Manset double revives Reading from hangover

Reading 2 Millwall 2

A hangover is personal – it hurts, but it's essentially your own fault – whereas a £90 million morning-after feeling, the mourning of an eight-figure loss due to a tad of ill fortune, is another matter entirely. It would freeze even the most battle-hardened banker.

Reading have had two months to soothe their fevered brows since their 4-2 defeat to Swansea City in the Championship play-off final at Wembley but yesterday it looked like they had not shaken off that persistent throb. And but for two late goals from Mathieu Manset, a substitute, a full-blown headache might have returned.

John Madejski, the Reading chairman, had urged the need to move on. "No more tears will be shed," he said. "No lingering 'What ifs' or 'If onlys'. No regrets."

As at Wembley, though, Reading had to endure a series of "What might have beens" against a dogged yet limited Millwall side.

Against Swansea, after recovering from 3-0 down at half-time to3-2, Reading struck a post via Jem Karacan: at 3-3, the force would have been with them. Against Millwall, who were fortunate to still be in contention at the interval here, twice more the opposition woodwork was shuddered.

Shortly after Darius Henderson, the former Reading striker, had nodded Millwall in front on 49 minutes, Shane Long thundered a 25-yard effort against David Forde's crossbar. Any watching scouts from free-spending Leicester City might well urge Sven Goran Eriksson to raise his expected £7.5 million bid for the Ireland forward.

And after John Marquis had extended Millwall's lead from close range on 62 minutes, when Adam Federici failed to hold a Liam Trotter cross, the new Reading captain Jobi McAnuff launched a 20-yard missile that smacked Forde's left-hand upright. All those "What ifs" and "If onlys" came flooding back.

While Reading made a storming late run into the play-offs last season, Millwall only flirted with them but fell short to finish ninth. Yesterday they rode their luck in the first half but gradually asserted a semblance of control.

James Henry, another Reading old boy, caused much of the damage but lacked support. It helped the Millwall cause, too, that the multiball system favoured by Reading has now been outlawed by the League and it slowed them down.

Frustration inevitably turned to desperation but with less than five minutes to go, the 68th minute sub Manset lashed in long-range piledriver. No bar or post to keep it out this time. Three minutes later, Jimmy Kebe looped over a cross and in popped Manset to head in.

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