DIVISION TWO - PLAY OFF SEMI FINAL, SECOND LEG
READING 2 WIGAN ATHLETIC 1 (Half Time: 0-1)
READING WIN 2-1 ON AGGREGATE TO MEET WALSALL IN THE PLAY-OFF FINAL
Butler (86 mins), Forster (90 mins).
Wigan Scorers: Nicholls (26 mins).
|Date: 16 May
Reading: Whitehead, Gurney, Viveash, Williams, Robinson, Parkinson, Caskey (Harper), Igoe (Forster), Cureton, Butler, McIntyre (Rougier). Subs not used: Howie, Hunter.
Wigan Athletic: Carroll, Bradshaw, Sharp, McGibbon, De Zeeuw, Nicholls, Beagrie, Green, Martinez, Haworth, Liddell (Ashcroft) Subs not used: Stillie, Roberts, Sheridan, Griffiths.
Bookings: Butler, McIntyre, Viveash (Reading); Haworth, Nicholls
WE ARE GOING TO CARDIFF!
I just don't know how to start this report. This was the most amazing evening in the recent history of Reading Football Club. Before kick-off we'd all become far too confident about reaching the play-off final after drawing 0-0 away at Wigan on Sunday. We only needed a home win to go to Cardiff for our chance of promotion. But we'd forgotten what a fantastic defensive team Wigan were. Wigan took a first half lead, and hung onto it, defending like total bastards, until four minutes of play remained. Despite creating a whole stream of chances we just couldn't find the net and it looked like it just wasn't going to be our night. Thank God they couldn't hold out another four minutes as Nicky Forster turned into the key to unlock the Wigan defence. Reading came back from the dead. Five minutes to go and it was hard to think that it wasn't all over with Wigan still a goal ahead and Reading running out of time to pull it around. Five minutes later and the place had exploded with 21,000 Reading fans celebrating the most incredible come back in history. 0-1 down, and going out, one moment. 2-1 winners the next. I just wish I knew the words to explain how it feels to support the mighty Reading right now. Forster set up the first to allow Butler to score and then created the second after being brought down in the box. If that wasn't enough Forster stuck home the second, the winner, after Cureton's penalty was saved. An amazing finish, an amazing night, and we are going to Cardiff!
It was all perfectly staged before kick-off. A massive crowd filled the Madejski Stadium, with the travelling Wigan fans taking just a slice of the South Stand. Everyone was coloured up and the atmosphere was probably the best ever at the ground with plenty of people prepared to cheer the Royals onto a vital victory. Just before kick-off fireworks were let off on the pitch. The smoke cleared and the Royals seemed determined to get straight on with winning the game to earn their way to Cardiff. With Adrian Williams fully fit after appearing on the bench on Sunday he came straight into the centre of defence with Hunter, who'd done great on Sunday, relegated to the bench. In midfield Caskey was given a start with Harper ready on the bench. The Reading fans, filling almost the whole ground, gave the team a great reception - knowing only a win would be good enough to see us through. The atmosphere was so good that perhaps the most notable first event of the match was the game being stopped after about twenty minutes with blue and white balloons covering the pitch - a big response to the blue and white night. The Wigan keeper went to take a free kick midway through the half but complained about being unable to find the ball with it surrounded by balloons. The referee stopped play as the game was held up while balloons were popped - the Reading fans continued in good voice.
The first part of the first half was a fairly even match with both sides quite cautious knowing they needed a win. Wigan started off defending quite deep with all eleven men camped out in the box when Reading were putting over a corner. Reading, with the home advantage, looked more up for the attacking football but it was always going to be a careful performance until the ball hit the net. The first half was constantly interupted by the referee who seemed to give a crazy number of decisions against the Royals. Martinez, already the target of the Reading fans after he got Parky booked in the first leg, did himself no favours by rolling around in fake agony to earn another foul.
Wigan had clearly come to sneak the win with the odd goal - and it looked like their plan might work out just right on 25 minutes when Adrian Williams went in to win the ball a few yards outside the Reading box. Williams and the Wigan player seemed to compete for the ball fairly and I couldn't work out how the referee gave a free-kick to Wigan in shooting distance of the Reading net. The ball was pushed forwards from the free kick, and before the wall had moved forward it was planted firmly in the back of the net, through a gap in the Reading wall, by Wigan's Nicholls. 0-1. Bugger. The number of stoppages, mostly against the Royals, boiled over to a pitch invasion against a single Wigan player by a single Reading fan who couldn't hold back his frustrations any longer. He was eventually tackled by the players and led away by the stewards.
