Match Report: 2011/2012 Season

21 April 2012: CHAMPIONSHIP
Reading: Gorkss (20 mins), Le Fondre (53 mins).
Crystal Palace: Zaha (14 mins), Murray (76 mins).
Half Time: 1-1

Attendance: 23,431

Pos Team P Pts GD
1 READING 45 89 +30
2 Southampton 45 85 +35
3 West Ham 44 80 +31
Reading: A Federici, I Harte, K Gorkss, A Pearce, S Cummings, J McAnuff, M Leigertwood (J Tabb, 80), H Mullins (B Gunnarsson, 85), H Robson-Kanu (A Le Fondre, 46), N Hunt, J Roberts (s/o 45).
Subs not used: A McCarthy, S Church.
Crystal Palace: J Speroni (L Price, 25), P McCarthy, P McShane (M Parsons, 31), D Moxey, D Ambrose (A Pedroza, 61), K De Silva, O Garvan, S O'Keefe, J Parr, G Murray, W Zaha.
Subs not used: S Scannell, K Appiah.
Reading: -. Sent Off: Roberts (45 mins).
Crystal Palace: -
Ref: A P D'Urso
The Madejski Stadium was packed for the Royals last home game of the season as the fans came to continue the promotion celebrations and possibly see their team secure the Championship title. Showing the true credentials of champions Reading came back after falling behind to an early goal to equalise, and then, in spite of being to reduced to ten men, to take the lead. Ultimately they had to settle for a draw, but even down to ten men the Royals were pressing hard for the winner in added time. The point proved sufficient to clinch the title but Sky scheduling deprived everyone of the opportunity to celebrate together at the final whistle as the Saints slipped up away to Middlesbrough in the 5.20 kick-off at the Riverside. It is unlikely that this will matter to anyone as the reality of Premier League football begins to dawn. Neither will the joy and satisfaction of finishing top of the league be any less intense for players of fans.

Reading understandably hung over from Tuesday night found it hard to gain any momentum against a Palace side with nothing to lose or to play for. Some very sloppy defending allowed Zaha to nip in after fourteen minutes to divert a cross past Federici to giving the visitors an early lead. Gorkss equalised following a rally of 'head tennis' in the Palace goalmouth following Harte's corner on twenty-six minutes. The Latvian managed to generate tremendous power in his header to thump a dropping ball into the net past a crowd of Palace players on the line. Palace 'keeper Speroni and McShane had to be replaced midway through the half having sustained injuries, but Palace seemed unaffected by the disruption and nearly took the lead when Murray hit the bar as Reading's back four were uncharacteristically hesitant and heavy-legged. Robson-Kanu, replacing Kebe on the right, seemed reluctant to use his right foot to deliver the ball into the box which suggests he might have been better placed on the other flank. With half time approaching Roberts received a red card when his elbow caught Parr as he ran away from goal in possession. It did not appear to be deliberate. Hopefully a successful appeal will prevent Roberts from missing the opening two games next season.

Robson-Kanu was replaced by Le Fondre to play the lone striker with Hunt moving out to the right. Obviously Hunt, the only player willing and able to win the ball in the air up front, needed to remain on the pitch to provide the option of a long ball crucial to a team reduced to ten men. Hunt was a more than adequate replacement wide on the right. Reading although down to ten men took the game to Palace. Playing excellent passing football the Royals dominated play for spells. Without the expectation of Hunt taking players on to open up the Palace defence, Reading moved the ball crisply around on the right. In the fifty-third minute Harte intelligently took a quick free kick to Hunt who delivered a perfect cross for Le Fondre to give Reading the lead. The torrential rain made conditions tricky but both sides coped well. For most of the half Reading looked comfortable until a couple of poor defensive headers allowed the ball to drop for Murray to volley a Palace equaliser.

As time ran out, it was Reading who looked most likely to score a winner but a draw was a creditable, if slightly disappointing result. Later in the evening it turned out to be sufficient to clinch the title which it has to be said is thoroughly deserved. The lap of honour was able to follow as Reading fans complied with the request not to invade the pitch. It would not have been possible to match the euphoria of Tuesday night so the polite and generous applause was a fitting and dignified end to the season for the home fans although there will surely be more celebrations to follow. Next week an amazing season comes to an end and the anticipation and speculation of a season at the highest level begins. Right now it is good to be a Reading fan and the memory of Wembley 2011 takes on a different perspective.

John Wells

Impressions from the game were that Palace had 1 decent player in Zaha, and that had Roberts not got himself sent off, we would have probably won quite easily. To be fair, the Palace first goal was excellent; really well worked. But we always looked as if we would get a goal, and after a classic goalmouth scramble - including McShane heading a chance off the line - Gorkks buried a header from 6yds out. Cummings looked excellent, whilst HRK, who played instead of kebe, looked a bit off the pace. As the 1st half was winding down, a crossfield ball saw Roberts get in front of the Palace #4; suddenly, he went down, clearly indiciating an elbow by Roberts. Even before the ref got to the incident, he was reaching for his red card and off went Jason. From the Upper West, I thought that there was a degree of contact, but certainly not enough to justify the defender's reaction. Hey ho.

2nd half started and on came ALF for HRK, with Hunt going wide right. Immediately, reading were on the front foot, and looking far more likely to score; an excellent chip by ALF just went over the bar, but a couple of minutes later, he scored from an excellent cross from Hunt on the right. For the next 10-15 minutes, it was all Reading, and you had to wonder who were down to 10 men; however, gradually Palace got back into the game and with a few more iffy decisions by the ref, they duly got the equaliser. A ball came in from the right, partially cleared by Pearce, and then Legs went to head it away. A palace player jumped into him - clear foul, not given - causing the ball to drop inside the penalty area and an unsighted Feds had no chance with the shot that went into the bottom left hand corner. Anyways, a point which showed why we are going up, but a bit of a disappointing way of ending the season at home.
Mr Angry

Great performance from the fans, and the players. That was a game we should and could have won. Even with ten men. I thought the red card was a horrendus decision and D'urso was awful as always.

Shame we lost the lead with slightly lacklustre defending from a corner. Shame ALF didn't put his one on one away. But it doesn't matter. We're up and we're Champions. The players aquitted themselves well and it was fab to see Gunnarsson get on the pitch. Not fussed about anything else.
Ian Royal

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Premier League-bound Reading have clinched the Championship title, despite being held to a draw by a stubborn Crystal Palace side. Southampton's defeat at Middlesbrough in Saturday's late kick-off handed the league to Brian McDermott's side. Visitors Palace took a surprise lead when Wilfried Zaha stroked home, but Kaspars Gorkss equalised soon after. Adam Le Fondre put the Royals ahead after Jason Roberts's red card, before Glenn Murray's superb strike levelled. Striker Roberts, signed from Blackburn in the transfer window, was sent-off for an apparent elbow towards the end of the first half. He will now miss the last game of the season, and could also be unavailable for Reading's first two games in the Premier League next season.

Much to everyone's surprise, it was the visitors who went ahead when Murray set up Zaha who coolly slotted home the opener. The lead was shortlived, though, as defender Gorkss headed the equaliser following a goalmouth scramble. Brian McDermott's men were reduced to 10 men just before half-time when Roberts was shown a straight red card by referee Andy D'Urso, who adjudged him to have caught Jonathan Parr with an elbow. But they took the lead when Le Fondre headed home from close range after Noel Hunt's cross. Palace were not to be outdone, however, and their battling qualities paid off when Murray lashed home the equaliser to put a dampener on Reading's celebratory week.

BBC Sport