The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Tom Crocker

READ­ING boss Jaap Stam ad­mits thoughts of the play­offs are start­ing to creep into his play­ers’ minds af­ter the pro­mo­tion dream inched closer to re­al­ity with a win against Wolves.

Ben Mar­shall’s first goal for Wolves looked set to earn them a pre­cious draw against play-off-chas­ing Read­ing af­ter he can­celled out Yann Ker­mor­gant’s strike.

But Roy­als skip­per Paul McShane headed in a late win­ner to get the hosts back on track af­ter suc­ces­sive de­feats.

And Stam, whose side re­main fifth, con­ceded: “You can’t stop the play­ers from think­ing about the play-offs. It’s a log­i­cal re­ac­tion.

“If you’re in a cer­tain stage of the sea­son and you’re in the top six, every­body is think­ing about it, es­pe­cially be­cause we’ve been do­ing very well the whole sea­son.

“We’ve been third in the league for a long time, so it would be a shame to not end in the top six.

“At the stage we are now, the most im­por­tant thing is the re­sult and get­ting those three points.

“That’s what we’ve done. I’m happy with the three points, not with how we played, but you can’t have it all.”

It took un­til the 42nd minute for ei­ther goal­keeper to be se­ri­ously tested as Ali Al-Habsi pro­duced a bril­liant low stop to claw David Ed­wards’ header away from the bot­tom cor­ner – although Wolves boss Paul Lam­bert be­lieved crossed the line.

While the first half was largely for­get­table, within five min­utes of the restart there had been a goal at both ends.

It was Read­ing who took the lead when Danny Wil­liams’ scuffed longrange ef­fort was di­verted past Carl Ikeme by Ker­mor­gant.

But any joy was short­lived as Wolves quickly went down the other end and tied up the game again when Nouha Dicko’s invit­ing low cross was turned in by a slid­ing Mar­shall.

That cer­tainly seemed to give Wolves a boost as Conor Coady and Ed­wards went close in quick suc­ces­sion to putting the vis­i­tors ahead, but Al-Habsi was equal to their ef­forts.

Af­ter the early sec­ond-half flurry, chances were few and far be­tween un­til Read­ing snatched the win­ning goal with 12 min­utes to play.

Sub­sti­tute Yakou Meite was fouled on the right, al­low­ing John Swift to curl a pin­point free-kick into the dan­ger zone and McShane was there to pow­er­fully head the win­ner past Ikeme.

And Wolves’ af­ter­noon went from bad to worse when cen­tre-back Mike Wil­liamson was shown his sec­ond yel­low card with five min­utes left to play.

It left Lam­bert point­ing the fin­ger at ref­eree An­drew Madley af­ter a re­sult that saw his side slip to within one point of the Cham­pi­onship rel­e­ga­tion zone.

“I thought the big de­ci­sions never went for us,” said Lam­bert. “I think he’s a re­ally good ref­eree, but I had con­cerns with some of the de­ci­sions.

“I thought when (Helder) Costa went through and shot, it was a clear hand­ball and we never got the break there.

“I thought we scored a good goal from the re­sult­ing cor­ner and Read­ing’s sec­ond goal is clearly off­side.

“We dom­i­nated the game and we just need the breaks to go for us rather than against us.

“We feel a bit hard done by but if we keep play­ing like that, we’ll be to­tally fine.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

CAP­TAIN MAR­VEL: Read­ing’s Paul McShane scores the win­ner


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