Every now and again, life throws a crazy, crazy football game at you - and you just have to hope that Reading are on the right end of the scoreline. As lucky would have it, that's how the Royals found themselves today, with a topsy-turvy game at The Valley capped by Deniss Rakels' 92nd minute winner.
Brian McDermott showed faith in the side that beat Rotherham 1-0 in midweek by picking it again. Al-Habsi, Gunter, McShane, Cooper and Obita were the back five, with a midfield three of Norwood, Hector and Quinn. Kermorgant started on his own up top again, with Robson-Kanu and John out wide. On the subs' bench, Danny Williams made his return from injury.
The first half
The game started pretty well for Reading, with the first chance of the game going to Stephen Quinn. Having received the ball on the edge of the box from Ola John, Irishman saw his shot crash against the bar. Several minutes later however, Ola John's trickery on the left wing was followed by a sumptuous cross onto the head of Yann Kermorgant, who headed home into the bottom corner.
The Royals looked comfortable at that early stage and were growing into the game, but a slack moment soon after cost them. Yaya Sanogo was slipped through on goal in the inside right channel, and slotted home past Ali Al-Habsi. From then on in, the home side clawed back ground, spurning chances through Sanogo, Gudmonsson and Makienok.
Kermorgant had seemingly put Reading back into the lead midway through the half with a beautiful 40 yard strike, only to see it ruled out for a handball in the build-up. However, he did later get his second. Hal Robson-Kanu fed the ball into the Frenchman in the inside left channel on the edge of the box, with Kermorgant curling a shot into the far top corner. Paul McShane went close with a set piece header, but Ola John made no mistake with his chance. The Dutchman went through on goal, slotting the ball past Stephen Henderson.
The second half
By all accounts, Reading were the dominant side at that stage. Having weathered some early pressure from Sanogo and others, the back four were looking comfortable. Quinn and Norwood were instrumental in the middle, and John was having a field day on the left wing. That continued into the second half with a bright restart to the game - John and Robson-Kanu going close with shots from range.
Down the other end, Arsenal loanee Sanogo added a second that turned the game. The striker found space - too much space - in the six yard area to head home. After that, it was effectively a re-run of the infamous Fulham game. Reading's attack didn't get going, and the defence was far from comfortable, with Al-Habsi called on on several occasions to keep the score at 3-2. With seven minutes to go, the inevitable looking goal finally came, when Al-Habsi's clawed save put the ball into the path of Sanogo - who completed his hat trick.
To their credit, the away side finally managed to dig in and moved onto the attack in the closing stages. And they got their winner from a Jordan Obita free kick - the set piece was whipped across the box from wide on the left, with Deniss Rakels tucking home from close range at the far post.
It's hard not to see the parallels between this game and the Fulham one. On each occasion, the Royals looked very comfortable going into half time against pretty average sides, and somehow managed to throw the lead. However, to their credit, Reading's heads didn't drop this time. Even at 3-3, with only a few minutes to go, the belief that they could still grab the win was evident. Was it a pretty win? No, certainly not - but it'll pump so much confidence into the dressing room nonetheless.
We'll have more post-match analysis on this game in the coming days, so stay tuned to The Tilehurst End.
Al-Habsi; Gunter, McShane, Cooper, Obita; Norwood (Williams), Hector, Quinn (Rakels); Robson-Kanu, Kermorgant, John (McCleary).