LEAGUE DIVISION TWO - PLAY OFF FINAL - MILLENNIUM STADIUM, CARDIFF
READING 2 WALSALL 3
(AET. Half Time: 1-0, Full Time: 1-1)
WALSALL PROMOTED TO DIVISION ONE
Reading Scorers: Cureton (31 mins), Butler (91 mins).
Walsall Scorers: Goodman (48 mins), Rougier (og, 108 mins), Byfield (109 mins).
Date: 27 May 2001
Attendance: 50,496

Reading: Whitehead, Murty, Viveash, Williams (Hunter), Robinson, Parkinson, Harper, Igoe (Forster), Cureton, Butler, McIntyre (Rougier). Subs not used: Howie, Caskey.

Walsall: Walker, Aranalde, Barras, Tillson, Brightwell, Keates, Bennett (Bukran), Matias, Goodman, Leitao (Byfield), Hall (Gadsby). Subs not used: Emberson, Angell.

Bookings: Parkinson, Viveash (Reading). Barras (Walsall).
Referee: E K Wolstenholme (Blackburn)

Click for full screen image - picture by Gary PaiceAnd so history repeats itself. Six years ago we were four minutes away from promotion to the Premiership in our play-off final with Bolton. This time around it was Walsall who stole promotion away from the Royals well into the second period of extra time. With just eleven minutes of extra time to go the Royals looked on course for promotion to the First Division, but joy turned to misery as a double Walsall strike cancelled out Reading's lead and gave promotion to Walsall. It was hard as anything to take - and it will be for many months to come. Once again the Reading players had given it their all in front of a massive Reading crowd and once again we failed to finish the job against resurgent opposition. On this performance Walsall deserved their promotion - but so did we. Saying play-offs are cruel is the biggest understatement ever made. Second Division football for the Royals next season.

Discussion about the tacitcs will go on for ever. This wasn't the best Reading performance of the season by a long way. Every Reading player worked as hard as they could - there was no doubt we wanted the win. However, for long periods of the game we failed to control the game and despite taking the lead twice we never looked comfortable enough to hold it. This was a nervous performance from the Royals - and a crushing defeat that we must hope the effects of which don't drift over into next season. At the end of the game it was impossible to feel any worse being a Reading fan. Victory was ours but was lost at the death. Personally, I haven't felt this bad since the play-off final of 1995.

Yet it all looked so good from the start. A massive number of Reading fans travelled down to Cardiff. The motorway was filled with Reading cars and coaches packed with fans. The motorway was a sea of blue and white, so was the centre of Cardiff on arrival, and so was the Millennium Stadium. Thousands of blue and white flags greeted the team before kick off - held by thousands of fans decked out in blue and white all over. And before kick-off the atmosphere was intense with so many fans anticipating a Reading victory. The stadium was magnificent, and even the steady rain couldn't dampen our spirits as the Royals kicked off towards the only empty part of the ground. Reading's starting line-up was pretty much as expected. Harper was favoured in place of Caskey in perhaps the only real suprise, and Murty was brought straight back into defence in place of Andy Gurney. In the centre of defence Viveash and Williams carried on from the semi-final second leg. Forster remained on the bench to allow the strike force of Butler and Cureton, the best in the division, the job of getting the early goals.

The Royals got off to the brighter start, fitting their bill of favourites for victory in the play-off final. Early on Reading had claims of a penalty - or at least a free-kick on the edge of the box - when Igoe was clearly pulled back as he cut past his man. Igoe would have run on to have a one on one on the keeper, but a clear tug of his shirt was missed by the referee as he broke into the area. Reading continued on the attack and won an early corner that was wasted by Igoe on the left. Igoe's free-kicks seemed to cause a bit more danger in the box after he floated over a couple of nice ones from the left that found a packed Walsall defence stretched to defend.

Reading's good start seemed to be short lived though. From the off we'd put together some nice fast attacking football down the wings which seemed to unnerve the Walsall defence. That mode of football seemed to be abondoned far too early though as the game became scrappy as the ball started spending far too much time in the air. I quickly lost count of the number of hoofs flying through the air - and the two sides must have created a record score in head tennis as the ball bounced backwards and forwards in the air. The scrappy, cautious play did Walsall plenty of favours though as they quickly came from being second best to more than equal in the game. Phil Parkinson was needed to slide in and make a superb tackle inside the Reading area as Walsall almost broke all the way through. Reading took the lead almost against the run of play just after the half hour mark.

A Harper long throw from the right was knocked on and sent further in the box and swung out missing a couple of Walsall defenders. Cureton did well to take a step back and then connect with a volley goal bound. The keeper looked like he'd managed to make the save after getting down well - but he failed to hold it as the ball escaped underneath his body, and trickled towards the goal. Moments later it had crossed the line, and two thirds of the Millennium Stadium went mental celebrating the Royals taking the lead. Butler held up play for a minute or two after the goal, but when play resumed it was clear that the goal was just the thing we needed, and we immediately went on the hunt for the second to put us in the driving seat.

It almost came a few minutes later. Igoe got down the right and whipped in a high cross which found McIntyre rising magnificently in the middle, just on the edge of the box, to head towards goal. The ball smacked against the crossbar and came back out for Butler who could only hit it wide. The atmosphere exploded with Reading fans in full voice sensing a victory. If the second goal had come at that point it would probably have been enough to see us go on and win. Phil Parksinon, playing as determined as ever, almost grabbed one after a McIntyre corner from the right. Parkinson connected well at the far post, but failed to guide the ball away from the keeper who managed to hold it.

To Walsall's credit they failed to sit back after soaking up a bit of pressure, and just before the break all the signs of their recovery were there. Right at the end of the first half it was a miracle Walsall didn't manage to score after a huge bundle in the Reading area. Plenty of shots went flying in but they kept finding Reading players in the way. Whitehead came off his line - but even then we had three of four players behind him to force the ball clear. Half time came at just the right time.

Walsall were out for the second half nearly a good five minutes before the Royals. This could have been tactics by the Royals to frustrate Walsall by making them wait. If it was it certainly didn't help. For a long period after the break there was only one team in it - Walsall - and they looked dangerous right from the start of the half. As Walsall went straight on the attack Phil Whithead was needed to save a decent free-kick from outside the area. Following that we cleared the resulting corner, but Walsall surged forward. The ball was played quickly from the left to the right of the area. There was a definate hint of offside about it all. But the speed of the attack carried them forward, and the ball was played into the middle where it followed home. 1-1.

Adrian Williams put in some excellent tackles in a decent performance but almost let it slip by overplaying the offside trap. Williams was left for dead by the player he was marking but redeemed himself by running back and putting in a vital challenge when it looked like Walsall were set to score. Moments after that Walsall came forward again and the linesman's flag strangely stayed down when it shouldn't, but the Reading defence held up well. After soaking up a bit of pressure with some excellent defending it was clear Reading were still hungry for the win. Igoe had a powerful shot just over the Walsall bar before being replaced by Nicky Forster. A clear tactical move to win the game within the ninety minutes. Reading started to play proper football again and put together some nice passing moves along the floor. Unfortunately Walsall were defending well, and too often we seemed to end up passing the ball backwards rather than forward as we could find no way through. It was probably this that saw us eventually resort back to the long ball game.

