>Drama, penalties and a shaky man in pants!

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Reading 3-3 Northampton Town (aet – Cobblers win 4-2 on penalties)
Carling Cup
Tuesday, August 24th 2010

Not many things in this world could make me leap around my studio flat in my pants and t-shirt at 11pm on a Tuesday night but the magic of last night’s cup upset had me doing just that. I questioned yesterday if we would prefer three points on Saturday or progression here and stated much preference over the former.

But nights like this don’t come along very often and I don’t remember being as jubilant as this since the Bolton win a couple of years back at the same stage of the same competition. To come from behind three times away at a Championship side and still have the nerve to win the penalty shoot out shows courage, determination and a hell of a lot of guts.

When Matt Mills fired Reading in front it looked like being a long night but almost just as suddenly, Andy Holt had swept home the equaliser after some dodgy goalkeeping. It was only as the second half wore on that I thought we were genuinely in with a chance of winning and my reward for sitting through an episode of Desperate Housewives with my understanding and wonderfully tolerant girlfriend was to be allowed to scurry through the radio stations on my iphone desperately looking for commentary.

She was out like a light before too long, leaving me in the dark (literally) along with a dodgy stream of commentary whistling delightfully into my ears. Tuning in just after Reading scored again, it looked like it wouldn’t be long before I was joining Martha in the land of nod but quite majestically, a Billy McKay shot was pushed into the path of Kevin Thornton who made no mistake.

There was still time for drama in 90 minutes. Steve Guinan thought he had given us the victory in stoppage time but his effort was ruled out and as extra time began it started to look like not being our night after all.

Particularly when Mills stooped again with a header that should well have sucked out all of the Cobblers’ energy. But with one final throw of the dice, a 124th minute free kick with everyone up including goalkeeper Oscar Jansson, the ball somehow found its way into the net via substitute Alex Konstantinou and a Reading defender – cue the first of my leaps of joy in the dark (we only have a studio flat at the moment so the noise had to be minimum in order to not wake Martha and the little bundle of joy that’s growing inside her.)

It literally was the final kick of the game and we went to penalties. After all that drama, we would again be forgiven for letting things slip mentally but it was the Royals who seemed more put off due to the ridiculously late goal in extra time. They surely can’t protest too much though after the disallowed goal for us late in normal time, a goal that later appeared to have been fine.

As many of you know, we have a poor record in shoot outs but this was to be a different story. The following is how my mind worked during the penalties…

Simon Church (Reading) …. SAVED … “Yeeeeeeeeah Oscar you beauty! Now we need a good start…”

Steve Guinan (Northampton) “Uh oh” …. SCORES …”Wooo…never in doubt that!”

Shane Long (Reading) …. SCORES …. “Ok, no probs but we need a good one now”

Kevin Thornton (Northampton) “That’ll do!” …. SCORES … “YES, we might ACTUALLY win this”

Kanu (Reading – NOT the former Arsenal forward!) … SCORES … “2-2, am I shaking?!”

Michael Jacobs (Northampton) “I bet he is” …. SCORES … “And I definitely am now!”

Jake Taylor (Reading) … “Pleeeeease miss” …. MISSES! ….”YEEEEEEEEAHHHHHHHHHSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!”

Or something to that effect.

Cue a round of texting mates, phoning Dad and generally trying to calm down enough to go to bed. Martha wakes up…

“What happened?”

“We won on penalties”

“Oh, cool”

It certainly is cool! The Cobblers have pulled it off and now await Saturday’s draw for Round Three with all the big, big guns coming in.

It still baffles me how a football game can bring me to such levels of delirium, making me physically shake in anticipation of something incredible happening. I know we haven’t knocked out a Premier League side but the pride in hearing that our men have given blood and guts at a Championship side to come away with a win after 120 draining minutes having come back three times is immense.

Now let’s hope for the same levels against Wycombe and yesterday’s question of which we would prefer to win becomes wonderfully irrelevant!

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