Reading 1 - 1 Southgate
Honours even as The Blues see Red
This Sunday saw Reading, buoyed by recent league and cup success against Canterbury and Ramgharia Southall, take on a combative Southgate side looking to build on promising early-season performances and stake their claim as a mainstay in the NOW:Pensions MPL.
A slow start saw the sides trade possession and territory, probing for gaps in relatively unfamiliar defences. It was Southgate though who took the early initiative, building smart phases of play with Reading, seemingly caught cold by Southgate’s early intent, uncharacteristaclly leaving their back 4 exposed and losing one-on-one battles in key areas of the pitch. After 8 minutes, and despite instances of resolute defence from Lewis and Mantell R, the pressure told and the Southgate forwards combined to force the first short corner of the game. Gay’s wayward (but powerful) flick, deemed goal-bound by the officials, was halted by Jackson’s hip and the ensuing stroke converted to put the North London side 1-up within ten leaving the line-man and his team-mates smarting.
As has become frustratingly customary for Reading sides of late, it took the goal to spur them into action as they proceeded to build meaningful possession and confidence in their passing game, with consistent delivery to Tom Carson and an in-form Mantell S yielding Reading’s first attempts at Dick in the Southgate net, who reacted well to deny quick strikes from Carson and Boon, and was happy to see Clarke’s ferocious 25th minute close-range strike and Carson’s short corner flick 2 minutes later both slide past his far post. Frustration for Reading. Relief for Southgate. 0-1 to Southgate at the half.
Rousing half-time words and dangerously caffeinated drinks served to continue Reading’s ascendancy at the start of the second period, pressing on for the equaliser that seemed sure to come. And, with a little over 45 minutes on the clock, Reading were rewarded for their efforts with a clinical strike from Mantel R finding its way past the helpless Southgate goal-tender. It was with the game in the balance, and seemingly building towards a spicy conclusion, that events descended into farce. First, Gay from Southgate opting to deliberately use the back of his stick, earning himself a second yellow and the first technical red of the NPMHL this year; an advantage for the blues surely? Sadly, little more than 5 minutes later, the numbers were evened up as Codling too saw (technical) red after a harmfully clean tackle. Truly unbelievable scenes.
The final minutes saw chances spurned by both sides as they vied for the full compliment of points: The Blues failing to get men onto dangerous crosses and a resolute Alexander in the Reading net denying a final-minute PC attempt. 1-1 it remained at the hooter. A fair result, but frustrating given the large periods of dominance enjoyed by ‘The Ding’. Still, promising signs from a team learning to play together who face another stiff test vs Play-off hopefuls Wimbledon next Saturday.
Thanks as always to the Reading faithful. We hope to see you in South London for the game next week.