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Alternative History: Reading's 2014 Wembley Run

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In a new series for The Tilehurst End, ThatMarcMayo looks back on a world where Nigel Adkins' side made the play-offs in the 2013/14 season, and how it would have all panned out...

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The play-off run of 2013-14 was a memorable one, don't you agree? Oh, you've forgotten it? Well, let me tell you all about it.

Reading 2-2 Burnley

The frantic final few moments of a warm May afternoon at The Madejski began after whispers of a Brighton winner up in Nottingham, with goalkeeper Alex McCarthy among those trying to divert the ball goalwards against the already-promoted Clarets. The final whistle blew, with a minority of excited- and ignorant- Reading fans swarming the pitch. No word was heard from The City Ground until the feed from Sky Sports was put up on the Mad Stad scoreboard. 2-1 Brighton, it read. But, Brighton's mercurial winger Kazenga Lua-Lua was receiving treatment after some over-arrogant corner-flag showboating prompted an angry response from Forest captain Andy Reid- who had a bet on. 
Five extra minutes allowed a long hoof upfield, where Forest's defender/winger/striker Greg Halford rose majestically to nod the ball home- the most important action he's ever made for play-off-bound Reading FC.

Reading 0-1 Derby County

A tight affair on the following Thursday saw Reading come closest through Royston Drenthe, the recalled winger rounded the keeper in a late counter-attack before smashing over from a tight angle- despite Adam Le Fondre waiting in the six-yard-box for a tap-in. Incidentally, the Dutchman's instagram video of that chance showed off his dazzling skill, but cut out before the off-target shot. The Rams claimed the victory when Latvian Kaspars Gorkss inexplicably cleared a rolling ball over his shoulder, and into his own net in the 89th minute. At the final whistle, a celebratory Reading crowd invaded the pitch.

Derby County 0-2 Reading

A victory borne out of free-flowing possession football, this was the night Nigel Adkins established himself as a Reading favourite. The first a silky move that saw Hal Robson-Kanu dazzle defenders to set up Pogrebnyak for a tap-in, the second another HRK assist- this time for Nick Blackman. In an odd turn of events, striker Blackman responded by angrily shouting at celebrating Reading fans- this time not on the pitch- about his lack of love he received as a child. Talking after the game, Adkins revealed the tactical nous he provided to spur Robson-Kanu into life: "I told him our game got cancelled and he was playing for Wales, instead." This explained the winger talking up "the greatest player in the world, alongside me" in his post-match interview beside a bemused but flattered Mikele Leigertwood.

Reading 2-3 Wigan Athletic

With QPR fans pre-occupied on gaining a 'glamour tie' against the Royals at Wembley, Uwe Rosler's Wigan slipped through 8-0 on aggregate against Harry Redknapp's earnest group of upcoming stars. The hype around the game was somewhat dampened by the ticket sales of just 17,800- with many blaming the pricing, state of modern football, and general crap support that both club shared.

The game itself was a classic, however, with Reading storming into a 2-0 lead early doors via an Adam Le Fondre double. 'Alfie for England' boasted the shirt that Le Fondre revealed after netting the second. With The Royals 12,000-strong crowd bouncing to the tune of Journey, the big-screen appeared to show a smiling, brunette, 30-something male with an attractive blonde, both sat in the directors box next to John Madejski.

Royls winger Hal Robson-Kanu, who had inexplicably fizzled out after acknowledging that he was actually playing for Reading, then scuffed a shot against the hand of defender Emmerson Boyce and referee Phil Dowd awarded the 34th minute penalty- appearing to drop three years worth of weight off his shoulders in the process. Le Fondre placed a tame penalty at Ali Al-Habsi, and the half-time whistle blew.

Wigan came out all guns blazing in the second-half, with Reading's defenders playing docile passes between themselves somehow ending up in Scott Maloney stealing in to reduce the deficit on 65 minutes. With five minutes left, Jordi Gomez scored against Reading because he always does, and the comeback was sealed by a towering Grant Holt header in injury time, climbing high above Jem Karacan- who had appeared as a substitute despite still being in crutches.
The final whistle blew, and with John Madejski frowning next to an empty seat, a handful of Reading fans staged a celebratory pitch invasion.

What Happened Next...

With a rebuilt reputation for passing football and being so positive about it that it almost hurt, Adkins was tempted back to St Mary's by Southampton to replace Mauricio Pochettino. The ex-physio then went on the guide the Saints to fifth in the league and was later brought into the England set-up by the National Team boss Brendan Rodgers. With the tika-taka revolution underway in Berkshire, Paolo Di Canio was hired as Royals boss, taking the club to 19th before being sacked after a tempestuous four months in charge, and for re-signing Simon Church.