Leeds United 3 Reading 2: Wood double fires Whites into division's top half
LEEDS United moved into the division's top half and guaranteed Championship football next season as Chris Wood's double inspired Saturday's 3-2 success at home to Reading.
The Royals took a 39th-minute lead as non existent marking allowed Chelsea loanee Michael Hector to stroke home but United levelled three minutes after the break when Toumani Diagouraga nodded home Gaetano Berardi’s cross.
United then went ahead after 69 minutes when Charlie Taylor’s fine delivery was met by Wood who this time made no mistake with a free header.
Reading hit back to level with nine minutes left when Deniss Rakels prodded home after Simon Cox’s effort had hit the crossbar.
But United had the last laugh just four minutes later when Reading got themselves in a tangle at the back and Wood raced clear one-on-one with Ali Al Habsi before slotting home his second of the game.
Whites head coach Steve Evans made one change to the team that started at Birmingham City with Giuseppe Bellusci replacing Sol Bamba at centre-back.
Bamba had twisted his ankle in Tuesday night’s win at Birmingham but missed out due to a virus in the Leeds camp that also ruled out Tom Adeyemi.
With Mustapha Carayol and Liam Bridcutt both injured and both Alex Mowatt and Souleymane Doukara banned, there were rare places on the Whites bench for Lee Erwin, Casper Sloth, Jordan Botaka and Scott Wootton.
United began brightly with Stuart Dallas blazing a wild effort over before Jake Cooper was in the right place at the right time to clear a curling Mirco Antenucci effort off the line.
But Reading hit back by twice going close themselves with Simon Cox released clean through on goal but denied by Marco Silvestri.
Then, from an 11th-minute Stephen Quinn corner, a mad scramble ended with Michael Hector firing just wide from close range.
Leeds then missed a fine opportunity of their own when Chris Wood squared the ball to Antenucci who was 18 yards out and bearing down on goal but sliced his effort towards the corner flag.
An end to end game then saw Reading threaten when Hector headed another Quinn corner wide and corners then began to dominate the game with the Royals looking more dangerous with theirs.
For Leeds, one sublime piece of play from Dallas saw the winger control the ball in mid-air and then volley a raking pass to Chris Wood but Wood’s cross then sailed out of play.
Reading then went mightily close to taking a 37th-minute lead when Cox attacked the United back-line and unleashed a curling drive that went just wide.
But two minutes later the Royals bagged the goal they had been threatening when Bellusci conceded a free kick on the left flank which was swung into the United area and found an unmarked Hector who fired across Silvestri into the far corner.
The best Leeds could muster in reply was a header from Wood which sailed harmlessly over from a Charlie Taylor cross.
A few boos subsequently rung out after one-minute of injury time but United took just three minutes to level after the break.
Gaetano Berardi found space on the right wing and delivered a peach of a cross into the area which Toumani Diagouarga rose high to nod home.
Then, just two minutes later, Wood went close to quickly bagging United’s second when his diving header from Charlie Taylor’s delivery went just wide.
Two Reading attempts from Lucas Piazon then failed to trouble Silvestri and Evans then brought on Kalvin Phillips for goalscorer Diagouraga with 24 minutes left.
And just three minutes later United took the lead when a perfect cross from Taylor found an unmarked Wood whose header from six yards out just crept in despite the desperate attempts of Ali Al Habsi to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
With Brentford also losing at home to Bristol City, United were heading for the division’s top half but Reading were only denied an equaliser after an instinctive save from Silvestri to keep out a Cooper header with his feet.
But there was no denying the Royals a few minutes later when a Cox effort from inside the area thumped the crossbar but Quinn’s scuffed follow up fell to substitute Deniss Rakels who was totally free from six yards out and easily slotted into the far corner with nine minutes left.
Leeds were furious as the linesman initially gave them a throw in but referee Jeremy Simpson gave the throw to Reading, from which they scored.
But a see-saw game then took one last dramatic twist in the 85th minute when a royal Reading mix-up at the back left Wood clean through on goal and the striker made no mistake in rolling the ball home past Al Habsi.
Reading were given five minutes of injury time to level for a second time but it was Leeds who went closest to bagging the game’s sixth goal when Lewis Cook broke away and fed Wood who fired over in his bid to net a hat-trick.
Leeds United: Silvestri, Berardi, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor, Diagouraga (Phillips 66), Murphy, Cook, Dallas (Coyle 90), Antenucci (Erwin 80), Wood. Subs not used: Peacock-Farrell, Wootton, Sloth, Botaka.
Reading: Al-Habsi, McCleary, Taylor, Cooper, Hector, Evans (Rakels 71), Norwood, Quinn, Piazon, Vydra, Cox. Subs not used: Bond, Ferdinand, John, Kuhl, Watson, Barrett.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire).