A look at half a dozen noteworthy results!
It seems a lifetime ago that we kicked off our season with that home win over Preston… who would have thought it’d end with 85 points on the board, a third-place finish, a dramatic play-off semi-final win and a trip to Wembley!
One more match remains – we’re 90 minutes from being back in the big-time once again. Or, if the circumstances require, extra-time and spot-kicks…
We’ve seen a lot of action between August and now – so we recap six games which have helped define our status as Premier League candidates…
Barnsley 1-2 Reading
Saturday 17th September 2016
By September, we’d all been suitably impressed with what we had seen from Jaap Stam’s side when it came to keeping the ball and adding a bit of flair… but the trip to Oakwell showed that we were made of tougher stuff too.
We made a blistering start that afternoon – Garath McCleary netted the opener on the rebound from a penalty, before John Swift strode forward and took aim to pick out the top corner to double the lead. But when Danny Williams was on the receiving end of a nasty challenge from Tykes midfielder Conor Hourihane, McCleary stepped in – but received a red card for his intervention.
So the Royals were a man light for almost an hour – and showed all the grit that was needed to see out the win. Even though Adam Armstrong clawed one back in the final ten minutes, bodies were thrown in front of everything Barnsley had to offer to ensure we headed back to Berkshire with the points.
Bristol City 2-3 Reading
Monday 2nd January 2017
Two goals down, away from home… it’s a long way back. But this was proof if it was ever needed that this team doesn’t know when they’re beaten.
Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham had the Robins in the ascendency with goals either side of half-time – the first a rebound, the second a penalty. Not the way the Royals wanted to start the new year.
But then Liam Kelly, introduced from the bench, picked the ideal time to come up with his maiden goal for our senior squad on 72 minutes, and with four minutes remaining he added an assist to his name as Yann Kermorgant finished the square pass fiercely. And deep into five added minutes, Kermorgant worked the half-yard that he needed to fire in the winning goal – the Royals grabbed victory from the jaws of defeat.
Reading 1-0 Fulham
Tuesday 24th January 2017
We’ve certainly had some eventful games with Fulham this season – the play-off semi-final earlier this month of course being the most important of them. But that’s not to understate the importance of a home win against the Cottagers to keep the tide turning our way in the Championship.
After a hard-to-take 5-0 defeat earlier in the campaign at Craven Cottage, and a fogged-off fixture earlier in the month at Madejski Stadium, the Royals showed no signs of mental scars and battled through to an important win – which had its share of drama too!
It was a tale of two penalties. When John Swift had his spot-kick saved at the start of the second period, Roy Beerens was the man to react quickest to steer in the rebound. At the other end of the pitch, Ali Al-Habsi kept out Chris Martin’s last-minute spot-kick – and the Royals collectively kept out the rebound to ensure three points came our way.
Sheffield Wednesday 0-2 Reading
Friday 17th March 2017
Off the back of a 3-0 defeat to Preston the previous weekend, it would have been understandable to see some nerves heading into an away fixture against a play-off rival in the last match before the international break.
But the Royals held their nerve at Hillsborough. Yann Kermorgant helped to settle things down in Reading’s favour just 13 minutes into the match against Sheffield Wednesday, lining up an effort on the right and placing into the far corner.
And at the other end, some stout defending and incredible goalkeeping from Ali Al-Habsi helped to blunt the Owls’ expensively-assembled attack. And with the Owls pushing for that equalising goal and with goalie Keiren Westwood up for a set-piece, the Royals countered quickly in stoppage-time to allow Adrian Popa to run the ball into the net.
Reading 1-0 Leeds United
Saturday 1st April 2017
Our first game back after the international break, and another play-off rival. Plenty had been said in the build-up to the game – but it was on the pitch that the Royals made their boldest statement.
The game’s only goal came midway through the first half. Yann Kermorgant venomously dispatching beyond the despairing Rob Green from the edge of the area – and yet it could have been more, had the base of the post not come to Leeds’ rescue or if Roy Beerens hadn’t squandered a good opening at the start of the second half.
But there was no way back into the match for Whites – Reading showed that one goal can be enough, if the defence is disciplined enough. And three points for the Royals saw us leapfrog the visitors in the standing, and kicked off a fine month on the pitch.
Aston Villa 1-3 Reading
Saturday 15th April 2017
This team has shown time and again that it can bounce back from adversity. Defeat in Norwich a week earlier was stinging – and the reaction showed all of the right stuff.
Joseph Mendes took just six minutes to open his account on his first start in the Sky Bet Championship – working an angle and finding the bottom corner. James Chester levelled soon after, but Mendes slammed in his second within seconds of the second half restarting.
And Lewis Grabban’s calm and collected spot-kick – coming after Liam Kelly got hauled down in the area – gave the Royals a cushion to see out the game… three more welcome points as we built up a head of steam to take with us into the play-offs!
We’ve seen some amazing games… and everyone is doing their bit to ensure we get the fairytale ending that this team deserves.
Make sure you’re there at Wembley on Bank Holiday Monday; a limited allocation of tickets have been opened up for general sale, so if you haven’t got yours yet, don’t delay! Click here for more information.