Reading had chances to grab victory before extra-time - but not enough chances. Butler continued to work hard up front and after putting some pressure on the keeper set up Forster who blasted over the cross bar. Down the other end Walsall had a couple of chances including one that flew just inches wide of Whitehead's left post. Rougier replaced McIntyre as the Royals kept the emphasis on attack. But the second half seemed to be continually drifting away with plenty of stoppages for injuries and time being just played out. Both sides seemed to have accepted extra time, but Reading finished the second half looking the most dangerous with Murty getting down the right wing more than a few times to link up well with Forster. Forster got in a couple of crosses, but failed to find a target in the middle, and once shot but failed to trouble the keeper.

Reading started the first period of extra time like Walsall had started the second half - on the attack. Just a minute into extra-time and Reading won a throw deep in enemy territory. Harper threw in another long one from the left, finding Phil Parkinson inside the Walsall area. Parkinson played the ball through to Butler who was under pressure from a couple of defenders. Somehow he managed to get the better of the defence and connected with his head to send the ball flying into the right corner of the net. YES! 2-1 to the Royals! Once again two thirds of the stadium errupted! Reading were back on course in extra time. The minutes continued to pass and there was a massive belief that we'd done enough to win promotion. Ex-Reading player Tony Barras had a header just over for Walsall - but Reading looked more than capable of hanging on as the game entered the second period of extra time. Barry Hunter replaced the knackered Adie Williams - but Walsall's triple substitution in the first period of extra time was to have much more of an impact.

The minutes continued to tick by with Reading just a matter of minutes away from promotion.

Then, with twelve minutes left, disaster stuck. The ball was played through into the middle of the Reading box. We looked like we had it defended with a couple of players in the box and first to the ball ahead of the Walsall attack. We went to hoof it clear from the middle of the box - but it just didn't work out. The ball went flying off Hunter's boot onto Rougier who was running back to defend. Whitehead wouldn't have expected that - and neither did anyone else in the ground. The ball hit Rougier and deflected off him into the back of the net. 2-2. Technically a Rougier own-goal, but hard to blame him for it. Reading had hardly had time to pick themselves up when Walsall attacked down the right and sent in a long range shot from well outside the area. The low effort was perfectly placed. Whitehead dived at full stretch - but his fingers couldn't quite reach it as the ball squeezed between his fingers and the post and into the right bottom corner of the net. 2-3. The killer blow. Promotion dreams evaporated. The celebrations stopped. Despression set in. Three minutes of stopped time was announced and the Reading fans gave the team a life with a final burst of massive support for the players - urging them on for the late equaliser. Reading went on a couple of desperate attacks with Parky continually attempting to fire up the players, Murty against linked well with Forster - but Walsall just weren't going to let their lead slip. Reading weren't going to come back from behind.

The final whistle saw the Walsall fans and players obviously jubilent. The Reading fans and players just couldn't believe it.
Words will never describe the feeling of losing this one, so I won't even try.
Graham

Following report by Neil Cole:
A fantastic season for the Royals ended in the cruellest of ways, as Walsall scored twice in extra time to take the third and final promotion spot from Division Two. It was a heart-breaking end to the game for over 30,000 Reading fans who had taken over Cardiff, as we saw the Saddlers twice come from behind to condemn us to another season in this division. The players gave it everything, but in the end the defensive weaknesses that have haunted us all season allowed Walsall to take the coveted price of a place in Division One.

The atmosphere in Cardiff before the game was amazing, as the main streets in the city centre were completely filled with blue and white. Everyone was drinking and singing in the streets, with barely a red shirt in sight. The Millennium Stadium is a great venue for these occasions, with its location almost perfect for the thousands of fans who were making a day out of the game.

The Stadium itself was equally impressive, and proved to be a more than adequate replacement for Wembley. The Reading fans once again rose to the occasion, filling almost half the stadium with blue and white flags, banners, and thousands of balloons. The atmosphere started to build early on, and the noise from the crowd when kick-off finally came was unbelievable.

Unfortunately, the football failed to provide the quality that the stadium and the atmosphere deserved. After a couple of days of rain, the pitch caused severe problems to both sides with players slipping over throughout the game. The first victim was Jamie Cureton, who fell over having been put through on goal in the first minute. A drier pitch could have seen us take the lead almost before Walsall had got a touch of the ball.

However, Cureton wasn’t complaining about the conditions later on, when he put Reading in the lead after half an hour of the match. A James Harper throw was flicked on, and Cureton turned well in the box to get a shot in. It was straight at the keeper, and it seemed like a routine save to most of the crowd. However, the wet ball somehow squirmed under the keeper’s legs, and rolled into the far corner of the net. Half the stadium erupted, as Reading took the lead with their first real attempt on goal.

It could have been two shortly afterwards, as a superb header from Jim McIntyre crashed against the bar, and Martin Butler was unable to control the rebound and sent his header wide. The goal seemed to fill the Royals with confidence, and they were the better side for the rest of the half. The half-time break had to come though, and it was Walsall who took the initiative after the re-start. Alan Pardew’s ploy of keeping the Walsall players waiting on the pitch for five minutes for the Reading players to come out seemed to back-fire, as the Saddlers went straight on the attack against a sleeping Reading defence. Just three minutes into the second half, a Matias cross found two players unmarked at the far post. The ball was headed back across goal for Don Goodman to fire in from close range.

Any plans Pardew had of defending the lead in the second half were out of the window already, and Reading had to go back on the attack. Nicky Forster was brought off the bench to replace Igoe, and shortly after that Rougier replaced McIntyre. The chances didn’t seem to come though, with the Reading midfield failing to provide the front two with much service. With Forster and Rougier playing wide in midfield, the problems of such an attacking line-up began to become apparent. The defence was left with very little support from the midfield, and frequently there was nobody to pass to when the back four had possession. The best chance of the half fell to Walsall’s Jorge Leitao, who was put through on goal, only to be denied by a superb last-ditch tackle from Adie Williams.

With the game level at 90 minutes, extra time began. This is the last season that extra time will always run for 30 minutes, with the Golden Goal rule being introduced next year. Typically, it was Reading who suffered from this delayed rule change, as it was the Royals who scored first in extra time. Another throw-in from the left was flicked on, and Martin Butler managed to head into the far corner. The Walsall players looked devastated, as the Reading fans and players celebrated once again. With the lead restored, there was 25 minutes left to hold on.

Walsall didn’t give up though, and had a sustained spell of pressure in the beginning of the second period of extra-time. They got back into the game with a freak goal, as substitute Barry Hunter’s clearance rebounded off Tony Rougier and into the net. It was an unbelievable goal to concede in such an important game, and Hunter and Rougier looked understandably distraught about it. While the Reading players were still considering their misfortune, Walsall delivered the killer blow just a minute later. The Saddlers’ sub Byfield tried his luck from long range, and his shot beat Phil Whitehead at his near post to make it 3-2.

From nowhere, Walsall were suddenly on the verge of denying the Royals promotion. Reading started a series of desperate attacks, with Murty and Forster causing plenty of problems down the right. Nobody seemed willing to shoot though, with Forster in particular opting to pass too often when he had two great scoring opportunities. We failed to get a shot on target for the rest of the game despite some promising attacks, and as a result Walsall held out to claim the promotion prize. After just missing out on automatic promotion, Reading had done likewise in the play-offs, and must now face another year in Division Two.

