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Title THE curtain came down on one of the most miserable home seasons in Reading's history with yet another defeat. Brentford were the tenth visiting team to win at the Mad Stad in 2014/15, while the Royals themselves won only eight times. Royals fan Chris Lee pointed out on Facebook that the starting eleven in this game had scored just ten goals between them, and that lack of finishing power showed through over and over again.
As usual, Reading had most of the play, but just couldn't finish and ended up losing yet again to a fairly average team. Brentford have had a great season on limited resources, but they rely as much on enthusiasm, organisation and confidence as pure talent. They got the early goal which topped up that confidence level for them and added a second midway through the second half when Royals were looking well set for an equaliser. After that it all petered out, and the summer can't come soon enough for Steve Clarke to start his squad shuffle.
Clarke admitted he was disappointed for the fans, and pointed the finger straight at lack of a cutting edge up front as the reason for another needless defeat. The Player of the Year award went to Adam Federici, the fifth club goalkeeper to do so. As we predicted, the runners-up were Jamie Mackie and Michael Hector.
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------------------------------------- WITH any lingering fear of relegation gone, this was supposed to be the night when the Royals started their build-up for next season - but the Mad Stad faithful will hope this was in no way an indication of how 2015/16 will pan out. Reading, with an experimental, but promising-looking line-up, dominated for long periods of a basically dreary match, but fell to a sucker punch two minutes from the end. A harmless-looking cross from the left found Clayton Donaldson unmarked for a near-post header out of Adam Federici's reach.
Feds, the fall-guy at Wembley, got a warm reception from a sympathetic crowd, and made a couple of decent saves - but at the other end, Darren Randolph was the busier of the two, keeping out Jamie Mackie and Nathaniel Chalobah in particular. The most urgent thing over the summer will be to find a 20-goal striker, because so many times in this medoicre season Reading have paid the full price for not taking chances when in charge of the game. Instead, for the second week running, and the umpteenth time this season, the fans were left to reflect on another midweek stumble.
Royals boss Steve Clarke was as disappointed as anyone else with the second home smash-and-grab defeat in eight days, but still found some crumbs of comfort. Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Dutch defender Nathan Aké, who has been on loan at Reading for the past month, has returned to Stamford Bridge - with a message of thanks to the Royals. Aké played his last game for the club against Birmingham - here is the Match Picture Gallery.
WHEN Reading FC manager Steve Clarke said his team had a real chance of reaching the FA Cup final for the first time ever by knocking over the mighty Arsenal, very few believed him. Not even the most Loyal Royal among the 32,000 Reading fans at Wembley for the semi-final dared to dream that dream. Arsenal, after all, are acknowledged as the best pure footballing side in the country, and came into the game on the back of eight straight wins, including battering Liverpool. But Reading took them all the way to halfway through added time before they finally succumbed - and then only on the back of a tragic error. Goalkeeper Adam Federici, the club's longest-serving player, and truly loyal servant, made the worst howler of his distinguished career to gift Arsenal the goal which finally tipped the scales right at the end of the first period of extra time.
Alexis Sanchez, who earlier had given Arsenal the lead, cut in from the left and drove the ball hard and low at the near post. It should have been a routine save, but instead it slithered right through the Aussie keeper's legs and just over the line. It was an absolute tragedy for him and a team which had given so much to exceed all expectations. Arguably, Arsenal were lucky to achieve extra time. On 54 minutes, Garath McCleary had equalised the first Sanchez goal, which had come just before the break. G-Mac's bobbling volley from Pavel Pogrebnyak's left wing cross bobbled out of Wojciech Szczesny's grasp and over the line. And Reading went on to dominate the half.
For someone like Reading to get a result against a team of Arsenal's elite quality they not only need to play superbly well, but also to get a fair crack from the referee and linesmen. They didn't get that on three key occasions. In the first half, at 0-0, Jamie Mackie was flagged offside on a clear run to goal and it was a wrong decision. In the second half, at 1-1, Pogrebnyak was played clear on goal and flagged offside - another wrong decision. Still at 1-1, Hal Robson-Kanu cut in from the left, and his cross was blocked by the arm of Mathieu Debuchy inside the penalty area. It rebounded to HRK who tried to cross again, and again it was blocked by the arm of Debuchy. Unfortunately it was on a half of the pitch with no linesman, and referee Martin Atkinson must have been unsighted, because the second one, certainly, looked a nailed-on penalty.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger hinted that Reading's "aggression" upset his players, a view scoffed at by the BBC TV panel of Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Ian Wright and Jason Roberts, who were unanimous that the day, if not the result, belonged to Reading. In fairness, Arsenal hit the woodwork twice, but considering the quality of their attackers, enormous credit is due to Reading for the way they handled them. So it was a third successive gallant Wembley defeat for the club after the 1995 and 2011 play-off finals. The saddest sight, though, at the end, was Adam Federici breaking down in tears and being comforted by the Reading coaching staff. Of all the people to blow the club's chance of a first-ever FA Cup final it had to be him. REACTIONS AND COMMENTS from the two managers. MATCH GALLERY from the RFC website.