Reading's best chances fell to Martin Butler who had a number of one-on-ones with the Wigan keeper, only to come off second best. A couple of times the keeper collected before Butler arrived. Another time Butler looked favourite to win the ball before eventually colliding with the keeper to earn a booking for his troubles. With Wigan looking continually superb in defence Jamie Cureton was restricted to a long shot that was well wide a bit before the break, when he might have had better options to his right. Back in defence Reading looked good with Phil Whitehead claiming plenty of corners. Adrian Williams was defending well, but seemed scared of putting a wrong pass and settled on some simple balls wide to get the ball forward from defence.
The second half seemed like Reading were well up against it until Pardew put on a series of substitutions that turned the match and at last made the Wigan defence look breakable. Haper replaced Caskey. Rougier replaced Jimmy McIntyre and the Royals put Wigan under a solid period of pressure looking for the vital goal. Rougier was instantly blinding, setting up all kinds of chances by twisting round players and breaking into the Wigan box on the left, as Reading pushed men forward with time running out. It really looked like it wasn't going to be our day as Rougier set up a couple of great chances for the Royals to get on the scoresheet. A Rougier run, followed by turning three or four Wigan players, found Cureton to pass the ball on to Butler. Butler might normally have stuck it home with ease - but the ball was driven wide and low to the right. Moments later Butler was provided the ball again in a bit of room just inside the box - but his shot was well over the crossbar. Aftter a couple of wasted chances it was hard to believe that Reading might recover from the one goal deficit. But then, on came Nicky Forster to replace Jimmy McIntyre, who had worked hard but without success.
Forster has failed to set recent games alight, with limited opportunities after appearing off the substitutes bench. How different tonight was going to be. Forster had just ten minutes to turn the game around after his introduction - but that was exactly what he managed to do. With four minutes to go Forster broke down the right wing. Right on the edge of the box he somehow managed to twist through the middle of two Wigan defenders, leaving a great opportunity to supply the ball into the middle. The resulting cross wasn't cleared and bounced out to Butler who was flying into the area to make up for early missed chances, and send the ball into the back of the net. 1-1. Just when we'd given up hope we were level. YES! We went mental. The stadium erupted. Fans that had given up hope, but continued to sing for the Royals, were on their feet and bouncing all around the stadium. We could win this game in extra time.
But Forster had other ideas.
As the game entered injury time Forster went on another storming run, breaking into the area, getting close to the line before being brought down well inside the area. The Wigan players naturally complained but it was definately a penalty. No-one could believe it inside the ground. But there it was - just Jamie Cureton against the keeper for a place in the play-off final inside normal time. Cureton stepped up. It wasn't a bad penalty - played mid-height to the right of the keeper - but the keeper managed to connect to push it out. Thankfully he couldn't hold it, and to complete the story of the night, there was Forster on the right to smack it home from a tight angle. 2-1. The stadium erupted once again. Time seemed to drag on, until the final whistle. Reading had completed their recovery and won the match - the most amazing comeback in recent history of the Royals. The predictable pitch invasion from those who couldn't contain themselves was soon cleared and the players were back out on the pitch - going just as mental as the fans with bottles and champagne to help out the celebrations. It was like we'd won a cup final - and hopefully that's exactly what we'll be doing in a week and a bits time.
It doesn't bear thinking about what it must feel to be a Wigan fan right now
- having the play-off final within their reach until a cruel last five minutes
took it away from them. The way the home fans felt with five minutes left cannot
be described. On the other hand, the feelings felt by the home fans when the
second Reading goal hit the net cannot be described either. Amazing. Incredible.
Unbelievable. But Reading deserved this win - Wigan tried to pull the single
goal win off - but we weren't prepared to give up, and we battled hard. So it's
Walsall in the play-off final on the 27th of May in Cardiff. They'll have to
be something very very special indeed to beat this Reading side. We are going
Following report from Neil Cole:
"We have played some excellent football over the last nine months, and we have also seen time and time again that this Reading team never gives up and can never be written off".