It’s important that nobody dwells too much on this defeat. We all remember the season after the 1995 play-offs, and must not allow that to happen again. Walsall are a prime example of how to bounce back after disappointment, winning the play-offs after last season’s relegation. Reading must approach next year in a similar vein, and must have the belief that they can go one better. Everyone now knows that this side is capable of beating the rest, and with the right attitude, we can make next season even better than this one.
Neil

Following report by Richard Markham:
I reached the stadium about 2.00 after a couple of decent cheap pints in a traditional pub on the main street. The pub was crowded with a mixture of fans and everything was very good-natured. I discussed the teams with a couple of Walsall fans, who seemed relaxed but not overly confident. I had also made contact with another Saddler by responding to one of her emails on the Walsall FC site, and we kept in touch through the afternoon by texting our impressions of the game - a strange but interesting arrangement! Indeed I saw no hint of trouble all day and would pay tribute to both sets of fans and all the officials in Cardiff.

The Stadium was awesome - everything I had heard about it was true and the steep seating arrangement made it seem very much like a cauldron, definitely a great venue for football. The view, the PA and big screens are A1 quality and you didn't miss anything. I was six rows back in the Upper Tier and the view was brilliant. The only critcism I had was of the pitch itself, which was unusually slippery and hampered the game a little.

The teams were announced - as expected Caskey, Forster, Hunter and Rougier on the bench and Williams partnering Viveash at the back. Murty came back into defence after recovering from his training ground collision. Otherwise the expected lineup including the strike force of Butler and Cureton. For Walsall, quite a few familiar names with Barras, Goodman and Hall amongst them.

The build-up on the pitch seemed pretty low key apart from the (clearly neutral) commentator constantly getting us to cheer for our respective sides, presumably to wind up the atmosphere. Even at the start it didn't look full, and the expected 50k attendance was later confirmed - clearly about 35 to us and 15 to Walsall. We therefore had the lion's share of the seating and it was truly a sea of blue and white which must have looked as impressive on TV as it did in real life.

The game started quite frantically with two or three half chances almost immediately, then settled a little into a very even but sporting contest, with both sides apparently intent on trying to pass the ball, Walsall perhaps slightly more so. Indeed I thought Walsall were slightly more in control with Butler largely losing out in the air to Tillson and therefore short on his usual influence, when the Royals suddenly mounted a decent attack after about half an hour, the ball being headed lowish from the right (by McIntyre I think) straight to Cureton, who got his foot round it and hit it down under the keeper from about six yards. Walker went down and got something on it, but the ball spun into the goal. Rapture! We went bananas. We also hit the bar with a decent header and probaly shaded it on
chances in the period.

The rest of the first half passed with one or two alarms at our end but we got through and went in 1-0, reasonably satisfied but with that feeling that one goal would not be enough.

It seemed very soon into the second half that Walsall got back in it, with a not dissimilar goal. The ball was crossed deep from the left, right across the penalty area to where it seemed there were 2 or 3 unmarked Walsall players. One of them got it back across to Goodman, who turned it in also apparently unchallenged. It looked a very soft goal to give away although later on people were suggesting it should have been stopped for offside and maybe some defenders froze thinking the ref should have blown.

Reading brought on Forster for Igoe after about 65 minutes and he definitely added something down the right, although Walsall seemed alert to his talents and usually went to him in pairs to stop him jinking through. Only once or twice did he make it to the byline, only to fail to find a Reading colleague or hit it straight at Walker. After 81 minutes Rougier came on for McIntyre, who had worked hard and looked to be tiring, and he put in one or two of his trademark dribbles, again unable to find the key pass this time.

The second half brought alarms at both ends, with a couple of decent Walsall free kicks form dangerous positions just outside the box, both well sorted by Whitehead, and a goalmouth scramble at the Reading end which should probably have been converted. On the other hand, Reading had what looked like a penalty turned down when Parky was brought down in the box. There were also two fantastic last ditch tackles in the box during the game - first Viveash and later Murty - to stop apparently certain Walsall goals. Harper played throughout and really impressed me with most of what he did. He was mobile, quick-thinking and athletic, something we really need in midfield.

For Walsall, man of the match Don Goodman continued to bely his 35 years and managed to distribute everything to teammates whilst also making a real nuisance of himself in the last 25 yards whenever Walsall were on the attack. With Hall and Aranalde looking lively and Bennett solid in midfield, Walsall were always a match for Reading, and you got the feeling that the team with fortune on their side would win it. As it proved.

With constant injury stoppages, both normal halves had already been extended significantly and it was nearly 5.00 by the time the ref blew, at 1-1, with around 98 minutes already played.

From the retstart, Reading got the best possible boost, as almost immediately we re-took the lead, with what was probably the goal of the game. A fast long throw in from the left by Harper, diagonally into the box, a flick on and there was Butler to glance it with his head over Walker and into the far corner of the net. Exquisite, and surely that would be the one! Walsall made all three of their substitutions shortly after we scored our second, one being Byfield on for the lively Hall.

The first half of extra time was played out and although the match was still pretty even, at last I had the feeling that Reading had things under control and would contain Walsall. Rougier even almost managed a freak goal when the ball was deflected onto his head and then just floated wide. However, looking back, that period may have decided the game, because Williams took a knock and had to be substituted by Hunter, meaning that Reading could not bring Caskey on should things change later.

The sides turned round, after an amazing 3 minutes (!) of injury time in the first half. Now some players were looking tired and a bit of cramp was setting in. Again, Reading appeared to have control and with 12 minutes left I was starting to dream of First Division football when the Reading play-off jinx struck again. The ball was crossed into the Reading box from the left, but with plenty of Reading defenders there it seemed it would be cleared without difficulty. However, because of where he was standing the attempted clearance by Hunter was across the box instead of to the wing, and cannoned into the goal off Rougier - Whitehead had no chance. 2-2 and disaster.

Still never behind in the match at any time, Reading now had most of the second period to wrap it up without taking it to penalties, but before they could recover from the setback, Walsall had won it. Byfield broke down the inside right channel and unchallenged let fly from about 25 yards, the shot skimming perfectly along the ground into Whitehead's bottom left corner and evading his depairing dive. "Oh no not again" was the unspoken thought around me as we remembered '95 and most around me now fell quiet - not the best of help for the lads...

For the last 10 minutes Reading tried as hard as they could to break down a resolute Walsall defence, but Walsall employed all the usual tactics to play out time and despite a couple of goalmouth scrambles survived a fourth significant period of injury time to take the prize. It was a bitter blow at the end of a match where Reading had done enough to win it but could not in truth claim to have played better than their opponents.

Nevertheless, the team did Reading proud today and gave a very good account of themselves in front of a large audience in a very big venue, playing fair. I'm sure the players now all have a taste and liking for the big time, and will be back. The chance was really lost earlier in the Spring when Rotherham beat us to the second automatic promotion spot and we have to admit that.

The trudge home was not pleasant and perhaps the only other moment to mar a special day out was the abusive behaviour of some youngsters on neighbouring
Walsall coaches as we all inched back along the M4. They'll grow up though.

