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60 Second Report: Sheffield Wednesday 0-2 Reading FC

Al Habsi heroics help Royals claim massive victory at play-off rivals

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, Loovens (Nuhiu, '88), Fox, Buckley, Jones (McManaman, '60), Bannan, Reach, Rhodes, Winnall (Fletcher, '77).

Subs: Wildsmith, Fletcher, McManaman, Palmer, Matias, Semedo, Nuhiu.

Reading: Al Habsi; Gunter, Moore, Blackett, Obita; Williams, Van Den Berg; Beerens (Grabban, '62), Swift (Oxford, '90+4), McCleary (Popa, '87); Kermorgant

Subs: Mendes, Meite, Popa, Watson, Oxford, Legg, Watson.

It was Ali Al Habsi who was the star of the show at Hillsborough, as Reading took a massive step towards securing a spot in the Championship Playoffs with arguably their most significant victory of the season against sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday.

If the pressure was on the Royals following their successive away defeats at Preston, Huddersfield and Brighton, they certainly did not show it in the early stages, with both Danny Williams and Yann Kermorgant having sights at goal. Continuing to press, the visitors were rewarded for their early pressure upon thirteen minutes thanks to brilliant finish from their talismanic French striker Kermorgant. An early ball through from John Swift allowed the Frenchman to turn, before drilling a left-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner of Keiren Westwood's net.

The Royals however immediately found themselves on the defensive, as a rejuvenated Wednesday side sprang into life in search of an equaliser. Both Sam Winnall and Adam Reach went close before Morgan Fox struck the post on twenty-three minutes, as Reading attempted to protect their lead. The onslaught was not finished there, as Middlesborough loanee Jordan Rhodes drew an outstanding save out of Ali Al-Habsi with a powerful, close-range header on 35 minutes. With the first half drawing to a close, Kermorgant had a half-chance to double the Royals advantage, but he couldn't connect strongly enough with Chris Gunter's cross, meaning it remained 1-0 at the break.

The home side came out fighting at the beginning of the second period, pressing the Reading backline from the off. Carlos Carvajal demonstrated his attacking intent with the early introduction of Callum McManaman in place of David Jones on the hour mark, whilst Jaap Stam in turn also made a change, with the like-for-like switch of Lewis Grabban for Roy Beerens.

The game became increasingly stretched coming into the last twenty minutes of the action. Al Habsi once again was required to keep out a Rhodes header from close range, whilst at the other end Swift almost finished off a clever, jinking run with a goal, but his effort just glimpsed past the Wednesday post. Minutes later, it was the Royals scrambling at the back again with Liam Moore clearing McManaman's effort off the line, before a rapid break saw Kermorgant fizzle a beautiful low ball across the Wednesday six-yard box, but none of the Reading front line were able to make a connection.

Entering the final five minutes, the Royals were once again calling upon the brilliance of Al Habsi, as they desperately tried to cling on to a precious away win. With their goal under siege from a succession of Wednesday attacks, the Omani international first pulled off a stunning double save, before keeping out Will Buckley with another exceptional stop, as the Royals somehow managed to stay in front.

In desperate search of an equaliser, Sheffield Wednesday threw everything, and indeed everyone, forward, with a ninety-fourth minute corner seeing goalkeeper Keiren Westwood marauding into the Royals box. However, a quick clearance from the Royals' defence saw substitute Adrian Popa break free and run the ball into an empty net to secure an invaluable three points for the Royals. The win moves Reading up into fourth position, six points clear of Fulham in seventh position.