Coming into the game off the back of Friday night’s incredible win at Southampton meant that Reading only needed to better West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Bristol City as they faced an in-form Nottingham Forest side. There was one change for Reading as Mikele Leigertwood returned to the squad from injury, replacing the injured Jay Tabb.
The game started slow for both teams with Forest having much of the possession and playing it around nicely when they had the ball. Reading struggled to get a hold of the game and played very nervously as they must have known that a chance at the Premier League was at stake.
However it seemed like the boring first 20 or so minutes would all be worth it as a cross from the left by Jobi McAnuff found its way to Noel Hunt who challenged for the ball with the ‘keeper and won the challenge. The ball fell to Jason Roberts, who had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for Hunt’s foul on Camp. Forest then had a couple of decent chances as they looked to make their claim for survival with a long-range effort that was saved well before Dexter Blackstock tried to turn in the rebound. Blackstock had another good chance not long after as Forest played the ball through the midfield well and found Blackstock who made some space for himself but could only fire at Federici.
The last chance of the half came to Reading as Hayden Mullins drove forwards and unleashed a shot but he couldn’t beat Lee Camp in the Forest goal, meaning the score at half time remained 0-0.
In the second half, the style of the game was very similar as Reading maintained their scrappy nature, still down to nerves and Forset playing wonderful free flowing passing football. However it was again Reading that had a good chance first as Noel Hunt headed wide despite being un-marked. Reading continued to press for that all-important goal and it was becoming less and less their day as the corner and free kick desicions were going against them.
Elokobi then fired over for Forest from a corner as the visitors looked to ruin the dream of a Premier League return at home for the Royals. However, newly brought-on substitute Le Fondre looked to try and amend that as an incredible through ball from Mikele Leigertwood put him through on goal after beating the defender. However, as he lifted the ball over the ‘keeper it just drifted wide of the goal and the scores remained level.
Chances were then suddenly amassed by both sides as Shaun Cummings had a shot from distance and Elokobi had another effort that just skimmed the bar from a corner. Lewis McGugan had a good effort on goal too from long range but it never really troubled Federici.
Then came the all-important goal. As West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Bristol City had just been announced, the crowd knew that it only meant one goal would see their side promoted. “One goal and we are going up” the crowd chanted before Jobi McAnuff was fouled on the edge of the box to set up a free kick for Harte on the left hand side. He put the ball into the area and it drifted across the six yard box almost in slow motion as Mikele Liegertwood swung his left foot at the ball and it ended up in the back of the net. Delirium.
Fans were going wild and chants of “we are going up” reverberated around the stadium. It was nearly 2-0 as Le Fondre again was in a good position to take a shot but this time fired straight at Lee Camp. He then had another opportunity but his curled effort failed to trouble Camp. However it was a heart-in-mouth moment that ended the game as superb play by Forest saw them scamper into the box and Marcus Tudgay, scorer of the only goal the last time these two teams met, headed goalwards beating Federici. Alex Pearce was however on hand with a goal-line clearance and the pressure was cleared.
The pitch invasion started and there were wonderful scenes as we flocked onto the pitch to crowd surf the players, in particular Mikele Leigertwood, the scorer of the goal. I ran into George Elokobi, which is something I’ll put on my CV. It was a fantastic moment for all involved in the club (the promotion, not me running into Elokobi). Chants for the players followed and when they came out of the dressing room and to the room at the top of the stadium to look over their fans, there were celebrations all round.
So, Reading are now promoted to the Premier League after a four year wait and I for one think it is better than the 05/06 promotion in that it has been an incredible run of results after a struggling season at the end of September. May they end the campaign as Champions.