On to 2001/2002 and let's go up by right as Champions! Oh and by the way we need to buy a couple more players - another midfield playmaker to help/sub for Caskey and another defensive midfield general as backup for Parkinson, who played well today but who will not go on for ever. I don't have any bright ideas, though.
Richard

Post Match Opinions

Well! it just wasn't to be was it? All who have supported the Royals since relegation from the first division and especially those who were in Cardiff on Sunday will have mixed emotions. It is very easy to criticise our management and team after what was a pretty poor display overall on the day. What we have to remember is that at the end of last season Reading had pulled themselves back from the brink of relegation to the third division. Burn's got us there with his style and his players. Pardew pulled us back with his style and his players and then very nearly got us automatic promotion. For me Goodman was the difference, he was outstanding, his control and distribution was superb. It is my view that Cureton and Butler carry the team, perhaps they would benefit from a player like him? Any way my daughter and I had a great day out with friends and we can't wait to get our season tickets for the new season. There is nothing quite like supporting your home town team, is there? Well done Pardew and the boys.
-- Chris Maskell

In just one minute, Reading's season slipped away as they lost the lead for the second time in this match. It all felt like a dream, a really bad one! I mean just what are the chances of you clearing the ball just as one of your own players slips, tumbles down in front of you, it pings off his head and flies into your own goal? One in a million? How did that happen? Poor old Rougier! Obviously Reading's luck ran out today and that was not too surprising. Let's face it, they have been quite jammy on more than one occasion this season. They were good today, but not good enough. Good luck Warsaw, you'll be straight back down! A few final thoughts: Why did Igoe go off? I thought he was playing really well, the more obvious substitution seemed to be Rougier for McIntyre at that time. Caskey looks to have played his final game in a Reading shirt. Will Reading be able to keep hold of Martin Butler across this summer? Let's hope so, but I have my doubts. He is a division one player! Remember how we lost Shaka? Why are Reading so often incapable of stringing 5 passes together in their opponents half? When they do, they look like champions. "Keep it on the floor Reading" was a cry heard from the stands too often this season. One final point, a big mistake was not signing any new players before the transfer deadline. A new left back would have been an excellent acquisition. After a momentous season it is such a horrible feeling! BAN THE PLAY-OFFS NOW!!!
--Telford Royal

Yet again the loyal Royal's supporter was put through the full range of emotions. Anticipation, sheer delight, tension and utter despair at the final whistle. The whole day started well as Cardiff seemed to be awash with blue and white. We have begun to see the true potential of the support base if we can push on further.
The crowds have grown during the season and it would have been just reward for the Chairman had we won, but life isn't like that. You could not complain of the effort of the players. They all tried. Viveash, Wiliams and Parkie were outstanding but the balance of the team was wrong from the start. If he was fit then Caskey should have started. He holds the ball and can slide balls in. What we did was to give it away and resort to too many long ball efforts. Butler had a disappointing afternoon, though he took his goal brilliantly. If you are marked by a big centre half and the ball is constantly in the air then we are not going to see him at his best. Harper is one for the future, he was not one for Sunday. Because we don't keep the ball, we don't put teams under constant pressure as they always know that they will quickly get the ball back.
The game started well. In the first couple of minutes Jimmy Mac sent a wonderful pass through to Cureton who simply fell over when he was about to bear down on goal. It did not look like anyone felt confident about their footing. We were the better side in the first half and deserved our fist half lead, though the Walsall keeper will have felt he should have done better with Cureton's shot on the turn. Jimmy Mac hit the bar with a good header and Butler might have done better with the rebound. What we weren't able to do was to dominate and press them back enough to go in with a two goal cushion. Walsall started the second half much brighter with the Royals being slow out of the blocks. Good passing ended with Walsall having two men over at the far post and the ball was headed back to Goodman to finish the move. Goodman was the outstanding player on the day. He worked hard all over the pitch and held the ball up well for his team. Something we did not manage at all. Butler's goal in extra time was the work of an instinctive striker. A flick of his head and the ball was in the back of the net. Division 1 was surely going to be ours. What happened next defied logic. Hunter cleared a ball onto Rougier who was falling over and it went like a rocket into the back of the net. Belief seemed to drain from the team and within 60 seconds it was all over. Walsall made three substitutions in one go and Byfieled had a go from the edge of the area. The key to the shot was its accuracy. It crept into the corner and that was that. We had half chances. Both Forster and Rougier had come on to weave their magic, but today was not to be. The man who should have been on from the start did not get on at all.
Football is a matter of opinions. we have done well this year as a group of individuals, what we have not done, as yet, is well as a team. If the bulk of the team stay, then they will do well next year in what will be a harder division because of who is joining it. Please next year can we just do it in the season or if it is the play offs, can we win for a change?

-- Ken C

It may be hard but cheer up, look forward not back...
1) Adie Williams was superb in centre of defence and if we keep him fit next season our defence will be better next year
2) Forster makes things happen - whilst no one can doubt Cureton and Butler's scoring record, Forster will bring more options next year.
3) Harper has only had a short time to settle in and first impressions are good. So next season we can have the league wrapped up by March please!!! On the negative side,
a) Let's hope no-one opts for the easy route to division 1 by transfer!
b) Matt Robinson was very poor on Sunday and his distribution was totally inadequate, rarely finding a Reading player and usually sending the ball high and aimless.
c) Flair and spirit said the T shirts - sadly we lacked both and most importantly for Division 2 some of our players did not show a will to win to match Walsall!
Finally, Any chance of a friendly in Edinburgh V Hibs, Hibs have Lovell and Brebner and Reading have Rougier which can help to create a greater interest in the game!! (and I live just around the corner!).
Have a good summer, get your voices back and follow the Royals next season!

-- Tom, Edinburgh

Well what can one say? Lots of 4-letter expletives of course! We really do flatter to deceive. All the negative comments on a season of Hob Nob opinions have suddenly hit home - we simply cannot kill a game off when we go ahead. Too much hoof and hope AGAIN. We should play football not headball. How can the same team that played in that first half against Wrexham not get promoted? We need consistency. With the greatest of respect Mr Pardew, there is a management vacancy at Yeovil Town - go back to where you came from. Without your tactical 'experiments' this season we would have been automatically promoted. Pants to play-offs. Oh well, its Loftus Rd rather than Selhurst next season then.....
-- Merv, Wimbledon Royal

Very disappointing is all I can say, I couldn't believe history repeating itself again. Unfortunately I could'nt make it to the match but managed to watch it on Sky. I can't help feeling if we had stated the game with Forster and Rougier we could have kept the pressure on them we look so much more balanced and stronger with those two playing. What upset me even more was some tosser of a football fan (I later found out an Oxford Utd) came up to me in front of his mates and said what's it like to Play Off final choker specialists, luckily I didn't over react immediately and give him the satisfaction. Basically though he got v. insulting and was trying to provoke me with whatever crap came into his mind (not a lot obviously being an Oxford fan) but unfortunately I succumbed and called him a fat c*** which I have to say he was! This had compounded what had already naturally been a miserable day when one of my so-called mates (another Oxford Utd fan again) phoned me up immediately Walsall scored the third. This is a bloke who almost lost his job through prank phone calls, he might lose a vital part of his anatomy if he continues to behave like a total p****! Anyway I was never too bothered about Oxcrap before now I 'd just love it, I'd just really love it if they go into the conference. Well done with the great coverage unfortunately there's nothing more to be said but remember that Ipswich lost 3-4 times in a row in the play-offs and look where they are now.
-- Jonathan Scott

Yet again, Pardew got it wrong. Effort and commitment from the players cannot be criticized. But did they know what system to play? The last four games has seen four different starting eleven's, four different sets of tactics, how do you expect to play let alone win a game. This game was a mirror of the recent home game against Walsall, nothing was learnt from the first encounter. Still the methodical hoof from the back, either too high or too far ahead of the front men. Forster made little difference although he too tried. All season long we were the better team when the ball was played to feet. Remember those halcyon days of last September when it was a pleasure to watch the Royals ? and compare it to recent debacles of late. Let's face it we should have never won at Swindon and Bournemouth, points were dropped at Luton, Wycombe and Cambridge from the wrong tactics., automatic promotion was ours for the taking. Pardew blew it. A change in personnel is needed now.
OUT must go Pardew, in George Graham. Out Phil Whitehead in Carroll (the Wigan keeper) out Robinson, in any left back Out Hunter in Whitbread. Butler, Cureton, Forster and Caskey must all stay. Automatic promotion is must next season nothing else is acceptable.
Oh for another trip to a wet and windy Bury.

