Reading 2 (Kebe 20, Robson-Kanu 81)
Preston 1 (McCarthy 51 og)
Reading earned a very dramatic late win over Preston this Tuesday night, cementing their place in the top six thanks to a goal from Hal Robson-Kanu just seconds after he came onto the pitch.
The Welsh international scored with only his second touch, and it was a very important goal after we had made hard work of a dogged Preston outfit - but do not underestimate our resilience, character and quality.
When Jimmy Kebe opened the scoring it felt as if we would win by some distance, but Preston fought their way back into the game, Alex McCarthy's very unfortunate own goal putting them level.
But once again we dug deep - and Brian McDermott's team, make that Brian McDermott's squad, came up with the goods.
Reading (4-2-3-1): McCarthy; Griffin, Harte, Ingimarsson (c), Khizanishvili; Karacan, Tabb (Leigertwood 57); Kebe, McAnuff (Robson-Kanu 80), Howard (Manset 57); Long
Subs: Andersen, Pearce, Antonio, Church
Booked: Griffin (foul 62)
Preston (4-2-3-1): Turner; Nicholson, Jones (c), Khumalo, Morgan; Ashbee, Barton (Ellington 63); Johnson (Hayes 83), Treacy (Parry 72), Carter; Hume
Subs: Lonergan, Wright, Coutts, Russell
Booked: Ashbee (foul 72), Parry (foul 85)
Attendance: 14,844 (345 away)
Ref: M Haywood
Starting XI team news
Reading made one change, Andy Griffin replacing the rested Brynjar Gunnarsson at right back. Mikele Leigertwood was back from injury so took a place on the bench.
The opening 45 minutes were a slighty unusual affair; Reading completely dominated the majority of the half but only had one goal to show for it and ended the period with some defending to do.
After a quiet start, we began to turn the screw with excellent attacking play and looked streets ahead of our opponents.
Midway through the period we deservedly took the lead as excellent play from Shane Long saw him cross for Jimmy Kebe to head home from close range.
We were rampant at this stage, with Jobi McAnuff putting in a brilliant spell and Kebe wreaking havoc on the other flank.
But we could not quite get the second opportunity that our play looked likely to merit, and North End gradually came back into it. As the half wore on they looked to take advantage of a few free kicks in their favour, and had good territory. So we found ourselves a little more nervous than we would have expected.
The second period saw North End again look to get a foothold, and after being awarded a free kick 30 yards out they got an equaliser that didn't really come as a huge surprise at that point.
Keith Treacy whipped in a good delivery, and Eddie Johnson flicked it goalwards, Alex McCarthy making a great save onto the post but it came out off the upright, hit our keeper on the back and rolled in for a very unfortunate own goal.
We responded by making a double change, bringing on Mathieu Manset and Mikele Leigertwood in a positive - and ultimately decisive - move by Brian McDermott.
Billy Jones then had a decent sight of goal from another North End free kick, but Reading soon swung the game's pendulum in their favour.
Long was inches away as his effort was deflected wide following Manset's good work, and it marked the start of a spell of pressure.
From the resulting corner we screamed vehemently for a handball from a player on the line, and Zurab Khizanishvili led the protests as we claimed what would have been both a penalty and surely a red card - but nothing was given.
Ian Harte then hit the crossbar with an effort that initially looked to have deceived Iain Turner in the North End goal but he just about did enough to put it onto the bar - it looked rather fortunate for him.
With nine minutes to go McDermott made his third change of the game, and what a substitution it proved to be. Manset did brilliantly to get a cross in, Preston's defending was abject, and Hal Robson-Kanu took a touch, then scored with only his second touch after coming on seconds earlier. A truly inspired introduction and a very, very important goal.
Manset was then very close to setting up a third for Long, and with a very vocal crowd we were in fine spirits.
Manset was very impressive, and almost beat Turner at his near post but the keeper got down to save.
Then a wonderful Manset pass put Long in on goal but Turner saved easily. And there was still time for Manset to hit a cracker that went very narrowly wide - he had been immense and played a huge part in the win.
So when full time came there was a great sense of both joy and relief - we might have played briliantly for the full 90 minutes, but when you have character like we do, you know there's always a chance of late drama. Write us off at your peril.