Royals to rule right Wembley affair
Royals to rule right Wembley affair

The play-off experience of Reading’s squad gives them the edge over Huddersfield in Monday’s Championship final clash at Wembley.

Both clubs have been written off at various times this past season and overcame more fancied opponents in the play-off semi-finals.

Reading saw off Fulham 2-1 on aggregate, following up their draw at Craven Cottage with an uncharacteristically tight defensive showing in the home leg.

Coached by one of the best defenders ever to grace the Premier League, Jaap Stam’s side conceded 64 goals in their 46 regular season matches – easily the worst record of any among the top six.

And it’s not as if the Royals compensated by being one of the most potent sides in the other penalty box, scoring just 68 to finish with only a plus four goal difference.

Huddersfield were even worse there – finishing the regular season having scored two fewer than they conceded – the worst goal difference in the top half of the Championship table.

And they didn’t win either of their play-off semi-final clashes against Sheffield Wednesday, going through on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Hillsborough.

Both meetings between the sides this term have been tight, resulting in 1-0 home wins on both occasions, which suggests the Wembley crowd could be in for another goal-shy affair.

Defensive tactics could be to blame, but as history has shown, the threat of potentially losing the most important match of the season – and many of the players’ careers – has led to fear-fuelled football.

Seven of the last ten Championship play-off finals have seen under three goals in the 90 minutes with six of those actually producing less than two.

Play-off experience could be vital in overcoming the fear of failure to produce a top performance and this is where the Royals can fall back on something that the Terriers can’t.

Lewis Grabban played in Norwich’s 2-0 Wembley win over Middlesbrough two years ago and Yann Kermogant exorcised the ghost of his 2010 play-off semi-final penalty fluff by calmly slotting home the winner against Fulham.

Their ability and composure could be vital in putting away one of potentially very few chances created at Wembley, so take Reading to win n/a in a low-scoring match.

It’s also worth noting that the side finishing third have reached the final eight times in the last 10 years and five of those have won the final, so it could be Reading’s year.

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