STAM: MY ROYALS NEED TO STEP UP
Latics are downand Reading in play-offs
THE post-match emotions in the two dressing rooms at the Madejski Stadium were at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Reading had every reason to celebrate as they had secured their place in the Championship play-offs, while Wigan were relegated.
However, both of those seasonal conclusions had not been reached as a direct result of the Royals’ victory that was earned by Yann Kermogant’s powerful sixth-minute header.
They just needed a point from either of their final two games and with arch-rivals Leeds only drawing with Norwich, they could not have been overtaken even if they had lost.
In stark contrast, to avoid the drop Wigan needed to win their last two matches and even had they taken the three points, Birmingham’s victory over Huddersfield put survival beyond their reach.
And the visitors knew their fate some time before the final whistle because a spate of injuries had led to 19 extra minutes being played in the match.
The Reading fans had begun chanting “You are going down” as soon as they picked up the scoreline from St Andrews on their mobiles.
Yet deep down as their heroes did a lap of honour after the final whistle, those fans may have shared the thoughts of manager Jaap Stam.
He was proud that at the end of his first season as a Championship manager his players are only two matches away from a possible appearance at Wembley. But at the same time he knows that to win promotion they will have to up their game.
“It was not the easiest of matches against a side with nothing to fight for except their lives,” he said. “We started well and scored an early goal and we need to make it difficult for them after that. But we slowed down and gave them a lot of space.
“In the next games we need to step up and play better. We need to make it harder for the teams we will be playing against.”
After Kermorgant’s early strike Reading rarely threatened the Wigan goal while at the other end Nick Powell had half-a-dozen chances in the space half-an-hour to grab an equaliser and possibly put the visitors in front.
But he shot badly wide twice and was also denied by two great saves from goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi, who has already been named Reading’s player of the season.
However, it was not just relegation that left the Wigan players with heavy hearts. In the 12th minute they lost midfielder Shaun MacDonald after he collapsed to the ground after being tackled by George Evans.
Play was held up for more than ten minutes before he was taken to hospital with a double break in his left leg.
Evans was booked by referee Tim Robinson for the challenge but Wigan manager Graham Barrow did not offer a single word of criticism against the Reading midfielder and bemoaned a poor Latics season.
“We weren’t relegated because of this game, we know that, but there are sad faces in the dressing room and it hurts everyone across the club.
“It’s a huge problem – the lack of goals – because in this game we created so many chances but it will have to be rectified in the summer.”
HEAD BOY: Yann Kermorgant scores Reading’s goal in the sixth minute