READING (H); THE REVIEW

11/04/19

10 minutes of drama that encapsulated the life of a football fan. Agony, relief, ecstasy, frustration and ultimately pride. So close to being perfect, but ultimately one more step towards the most joyful of promotions. Andrew Lawn and Jon Punt on the words.

Random star performer

With so much happening in the last few minutes, trawling back through the preceding 85 to pick out individual performances is not the easiest. However, for a decisive role in key moments, Christoph Zimmermann gets the nod and not just for that soaring nod that put us ahead.

Accompanying that booming header, there was a moment 3 minutes earlier when, with Reading threatening to break and the score at 0-1, Zimmermann committed himself to a sliding challenge, that both nicked the ball off Meite's toes, and then as it threatened to go out of play, not only keep it in but flick it on to a colleague. Just moments later Ben Godfrey was thundering in a scorching equaliser.

Moment of the match

That Zimmermann header. Towering, majestic, roof raising.

Moments like that are why you stay in love with the game through thick and thin. Why an 8am start for a trip to Rotherham on a cold and drizzly January day might be worth it after all.

There's few better feelings than seeing the net ripple for what you think is going to be the winning goal, which was multiplied at the time by virtue of the fact it would have seen City further cement their place at the summit. It wasn't to be, yet the 'hug a stranger, hug another stranger, let out a visceral scream, then find yourself 10 yards from where you started' scenes that accompany goals like this are what football is all about. Pure, unbridled joy. As a wise man recently said, 'Football should be fun'. This was fucking fun, despite what came just a few minutes later.

Farke watch

Lots to see here. In search of an equaliser, Farke showed he was able to switch up formations early in the second half, opting for a three at the back, then going back to a kind of 2 or 4 man defence later on, depending on your point of view. Ultimately he was looking to unlock a door that could easily have been prised open way before it actually was. The issue wasn't the formation and the way in which personnel were deployed, more being wasteful in front of goal and not really clicking in the final third.

The call to replace Emi with Cantwell was an entirely logical one, given he did not want to disturb a midfield that had won 8 in a row, but it did feel that Todd was a couple of yards off the pace. The introduction of Mario helped quicken the pace just enough for us to start to create more clear-cut chances and it would be a surprise to see him not start against Wigan on Sunday.

Biggest positive to take

We're almost there. As football fans we all feel that we need that one more win. I (Lawny) have been saying it to my Liverpool supporting mate since the Swansea/Hull double-header and every time he says, "you'll be fine". We will.

To deny us from here, BOTH Leeds and Sheffield United need to win at least 3 of their last 5 games, all of which will be played under much higher pressure than our own AND hope we barely muster another point. Win 3 more ourselves and it guarantees it, 2 more makes it necessary for both Yorkshire sides to win ALL 5. 1 more puts us on the brink. Sunday then, yeah?

Mid-week whinge

So close. To turn it round with 5 minutes of normal time remaining was wonderful, to then let that lead slip was gut wrenching. Those 10 minutes were being a football fan in microcosm. From agony to ecstasy and back to agony, garnished by a little acceptance and positivity when the dust had settled.

We would have taken a point with 5 minutes left on the clock though, no? Nearly there.

Atmosphere rating

This was the Carrow Road we have wanted all along. From our spot in the Barclay this felt like an almost non-stop vocal backing of our side, supplemented with moments of noise from all four stands. We don't expect everyone to stand and sing all game, but we do expect the majority of the Barclay Lower to do that and the rest to chip in as and when the mood strikes you.

Last night, we did that, together. We also did it when it mattered most.

When City were applauded off the park following the home defeat to Stoke, Stuart Webber commented that the players actually needed the fans 10 minutes prior. To raise the roof and provide that extra 1% when play was actually happened. The crowd sensed they could make a difference and back their side. The boys responded in kind.

The noise that greeted the two City goals, plus the all-to-brief moment of pure joy between Zimmermann's header and their leveller was spine-tingling. This was One City Strong in every sense.

Summary

To be despondent after your side has just let a lead slip from its grasp is understandable. Yet there was a sense of overwhelming pride once again. This team are never beaten, never out of a match and will never give up.

City will put in poorer performances and take all three points. On most evenings their efforts would have been enough, yet it was one of those nights when things never really fell for them. Sure, we were at times wasteful with the ball, but those were generally when we were taking the riskier option in search of a goal. We'd much rather City tried the improbable, rather than passively accept things. The improbable is what we've been achieving all season.

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