AGONY FOR ADKINS AS ROYALS FAIL
DEVASTATED Reading boss Nigel Adkins has called on his team to remember the pain of their last-gasp exit from the playoffs as motivation for next season.
Garath McCleary’s sensational equaliser against already-promoted Burnley looked like it would be enough to keep Reading in sixth until Leonardo Ulloa’s late goal for Brighton against Nottingham Forest saw the Seagulls soar above them.
McCleary, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Alex Pearce all came close to snatching a third in the final 20 minutes but they were denied by a mix of good goalkeeping from Tom Heaton and last gasp defending – not to mention events at the City Ground.
Reading fans, somewhat prematurely, invaded the pitch at the final whistle unaware that the draw was in vain.
And Adkins, who oversaw successive promotions when boss at Southampton, admits his players were shocked to the core.
Adkins said: “It’s important to feel the pain and the hurt. That way it makes you work even harder – I’ve found that in the past.
“The dressing room was very quiet and I’ve told them to remember this feeling next season and as they progress so they don’t feel it again.
“Unfortunately we haven’t achieved what we set out to this season so we will reflect upon it and do it again.
“We were going for everything. We tried to win the game.
“At 2-2 we were aware of what was going on in the Brighton game. Unfortunately we got the news right at the death.
“We can’t change anything now. It was a good game. We lost a lot of players through injury, it’s been the story of our season.”
The hosts’ promotion chase got off to a perfect start thanks to Kieran Trippier, who slid the ball past his own keeper in the 16th minute.
The 23-year-old was trying to clear Jobi McAnuff’s low delivery into the six-yard box but failed to send it wide.
But Scott Arfield ensured that lead lasted less than five minutes.
The Scot fired into the middle of goal after gathering Pearce’s botched clearance from Dean Marney’s cross at the edge of the area.
Danny Ings then fired the Clarets into the lead with a rightfooted finish into the bottom corner with Arfield playing an important role in the assist.
Arfield latched onto the ball on the right-wing before unloading to Marney, whose through-ball teed up Ings.The Royals had shot stopper Alex McCarthy to thank for keeping them in contention at half-time after he blocked Ings one-on-one in injury time.
McCleary sent the Madejski Stadium into raptures with a stunning volley from the edge of the area as Reading pushed for a draw. The Jamaica international smashed the ball into the topright corner after Hal Robson-Kanu flicked on a Chris Gunter free-kick.
Pogrebnyak thought he had found the bottom corner in the 76th minute only for Jason Shack- ell, who has played every minute of every game this season, to clear off the line.
Burnley boss Sean Dyche said: “The result was just about fair enough. The defining moment was the keeper’s save before half-time.
“Credit to Reading, they went for it. They put players forward and tried to make the break but we defended well. Their goal kicked us into life.We were very good after that. I was very impressed with the performance, particularly mentally because we had already done the job.
“I didn’t think there were signs of complacency, they were terrific overall.”
STUNNER: Reading’s Garath McLeary celebrates his magnificent equaliser but it wasn’t enough to earn a play-off place Inset: Kieran Trippier puts through his own net