Those were the words of John Madejski in the programme for tonight's game, and how true they proved to be as the Royals fought to the end, coming from a goal down to defeat Wigan Athletic. It was an incredible end to a tense play-off match, which saw Reading score twice in the last eight minutes to earn a sensational victory and progress to the play-off final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. The end to the game could not have been scripted better by the record number of Reading fans, as Nicky Forster's injury time winner prompted celebrations the like of which have never been seen before at the Madejski Stadium. It had seemed for so long that Wigan were about to ruin Reading's season, as they held on to a 1-0 lead with a superb defensive display. Yet Reading eventually broke them down, showing once again what a skillful and determined squad Alan Pardew has put together.
In another amazingly accurate prediction, Pardew himself wrote in the programme that "tonight's game could well be decided by a substitution", and it certainly was as the introduction of Nicky Forster effectively won us the game. Having been injured for the whole season, Forster has responded brilliantly, and he showed tonight why he is every bit as good as Cureton and Butler. On the pitch for only ten minutes, Forster managed to set up a goal, win a penalty, and score the winner; all this in a game in which Reading had previously struggled to create any decent chances.
The fact that Forster is still unlikely to start the game in Cardiff demonstrates what a strong squad we have at Reading at the moment. Similarly, Barry Hunter was dropped to the bench, despite being one of our best players in the first leg at Wigan. His replacement was Adie Williams, starting his first match since his injury at Bristol in October. The other change from the first leg was that Keith Jones was dropped from the 16 altogether, with Darren Caskey returning to the side in the centre of midfield. Jones is clearly seen as only being able to play a defensive role, and Caskey was preferred in this game where we needed to score.
Despite the more attacking feel to our line-up, the first half seemed to be going the same way as the first leg had. Reading failed to put the Wigan defence under any real pressure, and very few chances fell to Cureton and Butler. The only openings we found were as a result of long balls played over the Wigan defence for Butler to run on to, but on every occasion the Wigan keeper Carroll was first to the ball. Reading were making an effort to pass the ball, and started a couple of promising moves. Yet the Wigan defence were equal to us every time, with the superb Arjan de Zeeuw stopping most of our attacks before they really got started.
We were at least hopeful of keeping a clean sheet, given Wigan's apparent inability to score. They surprised us however, when a Wigan free-kick from just outside the area was fired into the bottom corner by Nicholls. The shot wasn't great, but the Reading wall seemed to vanish as the free-kick was taken, and Whitehead saw it too late to be able to reach it. With Wigan's defensive ability, we feared the worst, and as the Latics put ten men behind the ball, a 0-1 scoreline seemed inevitable.
The half ended with the dreaded chorus of booing from the East Stand - although it was unclear whether it was targeted at the team or the ref, who had made some strange decisions in the first period. The first booking came after just 15 seconds, as a Wigan player apparently elbowed Adie Williams; yet after that the ref seemed to let countless Wigan fouls go, and their players escaped punishment for several vicious challenges.
The second half began predictably, with Reading having most of the possession but unable to make any chances. Pardew sensibly decided to make some changes, first Harper was brought on for Caskey, then Rougier replaced McIntyre. Both subs had an immediate impact on the game, and suddenly Butler started to get some service up front. Harper's passing was superb, with a couple of long-range balls picking Rougier perfectly on the left. Then it was down to Rougier, who twice tried to take on the Wigan defence and twice succeeded. The first time he beat two men before passing to Cureton, who knocked it back for Butler to shoot narrowly over. The second time the ball came across the face of the goal, but there was nobody there to finish.
Cureton himself had a chance after that, turning superbly in the box after another pass from Harper, before shooting straight at the keeper. With time running out, Pardew brought on Forster for Igoe, and this proved to be probably the most inspired substitution the manager will ever make. Forster's first involvement in the game saw him pick the ball up and sprint down the right. His pace seemed to take Wigan by surprise, as he got past two of them before crossing into the middle. Carroll parried Forster's cross straight into the path of Butler, who fired in from close range to get the equaliser. The entire ground began to celebrate Butler's most important goal of the season, and then began to contemplate the possibility of extra time.
