Reading YMCA play their home games in Padworth, a village some 10 miles South-East of Reading. The ground is to the rear of the local Village Hall and has the wonderful title of The Cauldron. The ground is easily accessible from being just off the A4 and M4. There is parking available at the ground (be aware, the parking spots are quite narrow) on either side of the Village Hall building. The pitch is behind the Village hall bordered on one side by trees and then the River Kennet, and on the other side by, quite uniquely, a caravan site. This alone should be a reason for any groundhopper to pay a visit. There cannot be many grounds out there that have a caravan park running down one side of the pitch. They are literally within touching distance of the dugouts. Wonderfully quirky.
Food and drink is available from a serving hatch at the back of the Village Hall and there is also a kids playground next to the Village Hall. The pitch, despite the grounds name suggesting a bowl of some sort, looked to be pretty flat and in good condition.
Before the start of play Rapids sat in third spot and were one of three teams still in with a shot of the title, albeit in their case a very outside chance. In pole position were Reading City with 38 points and three games to play. Burghfield Reserves sat second with 26 points and three to play, although one of these games will be away at Rapids. Reading had a game in hand, tonight's match, and were on 30 points after their 16 matches. Effectively Reading needed to win all four remaining games and hope that Reading City didn't take more than three points from their remaining three, whilst they needed Burghfield to lose at least one of their other games.
The sides met at The Triangle just over a month ago with goals from Shane Guidera and Matthew Thatcher giving Rapids a 2-0 win.
Henley, kicking towards the Village Hall in their white shirts, certainly started the brighter of the two sides. However, the first talking point came at the other end of the ground in the 11th minute when Rapids had a loud penalty claim waved away by the referee who was in a decent position to see the incident. This at least served to wake the home side up a little but, in some ways, Rapids pushing into the Henley half a little more led to the opening goal for the visitors. When a home attack broke down inside the Henley half the Red Kites launched an incisive counter-attack. A superb cross field ball in between the centre-half and the full-back split the home defence and allowed their right wing-back (sorry I didn't have a team sheet) to get in behind them. Reading's Kyle Longmate reacted to the threat but his attempted tackle was just slightly too late bringing the Henley player down just inside the box. Penalty.
Fred Kirby stepped up and converted the spot-kick to give the away side the lead. 0-1
The lead, however, only lasted for 6 minutes. Reading won a corner on their right side and, when the ball was played into the box, James Coker rose highest to power a header into the net. 1-1
HT Reading YMCA Rapids 1 Henley Town Development 1. Henely looked dangerous when attacking down their left, which is how they got their goal. Reading looked as if they didn't get out of first gear. Although I had seen them play before, I had the feeling they had far more to offer than they have shown in the first half.
Henley, however, were not without some threat of their own. Just past the hour mark Kirby saw a lovely effort just clip the top of Thatcher's bar before going to safety.
Three minutes after that minor scare though, the home side took the lead for the first time in the game and it was substitute Robinson who made the difference, latching onto a loose ball just inside the Henley penalty area guiding a low effort through a mass of bodies into the bottom corner of the net. 2-1
That goal seemed to finally release the shackles from the home side and they were almost immediately on the hunt for more goals. It didn't take too long. On 69 minutes another home substitute, Jason Bye, was on hand in the six yard box to turn in a low cross from the right and make it 3-1
Unfortunately, both Bye and the Henley keeper picked up knocks in the goal incident and both had to be replaced, with the Henley Captain taking over between the sticks.
FT Reading YMCA Rapids 4 Henley Town Development 1. It took over an hour and a few substitutes but Reading finally stamped their authority on the game and eventually won the game reasonably comfortably.
The result leaves YMCA in third spot, three pinits behind Burghfield and five adrift of Reading, but with Burghfield appearing to already know they have three points on Saturday (Full-Time has them down as a walkover against Farnham Royal Mavericks), it would seem that the title will go to one of these two. Of course YMCA's game against Burghfield at the Couldron on the 19th could still end up being the title decider, depending on results this coming Saturday.
If you haven't visited The Cauldron I suggest you put it on your list for next season or maybe even get there for the Burghfield game, which could be massive.
Reading YMCA Rapids: Thatcher, J.Coker(c), Sinclair, Churcher, Grundey, Miles, Longmate, Cousins, Johnson, G.Coker, Froude. Subs: Russell, Lemm, Bye, Robinson, Naisbitt
Henley Town Development:
Ground Number: 270