Bookmakers love cheesy promotional stunts but it was not appreciated in Berkshire last week when 25 live turkeys, dressed in full Reading kit, were deposited outside the Madejski Stadium.
The implication was that the odds were on Brian McDermott’s struggling team facing further Premier League stuffings over Christmas.
Well, they haven’t. After the cruel 1-0 defeat at champions Manchester City on Saturday, through Gareth Barry’s hotly disputed 93rd-minute winner, Reading eked out a goalless draw at home to Swansea City yesterday. No roasting, and maybe a little promise for the future as their bleak seven-match losing streak ended.
A small crumb of comfort and so, too, only their second clean sheet of the season and the fact that they moved off the bottom of the table and now lie above Queen’s Park Rangers on goal difference. Three years to the day since McDermott took charge of his first home match – a 1-1 draw against Swansea at the same venue – he could at last spot a glimmer of light.
“We’ve needed to find a way to get a good result and we’ve done that today,” McDermott said. “We should have done that on Saturday, we got close. And that was still not a goal. I’ll always maintain that. It’s important to be off the bottom and I really didn’t want to lose eight on the spin.”
A dire first half featured Swansea’s familiar “death by passing” routine. Self-inflicted wounds have mostly proved Reading’s undoing this season and they were at it again when presenting Michu with an easy opportunity. Chris Gunter’s attempted chest-down back to goalkeeper Adam Federici fell woefully short but the prolific Spaniard failed to add to his 14 goals this season by scooping his close-range shot over the crossbar.
Michu later limped off with an ankle injury and is doubtful for the trip to Fulham on Saturday. “It is twice as big [in size] now,” Michael Laudrup, the Swansea manager, said. “But the doctor and physio said that it should not be ligaments, which is important. We will have to wait 24 hours to see.”
The scrappiness of the second half at least made the contest more of a spectacle, with Reading substitute Adam Le Fondre (above) receiving a booking for a none-too-subtle “Hand of God” finish to Ian Harte’s free kick. As Reading continued to rally, Chico Flores used his head, not palm, to somehow keep out a thundering - and, this time, legitimate - effort from Le Fondre. No goals but no stuffing, either. For once, the bookies got it wrong.