Wigan 3(Kone 44 & 45, Figueroa 48)
Ten minutes of madness consigned Reading to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Wigan at Madejski Stadium.
It was a day to forget for the Royals, who, despite having the better of the first 20 minutes, went in 2-0 down at half time after Arouna Kone’s quickfire double just before the break.
Our afternoon went from bad to worse right after the interval when Maynor Figueroa found the back of the net moments before Phil Dowd showed Pavel Pogrebnyak a red card for a late challenge on the second-half Latics goalscorer.
With the odds stacked against Brian McDermott’s side, the Royals did show fight and effort – but were inevitably unable to launch or produce the mother of all comebacks.
Royals: Federici; Kelly, Morrison, Mariappa, Harte; Kebe (Hunt 63), Leigertwood, Akpan (Le Fondre 45), Karacan (McCleary 70), McAnuff (C); Pogrebnyak.
Subs not used: Taylor, Shorey, Pearce, Robson-Kanu.
Sent off: Pogrebnyak
Wigan: Al Habsi, Kone, McCarthy, Caldwell (C), Di Santo (Gomez 75), Maloney, McArthur, Boyce (Alcaraz 83), Beausejour, Figueroa, Scharner.
Subs not used: Robles, Stam, Espinoza, McManaman, Henriquez.
The Royals and Latics took to the Madejski Stadium pitch to an impressive sea of scarves - with Jem Karacan and Sean Morrison among the players walking out onto the turf after being recalled to the Barclays Premier League fray.
In a lively opening, our visitors had the first serious opportunity when striker Franco Di Santo’s long-range drive was well thwarted by Royals goalkeeper Adam Federici with an excellent save.
Reading responded with a couple of decent chances of their own. First, Jimmy Kebe and Karacan combined to cross for Hope Akpan – but his stretching header sailed over before Kebe smashed against the side netting.
Akpan was at it again moments later. Stealing the ball from the middle of the park, the former Crawley man boldly surged forward and unleashed a strike – which was unfortunately scuffed wife of the goal.
After surviving a short spell of Latics pressure, the Royals were on the ascendency again – Kebe galloping down the right and picking out lone striker Pavel Pogrebnyak – but a fantastic defensive challenge from Gary Caldwell kept it goalless.
The remainder of the half was more of a scrap after some attractive play from both sides – and the Royals had their hearts in the mouths when Emmerson Boyce somehow laced the ball through to Kone amidst a scramble in the box – but Feds was up to the task and pushed wide.
But soon after, the Latics were ahead. Another struggle in the box lead to a close range header from Maynor Figueroa which took a hugely fortunate deflection off Kone and bounced unwittingly into the net.
And one become two just seconds before half time. The Royals, searching for an instant response, crucially lost possession in the middle of the pitch and allowed Wigan to break – and Kone latched on to a magnificent through ball from Jean Beausejour and deftly lifted the ball over Federici to deliver a double sucker-punch.
Reading came out of the tunnel knowing they had a mountain to claimb – and that mountain become even bigger when Figueroa completing a classy one-two with Di Santo and coolly placing it past Federici for 3-0.
Boyce and Di Santo nearly combined to notch a fourth which would have been extremely harsh on the Royals – but the afternoon soon would get even worse when Pogrebnyak was shown a straight red card.
The Russian striker seemed to catch Figeuroa’s ankle late and, although a yellow card may have been branded on another day, Pogrebnyak was given his marching orders by referee Phil Dowd.
Although Reading have produced some exceptional comebacks recently, they were staring at their most uphill battle this season.
Nevertheless, the spirited Royals pushed forwards, with Jobi McAnuff firing just over Ali Al Habsi’s goal from range.
Despite showing guts and determination going forwards, Federici had to be on guard to produce a couple of smart saves to keep the deficit down to three.
The match waned as Wigan professionally preserved their three goal advantage and saw out the game. An afternoon to forget for Brian McDermott’s men – who will now dust themselves down for ahead of next week’s trip to Everton.