Burton 2-4 Reading: Royals finish third
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 07/05/17 3:23pm
First-half goals from Joseph Mendes and Jordan Obita set Reading on their way to a third-place finish in the Sky Bet Championship as they won 4-2 on their first ever visit to the Pirelli Stadium.
When Yann Kermorgant made it three midway through the second half it seemed a stroll towards a two-legged semi-final with Fulham for the men from Berkshire.
However, a determined fightback from the Brewers, thanks to goals from Ben Turner and Cauley Woodrow, kept the Royals fighting for victory to the very end.
Reading substitute Lewis Grabban eventually guaranteed victory for the Royals from close range on 85 minutes after Stephen Bywater had denied Liam Kelly.
Mendes gave Jaap Stam's side a third-minute lead, bundling in Kelly's chipped ball into the box having seen Bywater make an excellent save to deny him just moments earlier from a headed effort.
Albion, despite conceding the early goal looked bright in attack although the ball was not falling as kindly for them as it did for Mendes' opener.
It was somewhat harsh on Nigel Clough's side when Reading doubled their advantage after 21 minutes through something of a fluke.
Kelly worked the ball out to the right-hand side where Obita was still positioned having taken a corner moments earlier. The winger sent in a curling left-footed cross that to everyone's surprise clipped the inside of the post and bounced in.
Burton's best chance in the first half fell to on-loan winger Michael Kightly who only found the waiting arms of Ali Al-Habsi from the centre of the penalty area.
Al-Habsi was having an excellent afternoon in the Reading goal. A fingertip on a Kightly cross was just enough to prevent Turner from putting his header on target and Tottenham loanee Will Miller was denied the second goal of his Burton spell by an excellent save from the Omani on 52 minutes as Albion started the second half very much on the front foot.
Kermorgant's strike on 64 minutes finally seemed to have put the game beyond Clough's men, a clever run from Roy Beerens teeing up the Frenchman for a clinical finish from 12 yards.
A tap in from Turner on 69 minutes gave the popular Burton defender his first goal in Albion colours. The big centre back could hardly miss as substitute Lloyd Dyer tricked his way deep into the six-yard box before serving the ball up on a plate to spoil Al-Habsi's clean sheet.
When Woodrow headed home on 72 minutes from Milller's cross it set up a close finish. The Fulham loanee was in the perfect place to power home inside Al-Habsi's near post but Grabban's late goal from a goalmouth scramble sealed victory for the Royals.
Burton boss Nigel Clough:
"I thought we deserved more than a defeat from the game. We played well throughout the game. The first goal was messy and a bit scrappy early on but the second goal was as good as you will see all season.
"With all the other results going the way that they did today it just goes to show how massively important that point was for us at Barnsley a week ago."
Reading boss Jaap Stam:
"We have always been confident in what we are doing. It is always nicer when you can go into the play-offs with a win. We are very happy. It is going to be two very interesting games against Fulham now. They are a very good side but so are we.
"Burton made us work hard for it. We knew that with it being their last home game they wanted a result and they made it difficult for us. I thought we scored four very good goals today to win the game. We always look to play a passing game but sometimes, like we did today, we chose to drop in deep a bit more and then come out on the break to score goals and we did that very well today."