-- Rob

Following recent months of woeful performances, scrapping results and throwing away automatic promotion Reading FC put a giant slab of icing on the cake of doom by producing a woeful pathetic performance in the hell that is the Play Off Finals. Of course I feel depressed, and waking up this morning feels like I've been hit by a bus as the reality of another year visiting the slums of division two sinks in.
Yet just like Bolton at Wembley, this was not a typical defeat, to be twice in the lead, including taking the lead in extra time and to throw it away like that is a very hard pill to swallow.
Am I being paranoid or is it only Reading FC who can do this to its fans?
Anybody who has watched us all season know how incapable we are of holding on to a lead and shutting up shop. Walsall were dead on their feet in extra time, finished, I don't give a toss how fluky their equaliser was, the ball should never have been there in the first place and as for the winner, Whitehead should never be beaten from that distance though Robinson capped a performance of such truly awesome crap that it was only fitting that the winning goal scorer should leave him floundering for dead . Walsall were the better of two shit teams yesterday, but at least they attempted to play football , We are quite simply not good enough.
So, who's to blame, clearly the players but I'm afraid the blame lies well and truly on Pardew's shoulders.
We were sat in the upper tier of the magnificent Millennium Stadium, about one hundred feet up, and guess what, I lost count of the number of times a so called Reading pass got up to our height. This has been going on for months, hoofing, and I'm afraid Mr Pardew your inept ability to get your team to play football on the pitch where it should be played has be your downfall.
How in dogs bollocks name ,can we have strikers with the talent like Butler Cureton Forster and even Rougier on the pitch yet continue to hoof the ball up front and expect them to latch on the odd defensive slip up.
It's absolute crap, the service they get is a disgrace, partly because we did not a player in midfield capable of producing a pass. We do have one, but with Caskey on the bench, we were never going to create everything, and when Caskey leaves this summer, top priority must be a player who can dominate midfield , put their foot on it and pass the ball.
Make no mistake, this result has cost the club millions, and is a severe set back.
How in **cks name can Rotherham and poxy Walsall go up when we have the resources that we have. Of course money doesn't buy you success but to have the stadium we have and the players we have bought can this happen.
Shit tactics that's how.
Shit coaching.
Shit management.
One other thing , why did Wallsall make more noise than us yesterday , we made more noise at Colchester !! The support was an embarrassment! Last time this happened we lost half the team, and it took us nearly four years to get over it . As I said earlier , we should never have been their in the first place yesterday , with three games to go after the Oxford win , it was there for the taking and we blew it like yesterday. Good old Reading! Just to cap it all, I've just heard some old wanker on the radio saying "never mind, what a great day out we all had"... what a twat!

-- Nick Newbury

A brilliant season has ended in utter despair. The feeling after this defeat has only ever been equalled by that after the Bolton play-off final 6 years ago - we all probably feel the same, every day seems like it'll never end. But let's not forget how far we have come in less than a year and a half, at the start of which we were staring relegation to Division 3 in the face and holding Pants Day. KEEP THE FAITH - next year the team will look slightly different (minus Caskey probably), but providing we keep the stars such as Butler and Cureton, and add 2 or 3 quality players to the squad, I have no doubt that we will WIN the title next year, avoid the heartache of the play-offs, and possibly even pass both Rotherham and Walsall as they come straight back down again. Whilst I wish those 2 sides the best of luck for next season, we can take great consolation from the fact that our 5-year future is certainly going to be more exciting than theirs, and there will be many great days/nights to look forward to next season. URZ!
-- Alec

Thanks for your match analysis, pretty much sums it all up really, the whole family went down, the way we are feeling you would have thought we won the lottery and lost the winning ticket, absolutely gutted, still think how AP/MA/JM and the rest of the team feels. Harper for Caskey....... come on Pardew, big mistake the occasion was made for DC should have played him from the very start. not really impressed with Harper as a whole anyway (loses possesion to easily). The question is would he have sent DC on anyway, as his hand was forced with the AW/BH substitution. Looks like we will lose DC now for sure. 12 or so players out of contract now a good time to cut the wage bill and divert resources to a couple of quality players. Will we storm the division next season...??? no way will be just as difficult we'll be there or thereabouts though, 3rd time lucky in the play offs doesnt bear thinking about. See you all next season COME ON U RSSSSSSS
-- COLIN HARRIS, HAMPSHIRE ROYAL

What a game! The entire Reading team never stopped running - it's just a shame that the majority of loyal Royals' never stopped chomping on their prawn sandwiches! Pardew & Co. should be ashamed.....of us....our support this season (including Sunday) has been dull and often non-existent. Come on gang, let's do some pre-season fan training and compose some terrace banter that will entertain the team, pull in the crowds and help us destroy Division 2 next season. Possible HNA competition?
-- JON

Absolutely stunned! I can honestly say that I have never been through so many different emotions in such a short space of time. The match was exciting in a nervous sort of way from the earliest attack. After the first minute you felt that Cureton's slip when clean through on goal could prove crucial, and it did. Following this miss, an edgy match followed during which the 33,000 Reading contingent endured a torturous 120 minutes which yet again ended in utter despair. Nobody complained when Walsall cancelled out Cureton's volley after a prolonged spell of threatening attacks, but you really felt that the pressure exerted and the chances created from both wings by Reading deserved at least a penalty shoot-out. Towards the end of the initial 90 minutes when Nicky Forster was terrorising the Walsall defence, the West and South stands seemed content not because of the ever growing opportunities of clinching a winner, but because of the relief that the ball was far from our own goal. Even when Butler headed home what could have been the most important goal of his career in extra time, the cheer and applause from the loyal royals seemed apprehensive in the knowledge that there was a very long way to go. We (the fans) didn't really seem to know how to respond to the conceding of two goals in a minute whilst the players did themselves justice by throwing everything (including Barry Hunter) forward in the last few seconds. In the end, the everlasting pest that is Don Goodman made the difference as he did a few weeks ago at the Mad House, but Pardew and the players have already made the right noises to help make sure that next term is even more successful.
-- Daniel Keel

Can't fault the effort the team put in. I have been watching since 1962 and it seems I am always kicked in the teeth.
One day maybe one day.

