News and Views
Play-Off Second Leg: Huge Night Ahead
16 May 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?
They don't come much bigger than this. Reading face Fulham at the Madejski Stadium this evening in the second leg of the play-off semi-final, with the prize being a trip to Wembley for a shot at promotion to the Premier League. Both Fulham and Reading will fancy their chances of securing the win for a huge day out, in a fixture that has to be settled tonight. The Royals did all that was asked of them on Saturday evening, leaving Craven Cottage with a 1-1 draw to bring the tie back to the Madejski Stadium, and get home advantage, on level terms. It feels like we are half way there and on track to finish the job, but Fulham won't be too disappointed with the draw in the first leg and have their excellent away form this season to call on.
Things couldn't have looked better for the Royals on Saturday when the excellent Jordan Obita put Reading ahead on 53 mintues with a fantastic low effort from the left that found the back of the net off the far post. With an hour gone Reading had looked comfortable and we dared dream of bringing a win back home. However, Fulham equalised from Cairney with 65 minutes on the clock. Paul McShane was given a straight red on 80 minutes for a late challenge with his foot way off the ground, but Reading held firm despite playing with ten men. The great result was overshadowed by Jordan Obita staying on the floor after the referee's final whistle with what looked like could be a serious injury to his ankle.
Paul McShane will definitely be missing through suspension and Obtia remains a doubt after that late injury. Ilori came off the bench after McShane's sending off on Saturday and will now most likely start in McShane's place. Stam will have to shuffle around his defence, but we will all be hoping Obita has recovered after such an important role on Saturday. Gareth McCleary was an unused substitute on Saturday after coming back from injury but seems almost certain to play a part tonight.
Reading finished the season with the best home record in the entire Championship after winning 16 of our 23 home fixtures during the regular season. That impressive set of wins of course included a 1-0 victory over Fulham. Fulham's away record was only bettered by Champions Newcastle United. Impressive as it may be, the statistics still point to a Reading victory. However, the bookmakers still disagree, and it is Fulham listed as favourites to complete the win over Reading and go on to Wembley.
The tie is so finely balanced that anything could happen - and probably will. It should be quite some night at the Madejski Stadium. Away goals don't count in the play-offs so if the game is drawn, whatever the scoreline, the game will go to extra-time and potentially penalties. You wouldn't bet against the game going the distance. It's a game you really wouldn't want to miss, which makes it amazing that Reading have been unable to sell out the fixture. Tickets are still available to buy on-line and by telephone for both the Upper West and the South Stand.
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