in truth seemed to be rather like shifting the deckchairs on a footballing Titanic. Shinnie for goalscorer Tora, Davis for the flying Dutchman and then Robbo for Cotterill which meant that the Reading back four could relax completely and push forward, pumping balls into a Blues’ goalmouth which was increasingly looking like the set for the film of Custer’s Last Stand.
The five minutes add on time came went and continued and inevitably, Blues were exposed one more time as they conceded a penalty. The maligned Kusczak managed to restore a little bit of his Tilton Road cred when he dived to save it, preserving three precious points and sending the crowd home happy, if a trifle emotionally drained.