MATCH REPORT: 2008/2009 Season

Reading: Matejovsky (61 mins).
Birmingham: Fahey (19 mins), Phillips (60 mins).
Half Time: 0-1
Attendance: 23,879

Pos Team P Pts GD
2 Birmingham 46 83 +17
3 Sheff Utd 46 80 +25
4 READING 46 77 +32
5 Burnley 46 76 +12
Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Duberry, Bikey, Harding (Doyle 56), Stephen Hunt, Karacan (Matejovsky 53), Tabb, Kebe, Kitson, Long. Subs Not Used: Federici, Cisse, Gunnarsson.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Carr, Martin Taylor, Jaidi, Traore, McFadden (Larsson 65), Carsley, Johnson, Fahey, Phillips (Bouazza 72), Jerome (O'Connor 80). Subs Not Used: Doyle, Bent.
Reading: -
Birmingham: Jaidi, Phillips, Traore.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
Once again Reading allowed the opportunity to secure automatic promotion to slip from their gasp. Having outplayed City on their own ground before Christmas they were unable to repeat the performance in front of their own fans, and with Sheffield United only managing a draw at Palace, Birmingham's fans were able to celebrate a quick return to the Premier League. As the realisation that a win would have sent Reading into the Premier League sank in, gloom engulfed the players and fans. Steve Coppell in his post match interview identified weaknesses which he attributed to nerves, but in fact, the same shortcomings have been evident for some time. Poor crossing from Kebe and Stephen Hunt, the mental fragility of Rosenior, and poor distribution in general, have all been far too common since January.

For all their problems the Royals still should have won against a dour City team who have been grinding out narrow victories all season. The turning point in the game came after nineteen minutes when Fahey fired a shoot through a crowded area and although he had ample time to get his body behind the ball Hahnemann allowed it to squirm past him into the net. He had looked far from convincing earlier flapping at a cross which I suspect Federici would have caught comfortably. After slipping up last week at home to Preston City were clearly not going to make the same mistake again. Kebe started full of confidence following his performance at Norwich earlier in the week and produced Reading's only shot on target in the first half when he cut inside and drove the ball firmly but straight at Taylor. Shortly before half time Phillips ran onto through ball and looked likely to finish but his effort struck Hahnemann's legs. Rosenior fizzed in a great ball just before half time but no Reading player reacted and the crucial touch was not applied.

Chances were few and far between as City sat back and defended resolutely. Coppell made changes early in the second half bringing on Doyle and Matejovsky for Harding and Karacan. Whenever Reading tried to progress down the right Kebe was usually confronted by two defenders. The game seemed to be over when veteran striker Phillips showed great composure when put through on the hour. As Hahnemann came out he simply rolled the ball into the corner of the net. Almost immediately Matejovsky cut inside and curled the ball inside the far post to keep Reading's hopes alive. The shock of a home goal caught the everyone by surprise. There was no music and no announcement. A head injury to Hunt then caused a long delay. Minutes later Matejovsky almost equalised with a superb effort which had Taylor at full stretch to turn round for a corner. Kitson was playing wide on the left and Hunt was pressing forward from left back. Some good passing gave Hunt crossing opportunities but he made a real hash of them. In the end it was that lack of quality which prevented Reading from getting back in the game.

Few players stood out today. MacFadden looked a Premier League player for City. Bikey looked very good on the ball and produced one brilliant long pass, but he too was guilty of some poor passing. Tabb worked fantastically hard and won the ball well ball in midfield. The fans were magnificent today and there can be no complaints from the players about a lack of support. Even in defeat they were singing about a trip to Wembley! The grounds staff had worked miracles with the pitch. We are running out of excuses. Remarkably Reading still have a chance of promotion - and as I pointed out a few games ago - fortunately they don't have to win a game at home to go up!
John Wells