Forster wasn't settling for extra time though, and with the end of the game approaching he charged into the box from the right once again. Comfortably beating the Wigan defence for pace, one of their defenders made a rash challenge from behind, took Forster down and the ref gave a penalty. For all Steve Bruce's protestations, it was a clear penalty and Reading had the chance for a dramatic winner. The tension was unbearable, and many fans chose not to watch as Jamie Cureton stepped up to take the spot-kick. It wasn't a bad penalty, but Wigan keeper Carroll pulled off an amazing save, parrying to his left. This was an uncanny similarity to the save at Wembley in the 1995 play-offs, but nobody had time to think of that, as Forster was first to the rebound to fire it home for the winner.
The three minutes of injury time dragged by painfully slowly, until the final whistle came and we were there. The Madejski Stadium's most important match with its biggest crowd, had seen its most exciting finish and its loudest celebrations. This Reading side deserves to go up, there can be no doubt about it, and we're now just one game away from seeing it happen - against Walsall on 27th May.
Post Match Opinions
Words will never sum up for those that weren't there.
OK. The Cardiff game plan is becoming clear. Put on squad who look
as nervous as hell. Have one or two players like Williams or Robinson
who make silly mistakes. Cureton and Butler should miss chances they normally
bury. Give the opposition the lead and look dead in the water for three
quarters of the game. Then make three good substitutions and turn the
opposition inside out. Well, it worked against Bournemouth and Wigan to
knock them out of the playoffs, it can work against Walsall. Rougier on
the left, Fozzie on the right and Jamie and Martin in the middle, but
only for the last twenty minutes. Sorted!
There is a god! How on earth can you put those last five minutes
into words? Without doubt, whatever happens in the final we'll always
remember this game. What we witnessed last night is what makes football
the most amazing game on the planet with highs like that who needs drugs!
When they scored first I thought shit, but with the amazing support I
thought we would get an equaliser soon.
I think this may have been the night when many fairweather supporters
realised that they don't have to leave the Thames Valley to witness high
drama football. Suddenly, our new shiny stadium is no longer big enough!
Suddenly, we have a potential monster on our hands. As far as match stats
are concerned, all that matters is that we won, we now go to Cardiff and
we may be 1 match away from division 1. But perhaps just as important
is the fact that, this victory was achieved in no small part by 20,000
Reading fans raising the roof of their new home. As our Chairman said
many of these supporters should now return more regularly. Like so many
others I've lived for the day when the Madstad would be full. We will
never ever forget this night and if you weren't there you'll never quite
understand why. Thanks to all at the club for turning things around so
quickly -and if you were watching, Tommy Burns, I hope you learn't something!
Cardiff here we come!
Unbeleivable, There is a god! 60 minutes gone Wigan defending like
their lives depended on it, i could see no way back. Enter Rougier & Foster
and we start getting behind them instead of hoofing it forward, the rest
is History, what a night, I even told my mate I loved him, I hope he dosent
think I'm the other side of the church! As for that whinger Steve Bruce,
I listen to him on the tele last night saying it was never a penalty,
look at the replay Brucie, well he did play for Man U. It was good to
see John Madjeski celebrating on the pitch at the end of the game, we
owe him so much for what he's done for Reading Football Club. A big thank
you to all at Reading Football Club for giving me one of the greatest
nights in football, bring on Walsall, U RZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
It must have been tough enough being there on the night, but... let
me tell you listening in on the radio wasn't good for the nerves or general
healthy well-being either... by the time it had got to the last ten minutes
it had become so scary, i had to turn off the M3 and park up... after
the final whistle the few remaining miles home went by in a blur... i
know its not the same as being there but well done to the lads on BBC
Berkshire for letting those of us who couldn't be there what it felt like...
in time to come those of you lucky enough to have been at the mad-stad
on may 16th will be telling your grand-children... what a night... roll
It is six years since I moved from Reading to Australia. Never before
have I been stuck to the computer screen waiting for the commentary. Looking
forward to reading Reading's next game. Keep it up!
Well said Stu from Oz. I love these match reports. It's been 25 years
since I moved from Newbury to Australia. Watching these match reports
is not quite as good the train to Reading West and cycling to Elm Park
- but it's the next best thing we've got to being there. Reading to go
up. Then we'll get to see the mighty Royals on FOX, down under.
