Cardiff crushed by Long double as Reading head for Wembley

Cardiff City 0 Reading 3 (Reading win 3-0 on aggregate)
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The Independent Football

Brian McDermott says he has been Wembley's nearly man in the past, but the Reading manager is intent on consigning those disappointments to history in 12 days' time following his side's semi-final victory over Cardiff City last night.

The Royals strolled into the Championship play-off final against Swansea City at the home of English football on 30 May after a brace from Shane Long and a late strike from ex-Cardiff midfielder Jobi McAnuff. McDermott, also a former Bluebird player who helped the Welsh outfit win promotion 23 years ago, says he will celebrate by travelling to Dublin for tonight's Europa League final between Portuguese clubs Porto and Braga.

McDermott said: "I went to Wembley with Arsenal in 1978, 1979 and 1980 but never played, then I missed out with Oxford United in 1986, an FA Trophy with Southport and semi-finals against Aston Villa and Manchester City. So you could say it's not my lucky ground.

"To go out there with the team is a great delight for me, the players and the supporters. The players produced a terrific performance and Wembley is a fitting place for the final."

With Swansea already assured of a Wembley berth a night earlier, all the pressure and focus was on Cardiff – who had lost Craig Bellamy to injury – to ensure an all-Welsh final and, in so doing, the first Welsh members of the Premier League.

Reading almost took the lead in the second minute when Shane Long beat Jlloyd Samuel down the right, but he fired wastefully into the side-netting.

Cardiff midfielder Peter Whittingham tested Adam Federici from long-range before Seyi Olofinjana saw his effort blocked by centre-back Matt Mills. The Royals captain came to the rescue once again on 18 minutes when he made a crucial intervention with Michael Chopra ready to release the trigger after a superb through ball by Jay Bothroyd.

England striker Bothroyd then saw a drive deflected past the far post before Dekel Keinan headed straight at Federici from the resulting corner. But, for all that pressure, Cardiff pressed the self-destruct button to hand the visitors a commanding half-time lead with Long on hand twice.

Firstly, Keinan's wild clearance hit defensive partner Kevin McNaughton and rolled towards his own goal. Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater charged off his line but only hit Republic of Ireland striker Long, who took one touch to loft the ball into an empty net.

Then, after Cardiff felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Andy Griffin appeared to push Olofinjana, Long struck again. McAnuff delivered a corner from the right and Webb spotted a clear pull by Israeli defender Keinan on Mills and pointed to the spot. Long stepped up and coolly sent Bywater the wrong way from 12 yards before McAnuff put the final nail in the coffin.

McDermott added: "Shane is the best striker in the Championship. He felt he did not play well tonight and he was carrying an ankle injury. But he has pace and power and he's had a great season. He only cost us €30,000 back in those days. It was an absolute bargain."

Defeat is a bitter blow for Cardiff, and boss Dave Jones having failed in the play-offs last season as well.

The result will increase question marks over Jones' future. He said: "I love my job and I don't want to give it up. I certainly have the drive and passion to continue. But it might not be a decision by the owners. Who knows, it might be me. I am a dignified man and tonight is not about me. I want to assess it in the cold light of day. I will speak to the owners in the next couple of days and take stock of my position then."

Cardiff City (4-4-2): Bywater; Blake, Keinan, McNaughton (capt), Samuel (Matthews, 68); Burke, Olofinjana, Whittingham, Emmanuel-Thomas (Koumas, 60); Chopra (Parkin, 64), Bothroyd. Substitutes not used: Heaton (gk), Naylor, Rae, Hudson.

Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Griffin, Mills (capt), Khizanishvili, Harte; Cummings, Leigertwood, Karacan (Tabb, 90), McAnuff; Long (Church, 87), Hunt. Substitutes not used: McCarthy, Gunnarsson, Howard, Pearce, Manset

Referee Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).

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