Once again Reading FC deny it's long suffering loyal fans not only a day to remember but also the chance to celebrate and party all night long. Yet another wake as Reading choke and blow the chance of automatic promotion to the Premier League and a £40million windfall. Birmingham must have thought all their dreams had come true when they had to play us at home last game of the season for the "big one". Our home form has become a laughing stock and true to form Reading produced a very poor lamentable performance, and all with so much at stake. Truth be told it wasn't about Hahnemanns pathetic gaff to concede the first goal , it was woeful performances against Charlton (twice), Southampton (twice), Barnsley, Ipswich, Forest, Blackpool etc etc that cost us promotion. I know we all clinged to hope today but deep down in out hearts we all knew we simply were not good enough. and so it was to be proved. Many players simply bottled it today but when you consider they may be playing themselves out of a job if promoted it may be understandable. So the play offs await, apparently no team that has ever finished fourth in the league has ever won the play offs, will that stat be challenged, doubt it.
Nick Newbury

Today was a microcosm of our season - so much promise, so much possibility and...we failed to turn up and deliver. Having luckily got ourselves into a potential promotion situation, and Palace surprisingly doing their bit, we were aimless, gutless and incapable of beating an average Birmingham team. No one who goes up, unless they strengthen will do anything other than come down.
The players let the supporters and the manager down today. It was a cup final and we didn't deliver. I don't think we'll get past Burnley, the chance was today. Coppell and a number of players will go and we'll start over. We'll have a summer of Hammond saying we're doing our transfer business quietly - it's generally quiet because we're doing nothing - and I wouldn't be surprised to see a slide towards League 1 - not easy to sell the club there. The simple fact is that we've not invested on the pitch and got what we deserve - not Coppell's fault and there are commentators on this site who think it is - but do the math please - no investment on the pitch and guess what no matter who the manager is. The transfer policy has involved Tabb and bringing back two players we sold who are clearly out of form - mind blowing stuff. All we have is financially solvent club - maybe not to be sneezed at - but that's not entertainment - there's a balance somewhere but we haven't got it.
BBC Radio Berkshire could do with some more honesty instead of self serving comments - challenge the players not to give us platitudes about picking themselves up - ask them what went wrong - and if an honest answer is too much to expect - don't bother interviewing them, it's a waste of breath. And Mick Gooding - tell us what you really think - we can all see it - we don't need optimism but an honest assessment - sitting in the car park is bad enough. And the honest assessment is we won't get past a decent footballing Burnley side, we don't deserve to - if we were good enough we would have won today.
Sadly, all so very predictable.
Nick Tilehurst

I am a Birmingham fan but I live near Reading who are my closest Football League club apart from Aldershot. Naturally I am delighted to have won the match but was surprised how muted the Reading performance was. It is disappointing to see comments about us being dour or average as it smacks of sour grapes. On this occasion Birmingham were the better side and Reading need to be thankful that Kevin Phillips didn’t bury the presentable chance he had in the first half that Hahnemann saved with his legs and O’Connor’s shot stayed out having hit the post with the keeper beaten? I don’t know why Reading’s form has been so wretched since the turn of the year but whatever it is the players are not doing the things they were when they were sweeping all before them prior to that. Sure Birmingham have struggled to score goals and they have not been attractive to watch at times but they have been consistent despite lengthy injury spells to key players which is what gets teams to where they need to be. Actually, I also lament lost opportunities that would have secured the title for us rather than Wolves but once again we have had to settle for being second as with two years ago. At this level we are not average; just look at the table but neither are Reading on that basis so lift your heads up, get behind the team and claw your way up. It’s in your hands.

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Steve Coppell has called for his Reading side to consider their league position in a positive light by viewing their promotion prospects as a "second opportunity" to reach the Premier League. Reading missed out on the opportunity to earn automatic promotion when they lost 2–1 at home to Birmingham yesterday and now the Royals must steel themselves for a play-off semi-final against in-form Burnley. Reading travel to Turf Moor next Saturday, before hosting Owen Coyle's team on home turf on the following Tuesday night, but Coppell, whose side finished fourth in the Championship, has suggested that disappointment be cast aside, as under the old league rules – in which the top three sides went up – his side would be condemned to another season in the second flight. "If there was no play-offs and the top three went up then we wouldn't have a chance so we now have a second opportunity which we must take," said Coppell. "Play-offs are totally different and it's now a cup run. We've got to try and do a job up there and do better than we did in the league when we lost 1–0. Then it'll all come down to the home game."
The Guardian