I was having dinner in Nice with three people instructed to send me
text messages everytime there was a goal. A flurry at the start after
Wigan scored and then a flurry at the end as I finally had to admit to
my customers that it wasn't "New York calling" but my team Reading playing
a footy match... and one of them turned out to be a Cardiff fan! Having
been to the first game at Wigan, I thought we'd used all our luck up there...
And now to Cardiff with 15 Walsall fans and 60,000 Reading fans. Surely
we can't cock it up now...
I am overseas in Singapore but woke especially early to get the score
- too early perhaps as I saw the 0-1 scoreline, then 1-1, then 2-1. The
experience of watching the game unfold over the internet was fantastic
but I really envy those who were at the Madejski to watch the game in
Just a quick hello to the miserable bastard who spent the whole game
whinging and then left with 7 minutes to go!
Another one from Australia - I sat here and lived through the same
thing in reverse with Bolton at Wembley 6 years ago. It's magic to be
on the other end of the score line this time!!
What a night! I'm still replaying it in my head the morning after.
For so long it looked like it wasn't to be. Wigan were content with 1-0
and are a difficult team to break down and Butler and Cureton were not
at their best. But the team spirit showed through and cheered on by the
fantastic atmosphere created by the fans they came through. Inspired substitutions
by Pardew changed the game. Forster was brilliant, and Rougier was causing
problems each time he got the ball. I agree with Roger from Wargrave about
Williams. He was a liability at times and clearly lacked confidence. But
who gives a stuff - we're off to Cardiff!!
They will have to start issuing health warnings over the P.A. before
games we carry on like this... To be dragged from pure depression with
5 minutes to go to that level of exhilaration.....amazing stuff... Forster
and Rougier scare the pants off defenders but should they start..?
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and that man was Nicky Forster.
Whatever might be said about the manager's tactics, team selection,
etc. one thing is clear: this Reading side have a great team spirit going.
They'll need to show their mettle too against Walsall, and mustn't underrate
the opposition - but don't be afraid of them either! We are surely the
better team. Living here in Hong Kong, I've just witnessed two dramatic
finals on TV, involving Liverpool - and that's the kind of never-say-die
spirit Reading will need when they go to Cardiff. Well done lads, you
deserve to get up - now let's finish the job!
What can amazing game. I have not seen football like that since the
old team of Quinn and Gooding. it was nice to see Shaka Hislop returning
as well as Senior. I did not think Reading looked like scoring to be honest,
having ruined far too many chances. But the Royals never gave up in a
game they deserved to win. What is going on with terrible refs at the
moment? first Wallsall, Bournemouth and now last night's first half. We
were pulled up on stupid things where as their players got away with fake
rolling around and time wasting. Hopefully the ref at Cardiff will be
a tad more fair!
Many congratulations to the side for digging deep and continuing to
fight right until the end. Given our past play-off history, it seems we
may do better if we don't score first. I agree with everything that's
been said about the atmosphere at the stadium last night - let's hope
the jubilation at the end could be heard in Oxford and Swindon. That was
the best crowd I've ever been a part of. And now to Cardiff and a word
of warning. My dad had never been to see Reading play until last night
and even he was saying that Reading needed to play the ball on the ground.
Reading's long ball strategy last night might have been motivated by a
desire to miss out our midfield: there were virtually no attempts to play
the ball on through our players in the middle of the pitch.
Talk about smash & grab, I had a sense of deja vu because I thought
it was Saturday's cup final all over again. I think we have to face facts,
we were poor yesterday. It took us precisely 1hour 35 secs for us to produce
a shot on goal. O.K. so Wigan are a strong and very well organised side,
who set their store out early by flattening the ring rusty Addie within
5 sec of the start. But we should be putting sides like this under pressure
especially at home in front of a near capacity crowd. For Pardew to insist
we are not a long ball side in simply laughable.
Anyone who was at the Mad House last night will never forget it. I
have never known such an explosion of noise and atmosphere at a Reading
match here or at dear old Elm Park. It was a match we really didn't deserve
to get anything from but we took our only two real chances and that was
enough. Cardiff will be a great day for everyone - can't wait!
