Saturday 18 January 2020

Irish stars help Reading back to the Premiership in dramatic turnaround

Reading fans invade the pitch after their team secured promotion to the Premier League at the Madejski Stadium. Photo: PA
Reading fans invade the pitch after their team secured promotion to the Premier League at the Madejski Stadium. Photo: PA

READING are back in the Premier League – four years after they dropped out of it on the final day of the season. Brian McDermott’s men sealed promotion with two games to spare.

Promotion seals a remarkable turnaround for the Berkshire club, who were second bottom of the Championship four games into the season with just four points.

Reading had former international Ian Harte and Noel Hunt in their line-up Stephen.

They were still 11 points off the pace when they lost 1-0 to Hull on Jan 21 - their last home defeat this season. But since then they have amassed 46 points from a possible 51, losing just once in 17 games.

It has been a long path back to the big time for McDermott, whose last taste of the top flight came as a centre-forward at Arsenal 30 years ago.

After a successful stewardship of the club’s reserves he replaced Brendan Rodgers as manager in December 2009.

In a memorable second half of the season he took the Royals to eighth in and to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. After another run to the last eight of the competition last season Reading suffered league heartbreak - beaten 4-2 by Swansea in the play-off final at Wembley.

But, like Sunderland 14 years ago, they did not suffer as a result of such a big defeat.

The signing of Latvian international Kaspars Gorkss in August was crucial in shoring up a leaky defence after captain Matt Mills was sold to Leicester for £5 million last summer, while 34-year-old striker Jason Roberts has scored six goals since signing from Blackburn in January.

Owner John Madejski, meanwhile, is on the brink of selling the club to Russian tycoon Anton Zingarevich’s Thames Sports Investment.

It would be fitting for him to sign off with his beloved Royals in the top flight of English football.

When the two sides met at the City Ground in November, Reading were a lowly 16th in the table.

But while Forest have flirted with relegation McDermott’s team have put together an amazing run of 67 points from 30 matches.

The 8pm kick-off at an expectant Madejski Stadium only added to the drama, with title rivals Southampton two goals up at Peterborough before Reading’s players had stepped out of the tunnel.

If McDermott, the Reading manager, was feeling any anxiety he did not show it.

In a week in which the standards of officials have again been called into question Reading could have no complaints when Jason Roberts’s 19th-minute strike was ruled out for a blatant push by Noel Hunt on the Forest goalkeeper Lee Camp.

Forest clearly wanted more from their evening than the role of invited guests at the home side’s promotion celebration and Adlene Guedioura’s low, long-range shot threatened to catch out Adam Federici before the Australian saved at his near post.

Federici was called into action again on the half hour, diving to his left to keep out Dexter Blackstock’s side-foot volley.

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