A strong crowd of over 25,000 turned out to see the Blues march on to victory, helped by a following of 4,000 Reading fans who bought just as many inflatables to celebrate their return to the Premier League after a four year absence. But it was Blues who were the ones celebrating when man of the match Nathan Redmond put on a delightful performance and helped to set up the first goal, sliding the ball into Rooney’s path who scored after just five minutes of being on the pitch, after replacing Nikola Zigic who limped off with an injury. A well-earned lead for the side who stayed on top for most of the first half.
The away side almost got themselves back into it in the second half when Pablo Ibanez climbed over Alex Pearce and a penalty was awarded. But confident Colin Doyle smartly saved Ian Harte’s penalty; not the first time this season the Ireland born shot-stopper has stepped up to the mark and saved Blues.
Blues were then awarded with their own penalty just ten minutes later for a blatant hand ball. After some discussion Wade Elliott grabbed the ball and took the spot kick, sealing victory for Blues with just fifteen minutes left to play. Another penalty was than awarded but this time Elliott couldn’t get the better of Adam Federici, just before the full time whistle was blown.
As Reading players and fans celebrated what has been a mammoth season for them, Blues were also in the party mood after news came through of a 2-2 draw at The Den, meaning they had finished 4th in the league.
With off the field issues and a cloud of financial uncertainty over the club since last summer, the team has done remarkably well to pull off a fantastic season all round. From the group stages of the Europa League, to a marvelous FA Cup run – most notably drawing at Stamford Bridge – as well as a steady league run where they peaked at just the right time to finish in the play-off places, Chris Hughton deserves all the plaudits he gets for getting everyone to pull together in the right direction.
On a shoe string budget – and that’s seriously shoe string; the only money spend was on transfer deadline day for Ibanez and Elliott – Hughton and his staff have managed to exceeded expectations and put together a team oozing with attacking finesse and astute defending. In fact, it was our goal difference which helped us mathematically seal the play-offs against Brighton last week: when was the last time our goal difference helped us do anything positive?
It has been a thoroughly enjoyable season for all; I can’t think of a season where there’s been next to nothing to moan or complain about, and that’s solely due to the wonderful football we are watching and the committed players who are doing everything to try and get this club back in the Premier League. I have no idea where the club will be this time next month but you can bet all the money you have that they will fight for promotion, like they have been doing all season, to the very last. Starting with an away trip to Bloomfield Road on Friday, where earlier on in the season Blues managed a 2-2 draw with a late Nikola Zigic goal earning his side a deserved point.
The play-offs are the cruelest way to lose but the best way to get promoted; so let’s take a chance and see if we can have another memorable date at Wembley.