-- N. Bunting

Never a dull moment following the Royals eh, from the elation of Wigan to the pits of despair on Sunday! So often (and sometimes rightly!) the players are blamed for not seeming to care, but our boys gave everything, but it just wasn't to be. I have to agree that Caskey would have been my preference over Harper, and although he is often non existent, surely, if just for set pieces, experience and distribution it would have been better for DC to start. Certainly I can't agree with Rob's comment on Whitehead, he has been great for us. I think losing Darren (and JM) will not help us. However, with a new left back, and a player (or two!) who can keep possession I really think we won't need to go through the same torture again. One final word of thanks to our chairman, who has been the saviour of RFC, I hope he, (along with Butler, Cureton etc,) will keep the faith. Here's to going up in style next season...as Champions!
-- Glenn (Gwent Royal)

This is my first season as a proper football fan (said reluctantly) and I will be renewing my season ticket next season, even though I live in Yorkshire. As for Sunday? The atmosphere before the game was amazing as was seeing Cardiff awash with blue and white. The game was definitely not lost for lack of effort (which is a criticism that could have been levelled at several players during the season). The second equaliser came from a fluke which no-one could see coming, but the usual resort to hoofing the ball to the little guy at the front just let them down. Sadly I just couldn't see us getting past Wallsall who seem to play with far more confidence and assurance which is what we lack.
Anyway, to cap a really pants day, I managed to lose my purse somewhere around the stadium. There was not much money in it, just a lot of things which are a lot a of hassle to sort and would be far easier to get back. If anyone sitting in the middle tier has found it, could you PLEASE post it back to the address on the driving license inside. I would be very, very grateful.

-- Nomad

I can't believe some of the stuff I have read in the opinion section. Why is it whenever Reading lose the whingers come out and blame the management it is pathetic. We did not play well but at the end of the day we lost to a freak goal and some poor finishing (did no one else see Rougier fail to hit the ball in the rae in the second half of extra time and Cureton fall over when clean through. The reality is that we are 3 or 4 players short of quality. We have class half backs and conference full bvacks, all too often on Sunday Walsall were able to go past Robinson and McIntyre as if they weren't there and had never communicated together. Why oh why does everyone lament Caskeys absence - for the occassion brilliant ball or dead ball situation we have to endure 89 minutes of complete disinterest and the tackling ability of an amoeba. At least Harper showed an interest and became increasingly influencial, unfortunately no one seems to like him as they never pass the ball to him. We have played reasonably all season with Williams and Forster fit and the purchase of some full backs we can go up as champions. By the way where we sat the support was magnificent - Why do Reading fans always moan so much?
-- Ian R

I'd just like to say how proud Reading F C should be for all of the supporters who made the journey to Cardiff. It was always going to be a tight match. Its a shame that promotion has to be decided on one game. I can only imagine how the true supporters felt after the game. Just keep the faith and continue with your unrivalled support next season. I'll be looking out for your (and Wigan's) result next season, lets hope Stoke get relegated. it was good to see Ray Graydon's post match interview who also felt sincerely sorry for all of the fans and staff of Reading F C. I think his attitude towards the game and the fans speaks volumes for his character, he is a genuine person. Lets hope that we can meet in the cup so you can get your own back. All the best for next season.
-- Scott, a Walsall fan (now with a soft spot for Reading).

Ok so my chin's on the floor but it'll get better. The important thing now is that the club have to use this as a basis to move forward ..look at Sunderland and Ipswich...and make sure that next season we get there automatically, if not as Champions. We've got to look at where we were 18 months ago, Pants day wasn't so long ago. Pards and Mad Dog have done a very good job to get us here so let's not be too downhearted, so long as we learn the lessons from last time and ensure we avoid the downward spiral that came our way post Bolton. I've got two views about Reading, one for now and one longer term. The first is that this season we weren't quite good enough, we began to run out of steam towards the end and couldn't quite sustain it all. I always felt that if we didn't make it in the top two, we wouldn't do it. Psychologically, we were the ones dragged back in, the others had nothing to lose. Walsall aren't a bad team, they were probably unlucky to get relegated last season, and in the end they probably knew a bit too much for us. I recorded the match on Sky and watched it when I got back from Cardiff. What I liked is that messrs Graydon and Goodman when interviewed after the match, first turned their thoughts to Pards and the boys, well done.
As to the team, the problems of the season caught us out. We haven't quite got it defensively, Goodman's equaliser was a disaster, not only were they unmarked on the back post to head it to him but he was unmarked to score. Midfield could be stronger and quicker and I don't understand the high balls to Butler and Cureton, they don't win them, how can they, and it comes straight back down our throats so the defense is under pressure again. When it goes to Goodman, for example, it sticks, and I've always felt that both Butler and Cureton would be better paying off someone like that. My longer term view, is that this town can support and sustain a Premier league club. Look at the catchment area, south to Southampton, east to London and north to Birmingham before you find a premier club. The support we've got was fantastic as it was for the Simod Cup and Bolton before. Put the success on the pitch and we'll get the gates. The message to the Chairman is clear, he's done an awful lot for the club and we thank him, but he's got a sleeping giant here, some more investment and who's to say we won't go up in style and do well in the first division the following year. We were close, if the own goal hadn't gone in, would they have done it, I don't think so, there was every chance of a breakaway third for Reading. But let's not forget it's been some season, Cardiff was an experience, the Wigan semi home match I'll never forget, so come on you Rrrrr's let's do it next season.

-- Chris.

So we lost. Maybe Pardrew hasn't quite got it right, we need a few more quality players and we need to pass the ball better and more. But what a season! Up there or thereabouts all year, decent crowds loads of goals and the wonderful experience of arriving in Cardiff to be greated by a sea of blue and white. It wasn't like this 2 or 3 years ago and long may it continue!
-- Jon R

As a Royals fan from the other side of the world I must say I felt as depressed as those of you that were at Cardiff on Sunday. Especially as I have to read the match progress on my pc at 3am because in this land of f **cking Rugby we get bugger-all football on Sky or any other channel, outside th premier league that is. I find the comments on the game from your correspondents very interesting but frustrating as not getting to actually see the games myself I can't really comment myself. One thing I do have an opinion on though is the playoff format. In my opinion there should not be a playoff. Top 3 up bottom 3 down end of story. The season is based on the results of 46 games and to turn it into a KO competition for third promotion spot is totally unfair. A team that finishes 6th has no right to go up by fluking a couple of games that goes fo 4th & 5th as well. The FA cup is the place for that sort of thing. If there has to be a playoff why not one game at a neuteral ground, between 3rd from top and 3rd from bottom in the higher div. At least that way its two teams that have both just missed out. Any thoughts on this. Heres to next season.
-- Dave Humphreys (Kiwi Royal)

