Swansea booked their place in the Sky Bet Championship play-offs and ended Reading’s top-six hopes despite being forced to settle for a 2-2 draw at the Madejski Stadium.
With the Royals now only able to reach a maximum of 75 points, their hopes of finishing in the top six are over, with Bournemouth and Barnsley joining the Swans in booking their place in the play-offs.
Yakou Meite set Veljko Paunovic’s men on their way with a neat header (31), but the introduction of Andre Ayew changed the game for the visitors and he played a key role in Jamal Lowe’s equaliser (67), before completing the turnaround himself (83).
A strike from Tomas Esteves deep into second-half stoppage-time gave Reading hope of a late winner, but it proved to be too little, too late as their play-off hopes crumbled with two games left to play.
How Swansea booked a play-off spot at Reading’s expense
Following an indifferent month or so, Reading – who had been top of the Championship until early November – knew that only a win on home soil would keep their play-off hopes intact ahead of the final two rounds of fixtures.
It was almost a nightmare start, when Ben Cabango headed Lowe’s searching cross narrowly wide inside two minutes. From that moment, there appeared to be a hesitancy to get forward from the hosts, with a predictability about their play when they did.
That changed when Meite gave them an important lead just after the half-hour mark. Starting just nine days after dislocating his shoulder, Royals talisman Lucas Joao fed Swift, who sprayed a cross into the box for the Ivory Coast international to get the better of Jake Bidwell and angle a header past Freddie Woodman.
There was no immediate sense of panic from the Swans, though they had Woodman to thank for keeping them in the game when he beat away a shot from Joao after the striker seized on a loose ball in midfield.
The visitors were spritely after the break, however. Liam Cullen headed across the face of goal minutes after the restart and with 23 minutes left to play, they levelled when substitute Ayew set Jay Fulton free on the left, with the midfielder forcing a save from Rafael, who spilled the shot and allowed Jamal Lowe to slot home.
Reading were unfortunate not to win a penalty when Joao was bundled to the deck by Fulton, and with 83 minutes on the clock, they were dealt a crushing blow when Ayew controlled Bidwell’s cross with one touch and slammed home with a second.
Lowe spurned the chance to kill the game off when he ran clear and rattled the base of the left-hand upright in the closing stages, meaning Esteves’ low strike forced a tense finale. It was, however, not to be for the Royals.
Man of the match – Andre Ayew
What the managers said…
Reading’s Veljko Paunovic: “I believe there is nothing to comfort our disappointment today, but on the other side, we have to look at so many positives and a great season that the team has had. Evolution in our game, in our mentality, in our identity is obvious.
“Even though we didn’t reach our goal to secure a top-six place, we gave it all and today we proved it once again. We played until the end and were always looking for the win. Everyone has to acknowledge the hard work and be proud of the group we assembled this year, but today it was a hard price to pay, to see our play-off chances vanish. I’m very proud of our team, of the work and of the effort.”
Swansea’s Steve Cooper: “I’m satisfied, of course. We were really happy with the game, despite being 1-0 down at half-time as there wasn’t much in the game. They took the lead but the message was to keep going, be a little bit braver with our play, our passing, our positional play and it would come – and it did.
“We’re a little disappointed not to win the game as that’s what you want to do but if there’s ever a game to be happy or satisfied with the draw then this is it.
“We’ve cemented our place in the play-offs. I don’t really want to call it an achievement because our club is bigger than that and it’s had a lot of history that has gone way beyond getting to the play-offs. At the same time, in the current world, a lot of teams invest a lot of money in this league. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to do that, but certainly over the two years I’ve been here, to think that we are competing at the right end of the table is all credit to the players.
“We might not have a massive squad or a lot of strength in depth but spirit, style and pride to play for a football club is in abundance.”
Both teams are next in action on Saturday, May 1 at 3pm. Reading travel to Carrow Road to take on Norwich, while Swansea host Derby at the Liberty Stadium.