SKIPPER MAC IS THE HEAD MASTER
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.”
CAPTAIN MARVEL: Reading’s Paul McShane scores the winner
STAR MAN PAUL McSHANE Reading