MATCH REPORT: 2008/2009 Season

Reading: Long (68 mins, 78 mins).
Norwich: -.
Half Time: 0-0
Attendance: 25,041

Pos Team P Pts GD
2 Birmingham 45 80 +16
3 Sheff Utd 45 79 +25
4 READING 45 77 +33
5 Cardiff 45 74 +13
Reading: Hahnemann, Rosenior, Bikey, Duberry, Harding, Cisse (Matejovsky 62), Karacan, Kebe, Little (Stephen Hunt 41), Kitson (Pearce 89), Long. Subs Not Used: Federici, Doyle.
Norwich: Marshall, Otsemobor, Shackell (Leijer 79), Doherty, Bertrand, Gow, Clingan, Russell, Carney (Daley 74), Lee, McDonald. Subs Not Used: Nelson, Cureton, Lappin.
Reading: Rosenior, Cisse, Matejovsky.
Norwich: Lee.
Ref: Clive Oliver (Northumberland).
Two goals from Shane Long secured a vital away win at Norwich City last night to set up a huge final day of the season next Sunday. It had looked as though Reading had thrown the season away two weeks ago, but two straight away wins and a Birmingham City defeat at the weekend leaves second place in the table still up for grabs with one game left to play. A victory over Birmingham on Sunday will see Reading return to the Premiership, on goal difference, if Crystal Palace manage to take at least a point from Sheffield United. It remains an outside bet but the possibility of automatic promotion has gone from no chance to a strong possibility on the back of two excellent away showings. If next Sunday doesn't work out then these two results, a pick-up in form, could see Reading well placed for promotion via the play-offs.

Last night the Royals were faced with a tough fixture against a Norwich side desperate to win themselves to avoid relegation. After an even first half in which neither side had many chances to go ahead, Reading quickly looked comfortable in the second half. City may have had more shots in the first half, but these were from long range efforts that were often narrowly off target. The Royals were defending well, closing the home side down quickly and preventing them working any close range efforts. In the second half Reading built on this and City were pushed back into their own half nearly every time they ventured forward.

In attack, Reading had Kebe and Long to thank for the two vital goals - each an excellent cross from Kebe on the left to Long in the box to head home. The first was easy for Long with a perfect cross and perfect positioning from Long for a simple close range header. The second saw Long do the difficult work, rising above two defenders in the middle of the box to score. The Royals now need to take their away form to the Madejski Stadium on Sunday, again in front of the live Sky TV cameras, and hope Palace can help out. It should be quite some day - an unexpected rush of excitement at the end of the season and the chance of completing a quick return to the top tier.

If you believe in miracles, then you may just witness one this coming Sunday. Who'd have thought after all the woeful performances in recent weeks we'd have a chance of automatic promotion this Sunday! Of course it's out of our hands and in the trusted hands of Neil Warnock who we have to rely on to do us a favour if we beat Brum, you couldn't make it up. Deja vu strikes as just like the last game of the season last year when unlike Pompey who laid down and let Fulham win in a totally unprofessional way. Respect to Kebe last night who produced two wonderful crosses for Long to head home. The lads I thought were poor first half but much better second. Win or lose Sunday we have some momentum, can it happen, of course it can but whatever we're guaranteed a tense atmosphere you'll be able to cut with a knife. I think being underdogs these last few weeks has helped us, nobody including myself gave us chance a few weeks ago but such is football in the Championship... Bring It On!!
Nick Newbury

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The fixtures computer takes a lot of abuse each season from aggrieved managers, but neutrals should feel grateful for what it has cooked up for this Sunday because the last day of the Coca-Cola Championship season is set to be enthralling. Relegated from the Barclays Premier League on goal difference last season, Reading could return via that criterion at the weekend... Coppell, the Reading manager, is not interested in conspiracy theories of any hue. “We’ve got to do the business, it’s pointless speculating about anybody else,” he said. “Everybody outside of Norwich was hoping for this result to make it really exciting on Sunday and hopefully it will be.”... This game was all hustle and muscle. Few chances, little quality, but ferocious commitment that manifested itself in occasional rash, late challenges. There were hints that Reading had the nous to unpick Norwich and, ultimately, they did. Midway through the second period, Jimmy Kébé crossed to the far post, where Shane Long was lurking to head in his eighth goal of the season.
The Times

If Steve Coppell does step down at the end of this season, as one newspaper has suggested, he may yet do so having returned his team to the Premier League via automatic promotion. A straightforward win against a Norwich side that appears doomed to the third tier of English football for the first time in nearly 50 years means that, if his team beat Birmingham in their final game on Sunday, and Sheffield United fail to win at Crystal Palace, the Royals will go straight up... Norwich have beaten Wolves, Sheffield United and Cardiff City at home this season but from the start there was no question as to which was the more accomplished side. It needed a superb stretching block by Jason Shackell to prevent Shane Long from finishing after a clever interchange with Jimmy Kebe... Kebe looked dangerous every time he got the ball on the left. Sure enough, with just over 20 minutes left, the Mali international skinned Jon Otsemebor and whipped in a cross for Long to head firmly past David Marshall. Ten minutes later they did it again. I
The Guardian