Late Pog double gives Royals crucial win
Saturday 26th April 2014
Reading put in a superb second-half display to keep them as firm favourites for the final play-off place, as they beat Doncaster 3-1 at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Nigel Adkins lost his midfield Danny`s in Guthrie and Williams, meaning a start for Hope Akpan and Mikele Leigertwood, who has not started a game in over a year. There was also a recall for Pavel Pogrebnyak, as Robson-Kanu suffered an injury against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night. It was a massive blow to lose our midfield duo and it showed in the first half against Donny.
It was a fairly even start to the game, with neither side taking a firm grip of the game, despite the effort being undoubted from both teams. Both teams were playing quite direct, but both defences were dealing well with this style, with neither goalkeeper being majorly tested in the first twenty minutes. A goal did come though and it was the home side who broke the deadlock.
Former Royals loanee Billy Sharp turned Akpan too easily and drove into the box, crossing low across goal for the unmarked James Coppinger to tap in at the back post. It was a crucial goal for Donny, with a win possibly being enough to secure Championship football next season. Reading were not playing well and needed to improve if they were to get anything from this one.
Instead of a response from us, we nearly conceded a second within minutes, as a cross from the right was attacked by Sharp, but McCarthy did well to gather his firm header. We couldn`t string three passes together for most of the first half, but there was some improvement in the final minutes of the half, as McCleary was looking lively on the right side, forcing a few corners.
A set piece was looking like the only way we were going to get back into the game at first half, so Adkins would have needed to rally his troops at half time, if they wanted any hope of the play-offs. That he obviously did too - as Reading came out a much improved side in the second period. It still took us a while to get going though, despite moving the ball about with a better tempo in this half.
We went close to bringing the game level through a good break away, as Alfie and McAnuff linked up to nearly set McCleary away, but Donny recovered in numbers and didn`t allow him to get a shot away. From then on, the game was to be dominated by Reading and got an equaliser to open the game right up just past the hour mark, courtesy of a penalty kick being awarded by the referee.
A long-ball forward was missed by the defender Meite and with Le Fondre on his shoulder, pushed the forward over, with the linesman flagging for a spot kick. As ever, Adam le Fondre was cool enough to dispatch the spot kick for his 14th goal of the season and put the Royals right back in the game, with both sides needing the points for different reasons - it was going to be interesting.
Jobi McAnuff had a penalty appeal then turned down by the referee, after beating two men superbly on the left, as we were starting to increase the pressure on the Donny defence. Alfie then had a decent chance to get his second of the game, as the lively McCleary beat his man well, before laying the ball across to him on the edge of the area, but his first time shot ballooned into away fans.
The pressure was building and McCleary had a shot blocked in the area, as McAnuff`s cross found the winger unmarked. Leigertwood was the next player to try his luck at goal, as Donny could only half clear a free kick, but his left-footed volley went a few yards wide of the post. An extra two points would be massive in the race for a play-off spot, especially with Brighton winning on Friday.
After twenty-five minutes of constant pressure from the Royals, there finally was a goal for Adkins` men that could be massive come next Saturday. A lovely reverse ball was set into the path of substitute Jake Taylor, whose perfect cross was met at the back post by Pavel Pogrebnyak to send the away fans into raptures at the Keepmoat, with just four minutes left to play in Yorkshire.
Adkins brought on Gorkss & Hector to keep Donny at bay, who needed the points themselves, but on the break, the game was sealed with a third goal. Defender Alex Pearce somehow found himself through on goal, after pulling off one of the slowest stepovers in footballing history, yet passed across for Pogrebnyak, who slotted the ball past Johnstone at his near post to secure the points.
What a massive victory it was for us, which not only took us into the top six, but fifth on goal difference, as Wigan slipped up against Blackpool. The first half was dreadful, but the improvement in the second half was fantastic from the boys. As long as we match or better Brighton`s result, a play-off place will be guaranteed next Saturday against Burnley - who by no means will be easy.
Doncaster - 4-4-2: Johnstone, Tamas, Quinn, Meite, Stevens, Coppinger, Keegan, Furman, Cotterill, Brown, Sharp
Subs: Maxted, McCombe, McCulloch, Wellens, De Val, Peterson, Robinson
Reading - 4-4-2: McCarthy, Gunter, Pearce, Morrison, Obita, McCleary, Akpan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Le Fondre, Pogrebnyak
Subs: Federici, Gorkss, Cummings, Hector, J.Taylor, Blackman, Ugwu