What can I say!
I haven't been a supporter of Reading for long but I started coming to the games just when Alan Pardew came into office at the Madjeski. In this time I have been to so many games and have seen the royals grow and improve over time. I feel as though I supported them all my life now and couldn't think of not seeing them. Whilst I wasn't at the Bolton nightmare a couple of years ago I did attend this final believing that we had this won, especially after the way we beat Wigan in the Semi's. What an emotional rollercoaster this season has been and this was capped on Sunday. The performance wasn't the best we have seen by far and I think the players felt the pressure of the situation the previous final had created and so they weren't able to relax. I can't believe that Sammy Igoe was taken off as he was one of the only players in the second half to stride forward with the ball rather than the hoofing that seemed to be taking place. When we finally scored in extra time I began crying and couldn't stop myself because I finally thought we had done it and I was so emotionally charged it was unbelievable. The loss didn't sink in until we were outside the stadium and walking up the main street of Cardiff with about three thousand other Reading fans All you could hear was the sound of Walsall celebrating in the ground as no noise was being made on the streets. It was a very scary scenario.
To make things worse, when the fireworks were set off in the Stadium the police horses became very aggitated and started charging down the streets to the bewilderment of all the fans. These horses were huge and the policemen and women couldn't control them. Both missed me by feet but they didn't miss a really big guy about twenty feet behind me who went down like a sack of spuds. I just want to send out my thoughts and wishes to that person and the family and to say Get Well Soon!! I am absolutely devastated by this loss and would like to say that although we had 34,000 fans on the day, we had to many daytrippers who were unwilling to get up and sing for the guys.
As a result I can't believe we released Caskey as he still has a lot he can do for our team even if it is cominng off of the bench to do this. We need to be strong now and get behind the boys when the season starts again.

-- Neil

The bitter taste of defeat still lingers in my mouth - I still can't believe we were so cruelly robbed of what should have been our destiny - Division 1 football. The turnout was second to none, the support however could have been better. We as Reading supporters need to learn to get behind the team. If there's one thing we should learn from this cruel twist of fate, it is this - NEXT SEASON SUPPORT THE BOYS FOR 90 MINUTES. Do this and we'll be going up as Champions - C'mon UUUUUURRRRRRRRZZZZZZ!
-- Giorgio Ruggiero

What a totally depressing day. We seemed too frightened to perform. I know its easy to criticise, but what else have we got left? It was a negative performance, which desperately needed an injection of class. The only player capable of this spent the whole match on the bench. Don't expect to see Darren next season. The guy is as gutted as the rest of us, the only difference being, he could have done something about it - given a chance.
-- Kevin, Worthing Royal.

Completely agree with Ian R's comments...we had the game won and it was taken away from us by a goal that no-one could legislate for. Pardew and the team had done everything (admittedly it wasn't the best performance) that had been asked of them, their effort and commitment was outstanding. It took an act of God to let Walsall back into the game - there needs to be no finger pointing or blame attached to anyone. It's just one of those things...next year will be oh so different!!
-- Andy B

Are we incapable of learning lessons? After Bournemouth and Wigan we knew that our 3 most creative and probably most feared players (aside form Butler and Cureton) were all the bench. Forster and Rougier should have been given longer and surely the game was crying out for Caskey? - someone comfortable on the ball, who seems to have more time than anyone else to draw players towards him, create the space and thread the passes through for the runners. Apart from the first 10 minutes and extra time we spent most of the game just thumping balls forward. (I lost count of the amount of times the inept Robinson just belted the ball nowhere - was he really instructed to do this? - I used to think he was a good wing back what has happened - he used to run the ball out of defence beating players and playing decent balls to feet earlier in the season?). Parky was inspirational as ever. Harper tried hard and ran around a lot. Murty was great in part - particularly the saving tackle and a few decent runs. All credit to Walsall and to their fans - they seemed a lot louder than us - but they were all bunched together and we were spread all around the rest of the admittedly fantastic stadium. Good day out - horrible result.
-- Chris

What can you say?
It just wasn't to be our day.
And after the first 10 minutes or so when we had the dream start we had all hoped for Walsall always looked like they were likely to spoil the big day. they had bags of pace, and a great passing game. Goodman looked a threat every time it went near him. I cannot remember enjoying a game less all season. The occassion was great, and the stadium ubelievable, but there are days when you just get a gut feeling things aren't going to work out. Unfortunately the game plan that we seem to have relied upon for the last phase of the season, bringing on Rouge and Fozzy, was always going to come unstuck at some point I feel. They are not always going to turn the game and come up with the winner.
Yes we we very unlucky with the og, and yes I guess the boys tried hard, but for me we just were not good enough to overcome them on the day, and toward the end of the season I felt many of us were wondering were we good enough to go up? Looking back to the silky passing skills of the 95 side, we just aren't in the same league at the moment, although at times the signs are there. I sat and watched the Sky coverage we had taped this morning and there is no doubt we give the ball away far too much. Punting long balls to Curo and Butler isn't going to work for long at this level. Difficult to see where the changes need to come, but come they must. if we are going up automatically next season.
We have potentially the best front line in the league ,but it is surely how the ball reaches them that is important. It's been a great season ........ and better that we top Div 2 next season than struggle in Div 1. Let's be honest. the club must have made some money this season? How about pulling in some real quality to strengthen what we have, then who knows? Come on U Rzzzz.

-- Gary

Hard Luck Reading. No use dwelling on it - put it behind you and get on with preparing for next year. We couldn't get the better of Walsall in three attempts last season. We'll have to do better against the likes of Tranmere, Huddersfield, QPR and er, Cardiff! Next time out, let's make sure we get more points in the bag away from home, so we're out of sight by the time the playoffs come round. That may mean adding a bit more steel to the defence. This team's got what it takes to play in a higher league... almost.
-- Hugh Terry

Somehow its worse than '95 maybe because we really should be in the 1st as opposed to the dream of the premiership. Great occasion, great atmosphere, usual welsh weather. But I didnt enjoy it, it was just too important. Now we know how Wigan and Bournemouth felt. Congrats to Walsall who stayed tight throughout the game, they were fair and professional. It was an equal game in which our defensive frailty failed us, as opposed to Walsall who had a defence that stayed in defence and the unit as a whole knew what they had to do. My thanks to the team and to the Chairman who has put his hand in his pocket and will probably have to do it again. I really hope we dont give in to temptation and sell any of the strikers. I wonder if Adie Vivash wishes he was still at Walsall this morning? Ah well....until September, roll on QPR and Blackpool.
-- Roger, Wargrave Royal

Well I had to go to work and listened to the game on the radio; a cruel and upsetting end to the season, but well done to all the players and Pardew for such a fight all season. Please all stay put for next year - you all deserve success!! :)) Keep your chins up.
-- Andrew Ross

As a loyal fan present at the game yesterday, this was a real body blow. My 6 year old son with me was in tears at the end. The only consolation for me was that he too will be a true Royals fan from now on (He had claimed many times before to supporting Wycombe since he was born there!). The team played their heart out for nothing. I'm afraid to say it but we played into their hands tactically. I take my hat off to Ray Graydon, a shrewd tactician that Pardew should pay attention too. The number of comments about the long high ball again fell on deaf ears. I have no doubt that unless he gets us promotion next season he'll be shown the door, if not sooner. As for Mad dog, lets face facts he gets the team up for it, but having the lionheart spirit counts for nothing if tactics are absent on the park! Both Pardew and Allen need to learn from this. Defensively we have a problem, Hunter and Williams must step down now and new blood brought in. Goals against have cost us this season and they will again if we don't sort it next season. This sounds critical, but I'm not getting at the players, it just seems so bloody frustrating when I saw the likes of Rotherham brushed aside earlier this season; automatic promotion should have been obtainable. I hope we can hang on to the class acts (you know who they are) and learn from this. Next season I really believe we can win the championship, if Pardew does act positively. The likes of QPR and Huddersfield hold no fears. Come on you Royals, chin up and guns blazing for August.
-- Heath, Swindon Royal.

