BURTON ALBION 2-4 READINGBurton Albion and Reading served up a six goal thriller as the Pirelli Stadium bade farewell to its first season of Sky Bet Championship football.
With safety already secured courtesy of Albion's battling 1-1 draw at Barnsley last weekend, few were overly concerned that it was Jaap Stam's Reading side that walked away with all the points having secured a 4-2 victory to head into the end of season play-offs in good form.
The importance of Luke Varney's equaliser at Oakwell last week was put sharply into focus as all of the three sides below Albion in the table won on the final day meaning that without the point at Barnsley, Albion would not be contemplating a return to League One next season.
As it was Joseph Mendes early strike as Albion failed to clear a corner effectively enough was added to by Jordan Obita's magnificent curling effort midway through the half that caught everybody off guard as it bounced in off the inside of the post.
Albion had chances to respond but whilst Reading were enjoying the bounce of the ball inside the penalty area Albion were having no such luck, Michael Kightly steering a shot into the arms of Ali Al-Habsi after excellent work from Will Miller on the right hand side of the penalty area.
The Brewers had looked bright and purposeful in attack after conceding the early opener and the second goal for the Royals, in truth, came somewhat against the run of play with most people, Obita included, surprised to see what must have been a cross, nestle in the back of the net.
Albion continued to probe and Reading's propensity to concede free kicks in and around their box almost cost them their clean sheet although Kightly's quality from free kicks was not quite good enough to seriously test Al-Habsi.
The Omani keeper did produce one fingertip save to push a curling cross just onto the head of Ben Turner who was frustrated to see his header go wide of the post. Kyle McFadzean was also within inches of breaching the Reading goal with a far post header from another corner that could easily have unsettled the Royals defence.
Mendes almost double his tally with the last kick of the first half, the big striker lashing a low shot just wide with the aid of a deflection. Referee Simon Hooper quickly brought the first forty five minutes to a close before the visitors could try and benefit from the resulting corner kick.
Half-time: Burton Albion 0-2 Reading
Reading skipper Paul McShane failed to appear for the second half, replaced by Joey van den Berg and it was Albion who started the second half brightly and on the front foot as they looked for a route back into the game. They thought they had it when Miller found himself in space in the box and fired in an angled drive on 52 minutes. His effort was most certainly heading in but Al-Habsi somehow got something onto the shot to divert it onto the crossbar. It was a real shame for Miller who had enjoyed a very bright game on his last appearance before returning to Tottenham Hotspur.
It looked like it was game over when Yann Kermorgant fired Reading into a three goal lead midway through the second period. Good work by Roy Beerens on the left hand side of the penalty area served the ball up on a plate for the Frenchman who made no mistake from twelve yards.
If anyone thought it was going to be a stroll to victory for Stam's side they were wrong. So many times this season Albion have looked to have an insurmountable mountain to climb only to come back strongly. This game was no different and almost within the blink of an eye Albion had reduced their arrears to just the one goal.
Substitute Lloyd Dyer made deep inroads into the Reading box and was able to pick out Ben TURNER no more than a yard out to turn home his first goal in a yellow shirt. The popular defender's maiden strike was certainly well received by the supporters who have taken him to their hearts this season.
No sooner had Albion celebrated that goal than they were cheering a second. Miller again made good ground down the right and sent in a teasing cross that WOODROW launched himself at to send a bullet header beyond Al-Habsi.
Young Joe Sbarra got his first experience of Championship football and looked comfortable in possession and generally impressing. The diminutive midfielder had shouts for a penalty when he went down in the box under pressure from a Reading defender but it looked as if he was already off balance when the Reading defender sent him to ground.
In what remained an open game it was Reading who scored the final goal of the afternoon as they enjoyed another slice of luck in the Burton box. Kermorgant's header came back off the bar from a corner and when Liam Kelly's shot was blocked substitute Lewis Grabban made sure from close range.
Albion continued to press forwards to give their fans something to shout about and final substitute Luke Varney was unlucky not to add to his goal last week with a shot that cannoned back out off the head of Liam Moore and the experienced striker was also sure he should have had a penalty for van den Berg's clumsy challenge late on.
John Brayford had to make a late headed clearance off his own goalline - almost a trademark event now for the popular central defender before the referee's whistle brought an entertaining game, and an even more entertaining season to a climax.