09:06AM, Tuesday 30 May 2017
READING boss Jaap Stam attempted to put a brave face on his side's heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat to Huddersfield in the Championship play-off final at Wembley yesterday.
After 120 goalless and uninspiring minutes under the arch the contest went to spot-kicks and it was the Terriers who booked their place in the Premier League after a 4-3 victory.
The shoot-out had looked to be going the Royals way when Ali Al Habsi pulled off the first penalty save to deny Huddersfield's Helefe and Liam Kelly netted to make it 3-1. But Liam Moore blasted his spot kick over the bar and Danny Ward saved from Jordan Obita before Christoper Schindler stroked home the decisive kick.
“It is always hard when you lose,” said Stam.
“What we have achieved this season is great. We have made great progress this season, getting into the top six and reaching the final.
“When you get to the final, you want to do all you can to win it.
"I think the boys have been working hard all season. They’ve given everything in every game to reach this final. You have to take risks to win games but you can also understand that both teams didn’t want to because of what was on the game.
“It was very hard because of the totally different occasion. We worked our way through it, worked hard, got to the penalty shoot-out and from then it is a lottery. You can’t create that kind of atmosphere and tension in training.”
Huddersfield had the game's best chances in normal time, with Izzy Brown missing an open goal from a few yards out in the opening 10 minutes, but Stam's men gradually eased their way back into contention and Garath McCleary sent a good chance just wide of the post in the first half of extra-time.
Stam reflected: “It’s hard to lose this game. It’s not so hard for myself. I feel bad for the players. I am a small part of this club and it is the players that need to do it – to give us success.
“I know what they have put in to get here and how eager they were to get to the Premier League. I feel bad for them. As a sportsman, of course, you want to win but the way the players put everything into the season, I feel bad for them.
“It needs to strengthen you. At the moment, it is difficult but you need to take this experience into the next occasion. The good players do that.”
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