Reading 1-0 Wigan: Royals secure play-off spot as Latics are relegated
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 29/04/17 6:52pm
Reading secured a place in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs with a jittery 1-0 victory against Wigan at the Madejski Stadium.
The result also meant Wigan were relegated to League One after just one season in the second tier.
Reading went in front early on when leading marksman Yann Kermorgant nodded in his 17th goal of the campaign. Wigan battled gamely but a succession of missed opportunities, mostly by striker Nick Powell, cost them dearly.
Reading went into the match needing just one point to secure their place in the play-offs for the first time in six years.
Wigan required a win to stand any chance of avoiding the drop - and results elsewhere to go in their favour, too.
Reading threatened early on, with Wigan goalkeeper Matt Gilks having to make a smart save from a firm cross-cum-shot from Garath McCleary.
However, Gilks was powerless to prevent Reading from going ahead in only the sixth minute. McCleary exchanged passes with Liam Kelly at a short-corner routine and his well-flighted cross was nodded in powerfully by Kermorgant.
Wigan replied positively and, after an error by Kelly, Michael Jacobs' low drive was easily saved by home keeper Ali Al Habsi. However, their momentum was halted in unfortunate fashion when midfielder Shaun MacDonald came off worse in a 50-50 block tackle with George Evans.
After a nine-minute delay, he was taken straight out of the stadium - on a stretcher - and to hospital.
Wigan did not let his premature departure affect them and responded mainly through the efforts of Powell. Three times he had chances to hit the target, with Al Habsi saving two of his efforts. The other sailed high over the crossbar.
Further injuries to McCleary and Wigan's Reece Burke, both of whom received treatment before being replaced, resulted in 13 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Wigan opened brightly in the second period and should have equalised when Jamie Hanson crossed deep into the home area.
But substitute Callum Connolly, all alone at the far post, managed only to find the side-netting with his header. A mistake by Lewis let in the ever-alert Powell but he drove straight across the face of the home goal with no team-mate on hand to touch it in.
Reading were content to hold on to their slender advantage but they did so increasingly nervously. Max Power could have punished them but his ambitious 25-yard shot flew tamely wide and Reading duly clinched their top-six spot.
Reading boss Jaap Stam:
"That level today was not good enough for the play-offs. We need to step up, we need to do better. We've haven't done today what we can do. For what reason, I don't know. Every game in the play-offs is totally different than what it can be in the league and it's already a big achievement for us that we're up there.
"There's no pressure on us. You've got to give it your best shot and that's what we're going to do. For us, it was important that we made the play-offs now. It was not an easy game and we knew that would be the case. We were playing against a side that were fighting for their lives.
"We started well, aggressively and going forward. But we slowed down after our goal when we needed to keep on going."
Wigan interim boss Graham Barrow:
"At the end of the game, I was disappointed because I wanted to take it to the last weekend. But results went against us elsewhere as well. I thought we could stay up, I knew it was a long shot, and I was quite proud of the performance today. But obviously the finishing touch was not there.
"The lads have been great for me but clearly it hasn't been enough to keep us up. There are things we'll have to look at internally, which haven't been right, and that's fact. We are where we are, the table tells no lies."