It's disappointing to read so much moaning after the event (and what a contrast to what people were saying after the heavenly Wigan result). Certainly none of us who were in Cardiff are ever going to forget how devastated we felt at the final whistle. But equally those of us who were sat the Wigan semi-final will remember for ever the glorious finish to that. The fact of it is that unless you are going to support some multinational corporation like Man Ure there are always going to be these highs and lows (and often more lows). That's what makes supporting Reading so exhausting yet inspirational. It was awful to lose on Sunday - and in such a cruel way. But it wasn't for lack of effort by the players or - I'm sure - the management. I felt proud of them in defeat just as I did when they did to Wigan what Walsall did to us. I've supported Reading since 1971. Sure there have been better times than these, but there have been some bloody awful ones too. And not so long ago. So let's just keep in mind how far we have come in the last 18 months and do our bit to keep the momentum going next season.
-- Chris B (London Royal who is at least has the consolation of not going to the Den next season)

Just a thought: why should the rules of football be different in different competitions? For example, why was Reading's goal in extra time not considered a golden goal that would have settled the match? Likewise, when Birmingham recently lost their away leg at Preston 1-2 for a 2-2 aggregate, why did they not progress on the away goals rule? Isn't that better and fairer than prolonging the agony by stretching the game out and then resorting to the lottery of a penalty shootout? Could we have some consistency here?
Let's put the disappointment of the playoffs behind us and aim to get more points on the board next season, so we don't have to go through that agony again. Reading will need to do better away from home next time round. Maybe that means strengthening the defence? This time, we weren't quite good enough.

-- HUGO

Being a royals fan since the age of 8 when we got to the Simod Cup Final I'm wondering if I'll ever see some glory in my lifetime. What I feel for this club can't be described in words and to say I was gutted is a complete understatement. The best I can do is say that it was like losing on penalties to Germany times by ten. What disappointed me most was not necessarily the players (Except Matthew Robinson) or the tactics (ruined by Matthew Robinson) but the lack of encouragement from the fans. My mates and I together with another group of lads tried all game till our throats were sore (and it still hurts now) to try and get everyone behind "our" team. In my opinion it is far from coincidental that teams like Manchester City bounce back from defeat also have a loyal following. It upsets me that so many of the crowd on Sunday refrained from singing their hearts out and just sat back and moaned.
And what good will it do if a team's "supporters" are booing a player when they do something wrong.
I'd like to see some of the fat b******s do a better job themselves! I believe that the progression out of this division would be a lot easier if the town of Reading came along and showed the team that they are 100% behind them, something that the Walsall end managed to do with only 15,000 fans! And, might I add, make an equal amount of noise than 35,000 of us! Only I doubt we'll see even half of those 35,000 when the new season kicks off.
I want my team to do well, to make me feel proud I was born and bred in Reading and to put it on the footballing map, not just as a good team but one with spirit too.

-- Ian Morton

As a Walsall fan I am obviously delighted with the result but I do want to echo Ray Graydon's sentiments.It's an awful way to end the season, but I am sure having seen Reading's three games with Walsall this season that it will not be long until Reading are in the first division. A quick word about your fans - they were magnificent and a credit not just to the club, but also to football. Good luck for next season - you deserve it.
-- Neil the Saddler

I would just like to say that I thought the team gave a fantastic account of themselves. Wallsal were I think the better team on the day and I agree that the Royals have put in better performances this season. Our best players on the day I think was the one and only Martin Butler (WE MUST NOT ALLOW THIS MAN TO LEAVE THE CLUB), Sammy Igoe, Jim Mckintrye and dare I say it Parky. We now need to build for next season. We have a big squad and some will undoubtably have to go. WE MUST keep our reliable players. Those that week in week out put in solid performances, and of course those that score the goals. With the right team we should gain automatic promotion but at the same time not become complacent. We have some tough games ahead but we can do it and all players and supporters must maintain the right attitude from the kick off in August. Come on you RRRRRRs !!!!
-- Ian Wilson, Maidenhead

OK. Losing in the final is gut wrenching. Especially after the events at the Wigan game. But I am amazed at some of the comments. My god, talk to Oxford or Bristol Rovers fans. They have a story to tell about crap management, crap team, dire future. We didn't go up, but we didn't go down either. I am as gutted as anyone, but calling for Pardew's head and targeting individual players is never going to help. The people who write these comments are the morons that boo their own team when it isn't going well. Pardew and Allen are still learning their trade. Of course it's annoying we made the same mistakes as we had in the league but wholesale change helps nobody.
We have an amazing squad, we have a management team that has awesome support from a chairman most other clubs would kill for. This coming season has to be the one. Remember what happened when we looked dead and buried against Wigan. We believed it was over but we all stood up and sang. Forget Cardiff, remember the Wigan game and carry that passion into the new season. How many teams would enjoy visiting a stadium where that kind of noise is generated. Support the lads. WE CAN GO UP!

-- Paul, Thatcham Royal

Why all the fuss about whether Caskey played or not? In all of the time that Caskey has been at Reading it wasn't until Tommy Burns was manager did he actually start playing for Reading. In truth, the only decent season he has had at Reading was last season. Not much to show for 700,000 is it?
The Reading v Wigan at home when Reading won 1-0 was a prime example of Caskey's lack of anything. The guy is overweight, can't tackle and makes you feel even more frustrated when he doesn't chase anything. All this talk about how he holds possession. He did nothing but lose possession againgst Wigan, and I have seen him do it during other games as well. From that one game alone, I can fully understand Pardew's reason for letting him go. If only we had gone in for Simon Osborn recently! The player I didn't want to see leaving is Jim McIntyre...what an intelligent player who can create one or two things and Reading are letting him go! Strange decision.
Hopefully next season will be our season...please!

-- Nathan

As a huge Saddlers fan I'm delighted to get promotion once again! But on the other hand I feel for the Royals, they are in my opinion the best side in the league, you have a massive ground good supporters and a good team. I hope the Saddlers will be meeting you in the first division next year as I'm sure youll be crowned "champions", all the best for next year then.
-- R. Westley, Walsall.

I have just recovered and come to accept that Reading are still in the second Division. I feel the reason for this and the play-offs against Bolton is due to one major fact: In both cases the Managers were inept and not tactical or technically tuned in. Against Walsall and many other teams you do not have to be "Brain Dead" to know that from a goal kick the ball is delivered to the left for whoever to head back into play or realise that from the Reading defence the ball is lumped down field. When the ball is played to feet, which is very occasional, there is no team to stop us. Does the Manager realise or know this? However, in favour of the management they do know how to select and sign talent, i.e. Cureton, Rougier, Butler, Igoe, etc., but to get them to play together with the "Cloggers" in central defence is another matter. Please sort this area out. Maybe the Board of Directors, none of whom are football minded, could possibly think of helping the Manager by appointing a quality Technical Director who can sit in the stands and get an overall picture of the game and then advise the Managers on the bench, similar to the late Maurice Evans. It is surely certain that unless we play football from defence to mid field and then forward with direct technical know how we shall still be second Division this time next year. For all who fervantly support the club through thick and thin please Reading Board sort out the technical know how for the manager and to get the club into the Premier league.
-- Stan - Wargrave

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