Royals on-course for play-offs with Boro victory
Tuesday 22nd April 2014
Reading's play-off hopes were boosted once again, as a first home victory in eight games with victory over Middlesbrough took them back into the top six.
Nigel Adkins was boosted by the news that Danny Guthrie was passed fit to play, but Pavel Pogrebnyak picked up a knock against Wigan, meaning Adam le Fondre started up front. It was a must win game if we wanted to keep our play-offs hopes in our hands and we started well, as Danny Williams forced an early save out of Konstantopoulos, who palmed away his twenty-yard drive.
A breakthrough was to follow in the ninth minute though and it was a long wait over for striker Adam le Fondre, who did what he does best. Jordan Obita`s superb cross from the left was attacked by McCleary as the keeper flapped at the cross, with Alfie sliding in on the line to make sure the ball went into the net - his first goal in nearly three months and his 14th of the campaign.
Danny Graham had Boro`s best chance of the game minutes later, as Ledesma`s fantastic pass set the forward away, but Peace and Morrison did enough into forcing him to shoot wide. It was a warning sign that this game was going to be easy, but it was certainly made a lot easier with the second goal of the evening, courtesy of an own goal from Boro defender George Friend.
We won a free kick wide on the right side and Jordan Obita whipped it in with pace and despite appearing to go straight in, took a crucial touch off the unlucky defender. We were playing with confidence, which hasn`t been said much of late. It was a half of two halfs, as we seemed to dominate the first twenty minutes or so, but the away side came back into the game after that.
McCarthy had to be alert to deny a long-range effort from the visitors, who looked to reduce to the deficit to just one goal. Despite Boro coming back into game, our attacking intent didn`t stop though, with Williams again forcing a save from the keeper, this low opting for precision over pace. From the resulting corner, Sean Morrison towered up at the back post, but couldn`t get his header on target.
Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was called into action just before half time, but was out of his own making, as his poor clearance was pounced upon by Ledesma, who drove inside onto his favoured left-foot, but stopped his firm effort. Boro finished the half well and started the second in a similar vein, despite not having to fight for any reasons at either end of the Championship table.
While Aitor Karanka`s side were keeping the ball well with good possession, they struggled to create any opportunities, with credit going to the team for good shape and organisation. The match was certainly opening up a lot more in the second period, which was playing to our advantage, with McCleary looking very lively on the right side and Jobi having a solid game on the other side.
Alfie was looking to make advances on his opening goal, but despite a good busting run and cross from Gunter, his header didn`t have enough pace to trouble the keeper. McAnuff then provided a cross to the back post for Pogrebnyak, but the cross had too much height on it for the big Russian to get a decent effort at goal. A third goal was looking imminent from us, to surely seal the three points.
Le Fondre then rattled the woodwork, as he managed to peel away from the two centre-halfs to attack McCleary`s cross, but his header looped onto the bar. Pogrebnyak then nearly scored a wonderful, individual goal, powering himself through the Boro backline, but couldn`t beat Konstantopoulos, who palmed his goalbound effort away despite the officials seeing otherwise.
As injury time approached at the Madejski Stadium, there was time for another Reading break and it was McCleary again at the forefront of it, as he drove forward and forced a low save from the keeper. Big Pog kept the ball alive and set up Gunter who had acres of space 15 yards out, but displayed why he has only scored three career goals, as he cleared the goal by some way.
The final whistle signified a first home win since January and a good, solid performance to go with it too, as we are back in the play-off spots. Win our final two games and we are in the play-offs` - it`s simple as that, but probably won`t be knowing us! It was a good response from the Wigan defeat and hopefully this will give the players the confidence to continue their charge into the play-offs.
Reading - 4-2-3-1: McCarthy, Gunter, Pearce, Gorkss, Obita, Williams, Guthrie, McCleary, Robson-Kanu, McAnuff, Le Fondre
Subs: Federici, Hector, Cummings, Akpan, Leigertwood, Drenthe, Pogrebnyak
Middlesbrough - 4-3-3: Konstantopoulos, Varga, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend, Chalobah, Whitehead, Williams, Adomah, Ledesma, Graham
Subs: Steele, Woodgate, Ayala, Leadbitter, Butterfield, Tomlin, Main