On Tuesday evening, Jaap Stam’s Reading side proved everyone wrong by securing a place in the play-off final at Wembley. Ultimately the game was settled by a Yann Kermorgant penalty and some resolute defending from the home side.
Here is what we learned from the game:
Que Sera Sera…
After the last two seasons, no one expected Reading to be anywhere near the promotion places come the end of the season. The Royals continue to be written off but time and time again have shown what they are capable of.
Fulham were the clear favourites going into the play-off semi-finals, with commentary making it sound like there was only ever going to be one winner (and it wasn’t going to be Reading).
Instead two resolute performances from the Royals mean that they have booked their place at Wembley. Yep that’s right. We’re going to Wembley!
Will Williams Stay?
The contract discussions with Danny Williams have been a talking point for a while now, but his performances in recent times have meant that it has become all the more important.
Williams has been a standout performer in the play-offs, with many seeing him as a vital player for the squad going forwards. Last night the club announced the new owners are now in place and the team have a great opportunity to make it into the Premier League. Could this mean a new contract is on the horizon?
Takes A Team
One thing that was abundantly clear on Tuesday evening was the team spirit that exists in the Reading squad.
Usually this season, there are a couple of players that standout in a game. The play-offs, however, seem to have brought out the best in the players all over the pitch.
Tiago Ilori hasn’t played much this season, but slotted into the defence in place of Paul McShane perfectly. Lewis Grabban has had his critics but demonstrated the threat he could be when played up front. George Evans near single handedly prevented Tom Cairney from making his usual impact on the game. The list goes on.
What the performance of the team, and these players in particular, showed was the strength in depth this Reading squad has and the belief they have in each other. Outside commentators may like to remark about the lack of quality in the Reading squad, but this season just shows what you can achieve when you all pull together.
What Happened To John Swift?
One player who is a concern, however, is John Swift. While all the other players seem to be stepping up at this crucial time, Swift seems to be going backwards.
Perhaps we have unrealistic expectations of him based on his performances earlier in the season – He is still young after all. That said, everyone knows what he is capable of and his standards have dropped significantly in recent times.
Poor touches, the frequency he lost the ball and the shot fired straight at the goalkeeper from point blank range epitomized Swift’s performance on Tuesday evening. Based on his recent performances, I for one would seriously consider playing Williams, Kelly and Evans in the centre of midfield in the final.
Finally An Atmosphere!
One thing you can be certain of is that Reading fans will turn out in mass for big games. Tuesday evening’s fixture was the definition of a big game and low and behold the fans came out to support.
There were flags, there was fire but most importantly there was plenty of cheering from the home fans. The atmosphere was unlike anything I had ever witnessed at the Madejski, especially just before kick off.
Now the aim will be to replicate it all again, this time at Wembley!