Reading and the play-offs: The story of a painful relationship
On Monday Reading will face Huddersfield Town in what is often dubbed football’s richest game. And if experience is to be the deciding factor, then the Royals should win out.
But if it comes down to play-off luck, then it’s the Terriers who will be playing Premier League football next season.
Few sides can boast as much unfortunate Championship play-off history as the Berkshire outfit.
Reading have appeared in the second-tier play-offs four times in the last 22 years, a record only bettered by Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Royals have even made an appearance in the League One post-season too.
But as fans will well know, they’ve endured painful times at this point of the season.
Ahead of Monday’s huge clash with the Yorkshire side, we’ve taken a look at Reading’s play-off woes…
It’s probably best we get this one out of the way early, as it still strikes a chord with the Reading faithful.
Due to the Premier League restructuring the top-tier from 22 teams to 20, only one side from Division One could be automatically promoted.
That was a blow for second-placed Reading, who would ordinarily have gone up.
They saw off Tranmere Rovers in the semi-finals, and were heading for the top-flight after going 2-0 up inside 12 minutes against Bolton in the showpiece.
But late goals from Owen Coyle and Fabian de Freitas took the game to extra-time, where Wanderers netted twice more to deny Reading in the cruellest possible way.
While Bolton began a yo-yo few years in the Premier League, Reading slipped into the third-tier.
They were in play-off action in 2001 after finishing third, and left it late with two goals in the final four minutes to defeat Wigan in the semi-finals.
Walsall awaited in the final in Cardiff, but again Reading were to be broken-hearted once more. 1-1 after 90 minutes, Martin Butler put the Royals ahead and on course for promotion early on.
But Reading collapsed in the second-period of ET, thanks to a Tony Rougier own-goal and a Darren Byfield effort, as the Royals suffered their second play-off final defeat in six years.
Reading made amends in 2002 by gaining automatic promotion, and they continued the upward swing by coming fourth in Division One in the following year.
The play-offs beckoned once again.
And yet again Reading would be undone through late goals. Nicky Forster had the Royals ahead in the away leg of their semi-final clash with Wolves.
But two goals in the final 15 minutes saw the Molyneux outfit take the advantage, before a late Alex Rae effort in the second-leg booted Reading out of the play-offs.
There’s a theme developing here.
Six years – and two seasons in the Premier League later – Reading were back in the play-offs once more.
Once again they finished above the side who would knock them out, this time in the shape of Burnley.
The late hammer blows continued too with Graham Alexander’s 84th-minute penalty proving the winner in the first-leg at Turf Moor.
And the Royals couldn’t turn it around at the Madejski, as two second-half efforts put the Clarets out of sight and en route to Wembley.
So, there we go. Reading’s four play-off entries have ended in four play-off – including two in the final – and each time to a side who finished below them in the regular season.
Little wonder Huddersfield are 4/6 favourites to go up this Monday.
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