Kettering 2 Reading 1 (18/07/09)
I’ve always enjoyed pre-season friendlies. It’s football without the worry about the result. And when it’s a nice day to boot, it can be treated as a day out. It also means that if you do suffer an embarrassing defeat to a club three divisions lower down, you can brush it off. It doesn’t really matter, and at least it won’t be grabbing headlines like an FA Cup shock would.
Kettering, who’d pushed for league status not too far into the past, had a ground that was regarded as one of the better ones in non-league circles. Much of this is due to the large, for this level, main stand. It only holds 1800, but looks much bigger due to the high upturned roof and that fact that it only occupies two thirds of one side. Perhaps the idea was that they’d finish it off if they progressed. Until then, this section is barely filled by the addition of a beer garden for the club bar underneath.
Opposite is the covered Sid Chapman terrace. Not a big side, but big enough to necessitate crush barriers, the front of the roof is adorned with old-looking advertising boards, giving the whole side the look of a colourised photograph from the 1950s.
The two ends are both open and rather basic. One end is just a slope, while the other has a few steps, then a slope behind.
Reading should have won the game. We fielded more or less the first team throughout, who should have been looking to impress new manager Brendan Rodgers. They were carrying out his instructions OK, but it was an early taste of a common theme for his ill-fated half season in charge. Lots of possession. Lots of nice passing. Not many shots. We actually took an early lead, but failed to capitalise and Kettering eventually equalised with a 2nd half penalty. Right at the death, with them trying to win the game by shooting, rather than our tactics of hoping we’d be awarded the win for high marks for artistic merit, they fired a surprise winner. There was barely time to restart.
Brendan wasn’t too downbeat, and pointed out the good points. As we’d discover, Brendan was a man who could take positives from contracting a muscle wasting disease, and maybe if he’d shown a little more urgency to correct the teams failings, he might have kept his job.
As it was, we lost, but at least unlike all the painful home defeats in 2009, and there were a lot of them, this one didn’t really matter.