On paper, with Reading preoccupied with their upcoming semi-final and generally not very good, this was the easiest of our remaining fixtures, but it didn't work out that way. To start with Steve Clarke didn't play ball by putting out a weakened side, and to their credit his players certainly didn't play as if they were keeping anything in reserve for Arsenal on Saturday.
For the first ten minutes things did go to plan as Bournemouth started at a high tempo, moved the ball around well and got an early reward as Surman's shot from inside the "D" came back off the post and Wilson collected the rebound and scored with ease. Then Reading started to adopt the Brighton pressing tactics, making it harder for us to play out from the back and through midfield, with the additional factor that unlike Brighton they weren't completely lacking in penetration themselves. There was an early sign of problems ahead as Mackie got on the end of a cross from our right with a volley from six yards out. I was expecting to see the net bulge, but Boruc produced the save of the season, showing great reactions to knock the ball up with his right hand and then catch it as it dropped back to him as he sat on the ground.
Bournemouth were more in the game than during the first half at Brighton, but the passing and movement still were not at the rarefied level we have become used to. Kermorgant was just wide with a header from Pugh's cross, but it was Reading who came closest to scoring when Cook cleared off the line from Chalobah's header.
We were happy enough to get to half time ahead with the hope that we might yet rediscover our best form, but it never happened - tiredness, injuries and the pressure of being so close to achieving something remarkable all no doubt contributing to the drop in performance. The second half was high on industry from both sides but low on quality in the final third, although Ritchie almost picked out the top corner with a long range curler that brushed the roof of the net. There was more entertainment from the interaction between the two sets of supporters than on the pitch. "Where were you when you were sh*t" enquired Reading. Playing you at Elm Park we replied, followed by anatomically improbable suggestions as to what they could do with Wembley.
With ten minutes to go we opted, or more likely were forced, to adopt a purely defensive approach, and it did not make for comfortable viewing. Reading threw everything they had into a desperate attempt to grab an equaliser and seemed to have us defending with all eleven in and around the box for most of the time. Wave after wave of attacks were repelled by a combination of determination and luck - perhaps just as well it was at the far end and we couldn't see precisely how close we may have come to conceding. After five minutes of added time that seemed to go on for a week the referee blew the final whistle, and four thousand away fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Although the result is far more important than the performance at this stage, you can't help feeling that we will need to get a lot closer to our best form if we are to get the results we need in the remaining games.
Man of the Match: The back four produced heroics at time, Simon Francis just shades it for providing some attacking threat as well.
AFCB: Boruc, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh, Kermorgant, Wilson
Subs: Camp, Gosling, Pitman (for Kermorgant, 75 mins), Smith (for Pugh, 69 mins), Fraser, Ward, Jones (for Wilson, 90 mins)
Richard Barker, Leyton