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21:36 17th May 2011

Report: Royals on way to Wembley!

Cardiff 0
Reading 3 (Long 28, 43 (pen), McAnuff 83)

The Royals superbly beat Cardiff by a whopping 3-0 to seal a trip to Wembley in this season's npower Championship play-off final.

Two goals from Shane Long put Reading into a strong half time lead, and a late Jobi McAnuff goal secured a game against Swansea on Monday 30th May.

It was a wonderful night - we defended superbly and over the two legs we were the better side against a City outfit with an array of Premier League stars.

Adam Federici was wonderful, and credit must go to every single player and staff member - what a season it has been, with even more to come....

Cardiff: Bywater; Blake, Samuel (Matthews 69), Keinan, McNaughton (c); Olofinjana, Whittingham, Burke, Emanuel-Thomas (Koumas 60); Bothroyd, Chopra (Parkin 64)
Subs: Heaton, Naylor, Hudson, Rae
Booked: Keinan (foul 43)

Reading: (4-4-2): Federici; Griffin, Harte, Khizanishvili, Mills (c); Karacan (Tabb 88), Leigertwood, Cummings, McAnuff; Hunt, Long (Church 87)
Subs: McCarthy, Pearce, Gunnarsson, Howard, Manset
Booked: Long (unsporting conduct 77)

Attendance: 24,081 (2,054 away)

Ref: Howard Webb

Starting XI team news
The Royals made one change; Shaun Cummings starting on the right wing in place of the injured Hal Robson-Kanu. Jimmy Kebe missed out with a thigh problem, but Craig Bellamy was unavailable for the home side with a hamstring problem.

First half
With 12 minutes on the clock Cardiff had the first near thing of the game, a right wing corner leading to a scramble; Matt Mills defending excellently in blocking Seyi Olofinjana's shot. And five minutes later he again did superbly to block a Michael Chopra effort following a neat City move.

Reading then had more defending to do as Zurab Khizanishvili deflected Jay Bothroyd's shot wide, then Dekel Keinan headed at Adam Federici from the resulting corner.

Then Reading struck the first blow. A poor backpass from Keinan hit Kevin McNaughton on its way back toward City's penalty box, taking the pace off the pass and forcing Stephen Bywater to race out of his area. Shane Long was putting the City backline under great pressure, and Bywater's hurried kick went straight at Long, dropping to the striker's feet at an incredible pace, and he produced a wonderful, instinctive finish to drop it into the net in superb fashion. Bywater's clearance did hit Long on the hand - but there was no way in a million years it was deliberate so the goal rightly stood.

City looked for a quick response, but Federici showed great hands on a couple of occasions in quick succession to take the sting out of City attempts.

Five minutes before the break our 'keeper had to be very alert after a backpass from Mikele Leigertwood almost gave Bothroyd a real sight of goal - but Federici was out sharply to smack clear; more goal goalkeeping. Down the other end Noel Hunt got into a good position to cross inside the box but City defended well enough.

Then two minutes before the break, Cummings did superbly to win a corner, and Mills was clearly yanked back by Keinan inside the area - a brilliant decision by Howard Webb. Long took responsibility from 12 yards, and superbly slotted home for his 25th Reading goal of the season.

Second half
City had the first moment of note after the restart, and Jay Emanuel-Thomas should have done better from Bothroyd's cross - he failed to hit the target with a sidefoot volley, and nor did he pick out a teammate in the middle.

Reading were not giving City any space, and were inches away from a third goal right on 55 minutes. Jobi McAnuff broke superbly, fed it to Long, who drilled in a cross that just took a nick off a defender, forcing Noel Hunt to readjust and his chested effort smacked back off the post - so, so close.

Emanuel-Thomas spurned another back post position for City, and McAnuff then sprang forward again, showing great feet inside the area but lashing off target. City's home fans were restless with what they were seeing, and Dave Jones responded by bringing on Jason Koumas then Jon Parkin.

Federici's handling had been impeccable all night, and he showed superb bravery to save at Bothroyd's feet inside the six yard box, a vital stop - the England striker was probably offside but our 'keeper was not to know that.

Down the other end Ian Harte whipped a free kick over the bar, and the same man then got a header on McAnuff's corner but Bywater held on at his post.

Reading were doing very well indeed, and once again Federici showed great judgement to come outside his box and clear under pressure from Bothroyd. Then down the other end Long was given tightly offside when in on goal.

With ten minutes left Reading had a chance to put it out of sight, but Hunt shot a yard past the upright after a wonderful pass from Long.

But we only had to wait three minutes more to seal victory - former Bluebird McAnuff showing superb feet to dance past men on the edge of the box and lash home low past Bywater. Wembley was then certain, and City's fans began a mass exodus.

And so it remained - and what an evening it was in south Wales. The second half display was so professional and so disciplined - and now we travel to the new Wembley for the very first time.

    Data provided by Press Association