STAM: MY ROY­ALS NEED TO STEP UP

Lat­ics are dow­nand Read­ing in play-offs

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Gra­ham Ot­way

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.”

PICTURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

HEAD BOY: Yann Ker­mor­gant scores Read­ing’s goal in the sixth minute

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