Reading FC Match Report: 2013/2014 Season - Championship
READING 2 BURNLEY 2
Reading: K Trippier (og 16), G McCleary (58).
Burnley: S Arfield (20), D Ings (28)
Reading were denied a place in the play-offs in dramatic fashion. Their fate was settled in an agonising couple of minutes in stoppage time. Brighton took the lead at the City Ground as, almost simultaneously, Burnley ‘keeper Heaton clawed away Sean Morrison’s goal bound header, to replace the Royals in sixth place. There was no time to come back. It was a bitter pill to swallow, particularly as Reading had played so well in the second half against a very strong Burnley side. Few home supporters stayed to applaud their team on their lap of the pitch after the game but I suspect the mass exodus was an expression of disappointment more than anything else.
A win would have taken the Royals into the play-offs, and their intent was clear from the start. Reading were denied a clear penalty in the first minute and continued to press Burnley in the opening phase of the game. They took the lead following a Burnley corner, breaking smartly out of defence, Le Fondre intelligently flicked a clearance into space for McAnuff to close in on goal down the right. His cross was deflected into his own net by Trippier. It was deserved lead which was squandered within four minutes. The Royals defence switched off as Burnley took a free kick quickly down the right. The resulting cross was half cleared and smashed past McCarthy by an unchallenged Arfield from the centre of the penalty area. Eight minutes later more slack defending allowed Ings the time and space to score from the edge of the box. McCarthy must have wondered why he was given so much space, a question for Nigel Adkins to mull over this summer. It is not the first time it has happened recently. Desperate defending, and a fine McCarthy save from Ings, denied Burnley a third goal on the stroke of half time.
Reading responded well in the second half showing more composure on the ball and passing the ball to feet forcing a corner in their first attack. Leigertwood was almost back to his best and providing the stability in midfield which has been missing in so many games this season. At the City ground Brighton had equalised to lift themselves into sixth spot by drawing level with Forest. Reading now needed to score. Akpan was replaced by Taylor and Le Fondre limped off to be replaced by Robson-Kanu. Referee Russell was then let down by an appalling error from his assistant when Heaton halted a Reading attack by catching the ball just outside the box. Play was allowed to continue when a free kick and a red card should have followed. The anger of the home fans was soon diffused by possibly the finest strike I have ever seen at the Madjeski Stadium. The ball fell to McCleary just outside the box and he ferociously volleyed the ball past Heaton to send the home fans wild and put Reading back into sixth place.
Another goal would see Reading into the play-offs and they were looking likely to score. McCleary cut a ball back to Pogrenyak who controlled the ball well and beat Heaton only to see his shot hacked off the line by Shackell. Robson-Kanu threaded a superbly weighed pass through for McCleary but, with only Heaton to beat, he struck his shot at the ‘keeper. Another chance to secure the play-off spot had been missed. Tension grew as full time approached and the fear of conceding perhaps began to creep into the thinking of the home team and fans. Stoppage time came, Obita’s corner was headed goalwards by Morrison and palmed away by Heaton. Elsewhere Reading’s nightmare became reality with Brighton taking the lead. Time had run out and Reading’s season was over. The torture continued as Reading fans streamed onto the pitch presumably ignorant of Brighton’s late winner. For a few moments nobody seemed to know what was happening and then the scoreboard confirmed everyone’s worst fears.
Plagued by injuries, crucially to Karacan, Guthrie and Williams, progress was hampered at various times, making it a difficult season for the Royals, but overall there was a lack of consistency throughout as they flitted in and out of the play-off places without ever really looking likely to cement a berth when it mattered. It would be harsh to place the blame anywhere in particular but the Royals have certainly under-achieved this season.
This Championship game took place 1422 days ago in the 2013/2014 season.