Success seldom visits Reading. When it does, one feels that the team
is often overwhelmed by the occasion and what is expected of them not
just from the fans but also the club's need for promotion. It is a club
geared for a higher level of football and the team realises this. It must
be a burden. If it was all about natural ability this Reading team would
overrun every second division side without exception, including Millwall.
Sure, there are weaknesses, particularly along the back four, weaknesses
which the better first division teams will exploit mercilessly. Yet to
unlock its full potential the team needs to rid itself of the fear of
failure. Last night, balls that should have been controlled ran into touch,
some balls were booted hopefully downfield, shots that should have been
on target were balooned over the bar, all because of anxiety. Reading
take courage you have nothing to worry about at Cardiff. Get the ball
on the ground, play your natural, fluent, passing game and you'll waltz
A couple of fans from Oz, and many more around the world holding their
breath last night I'd imagine. My brother, Ash, is in Munich for the year,
and having no internet access it has been down to me to keep him up to
date with all the scores over the last season. We were gutted when Rotherham
took the second automatic promotion spot. So last night I took up my usual
Saturday afternoon spot in front of teletext (!) with my mobile phone
poised to text message him everytime a goal was scored..... What a cliff
hanger it was!!! 5 minutes before the end of the match, and we were both
holding our breath, resigned to the fact that Reading's division 1 chances
were over. When in goes the equaliser! Then in goes the match winner!!!!
Yaaaaaay!!!! The suspense at the end of the match was agony - it took
over 10 minutes after the 90th min goal was scored to confirm on teletext
that 2-1 was the final score, and Reading were on their way to Cardiff!
What a fantastic game last night!
YEEEESSSSSS!! Forster you diamond - I think I love you!! Possibly
the greatest match in the history of football - The Royals are clearly
going up. Top stuff lads - see you in Cardiff for more of the same...
Brilliant. What a magic game. With fireworks, a royal presence, police
dogs, fireworks, and charge of the light brigade, we only needed Police
motorcycles and flaming hoops to complete the military tattoo!
Simply the best. In 43 years of following the Biscuits 'n Royals
last night was truly amazing. Better than ' Bomber' Reeves piledrivers,better
than Robin 'God' Friday's goal against Tranmere (mar.76 for those who
weren't there), better than 4-1 in the Simod Cup,better than Archies double
strike against Wolves, better than God knows anything else.Couln't make
the match(bummer), but logged on to Five Live and followed Royals on line
text commentary. When Wigan scored all the gremlins came out and for a
moment, but just a moment, I thought here we go again, nil bloody one,
Madejski Stadium - 'Theatre of Dreams' + Fairytales after last night!
A controversial report - I don't think we have played well over 90 minutes
since Walsall AWAY on November 4th.
Can't really add any more. Great to see that being an exile in Worthing
makes me pretty local compared to our international correspondents. It
truely was a magnificent result, although I still wonder why it has to
be such hard work. With regard to Williams, at least he tried to play
football. Hunter's heroics at Wigan were great for that game, but surely
Adie on his day is a much better prospect. Let's hope last night will
have given him much overdue match fitness. Walsall provide a different
challenge again. Who is best to take Goodman out of the game? As mentioned
previously, its a shame Adie Whitbread's forms were cocked up. Other than
that, I suppose the bloke who seemed to take one hell of a lot of restraining
when he single handedly tried to take retribution on the Wigan defender,
will probably be banned from Cardiff. Much as we all condemn his petulance,
perhaps he is the man to take on hairy Don. We're nearly there. One last
push. See you in Cardiff.
There is a God. His name is Forster! Whatever happens at Cardiff,
Nicky Forster is a confirmed legend. Wigan were always going to defend
well with Steve Bruce organising them. A very tough game made even tougher
by the worst referee I've ever seen. I can't describe how depressed I
was at half time. The thought of another season of crap football and empty
away ends. Congratulations to Pardew. He put it right in the dying moments
of the game. The emotional rollercoaster took us all for a ride last night.
When Butler equalised and we all stopped jumping up and down and screaming
and hugging each other. I realised I was crying! Never has a game hit
me like that one. After the equaliser the bloke in front of me missed
the rest of the game. He couldn't watch. He turned and faced us and only
looked back twice:
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