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Madejski Moments: Reading FC 1-1 Cardiff City

It may not have been the best goal the Madejski has ever seen, but it was definitely one of the most exciting. Matt Williams recalls a spine-tingling Boxing Day encounter

Harry Engels

There are some moments in football that just keep you coming back for more. Not games or wins necessarily, just little moments of euphoria that have you hugging strangers, beaming from ear to ear, reminding you why you love the game.

Take the Wembley play off defeat in 2011. It hurt like hell at the time, but whilst the anger and disappointment has now subsided, I can still remember giving my mum (who could at best be described as having a passing interest in Reading) an elated hug when Matt Mills' header went in to reduce the deficit and that maybe, just maybe, we'd go on and complete an unexpected comeback.

Another one of those moments, those moments that still send shivers down your spine just picturing them, occurred on Boxing Day 2008 against a different Welsh side.

I can't recall it being a terrible game. Matches against Cardiff rarely are - they usually bring a bulky and passionate crowd to the Madejski Stadium, which not only raises the players on the pitch but the volume of the Reading fans as well. Put simply, they turn into games you're desperate to win.

And even though the match still being poised at 0-0 after 89 minutes suggests that it wasn't a classic, there had been chances. A cagey first half was complimented by a second half full of passion and grit. Cardiff tested Federici on a number of occasions whilst Reading's battling midfield looked dangerous despite never quite being able to carve out a real chance.

But with less than a minute left on the clock, everything changed. Right in front of the away supporters, Michael Chopra popped up to bundle the ball home and immediately puncture the Christmas cheer of 20,000 Royals. This game had a draw written all over it, how could we throw it away right at the death?

At least, that's what most people thought we'd done. And dejected, more than a few headed for the exit. Those that stayed behind were treated to one of the most glorious moments that football can throw up.

Deep into injury time, and with Reading throwing the kitchen sink, the oven and the microwave too at Cardiff's goal, a corner was won.

Adam Federici didn't need asking twice. Like a kid being told he's going to Disneyland for Christmas, he bounded wide-eyed up to the opposition penalty box to try and force an equaliser.

Federici wasn't your typical lumbering goalkeeper, looking awkward and out of place up the other end of the pitch. Indeed I remember during one half time kickabout away at Middlesborough during our initial Premiership years that a friend I'd brought along observed Federici showing off some fancy footwork and remarking "he clearly fancies himself as a bit of a player too."

At the time I took great delight in informing him that Feds had in fact once played outfield for Reading in a friendly at Bromley, and ended up scoring.

But not for a minute did I expect to see it happen in a competitive game.

When it did come, the goal was magnificent. Not a world-class finish, but a moment of sheer ecstasy that very few last minute winners will ever top. The bruise I picked up on my shin during the celebrations will back that up.

The ball came in from the right and approximately 22 players threw themselves towards the ball. While all others fell to the floor around him, Michael Duberry planted a firm header towards goal. As a man adopted by Cardiff fans as a bit of a pantomime villain, Duberry was obviously more keen than most to grab the equaliser.

But it wasn't to be - Duberry's header could only be directed at a the chest of a Cardiff defender on the goal line, who somehow managed to keep it out. The ball ricochet out towards the throng of bodies on the floor, and, perhaps thanks to his experience of recovering from a dive quickly to try and make another save (something Steve Coppell would point out afterwards), it was Federici who got to his feet first to blast the ball home.

Cue pandemonium. Both sets of fans were in disbelief, for very different reasons. Suddenly it was the home end going crazy, and the away fans feeling a sense of injustice. Indeed with the Cardiff fans taking the circumstances with their usual good grace, the police were even forced to line up their horses on the pitch in front of the South Stand afterwards.

The 2009/10 ultimately finished in disappointment. A team in transition spluttered it's way into the play offs, succumbing meekly in the semi-finals to a Burnley side with more cohesion, shape and momentum.

But even the most dire of seasons contain elements of unbridled joy (unless perhaps, if you were a Derby fan during THAT season), moments that will live long in the memory and are, I suppose, why we all end up coming back for more every week.

A goalkeeper thundering home a last minute equaliser to silence a tribe a gloating Cardiff fans has got to be one of the best examples you could ever find.