MATT CROOKS was the hero as he led Middlesbrough to a late comeback win over Reading.
It was the third game in a row that Chris Wilder’s side won in extra time and extended their unbeaten streak to seven.
Andy Carroll thinks he won it for the Royals as potentially his final appearance for them with the opening goal in the 68th minute.
The towering midfielder, 33, is now a free agent after his short-term contract with the Royals expired and Burnley is considering a move.
But Reading was denied as the Crooks leveled late before he grabbed the winner in the 95th minute as the playoffs pushed Boro on.
Wilder said: “I 100% want to have a relaxed afternoon but this is the Championship and it doesn’t work that way.
“The introduction of the bench and the quality of the bench now compared to what it was gives us the opportunity to get back into the game and find a winner.”
Having just been led 7-0 by Fulham, the visitors let Boro down and got their first chance when Junior Hoilett shot from long distance.
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Boro team captain Jonny Howson was nearly deflected then disaster nearly struck the Royals.
Andraz Sporar’s effort went past Luke Southwood and then touched Josh Laurent before narrowing the ball wide of the post.
Hoilett made a successful save and Boro’s debutant Aaron Connolly hit a shot from 25 yards.
The Brighton man missed two more times before the break, with Reading wanting a penalty after Laurent appeared to be thwarted by Anfernee Dijksteel.
Chris Wilder introduced new signing Folarin Balogun from the bench but within seconds they fell behind.
Tom Dele-Bashiru’s deep cross put Carroll ahead of Paddy McNair and Neil Taylor headed into the far corner.
The crook then cut wide but Southwood was powerless to stop him going home from Marcus Tavernier’s cross with six minutes left.
Then, with just seconds left, he hit another header from Jones’ ball past Southwood to spark wild celebrations and plunge Reading deep into trouble.
On Carroll, Royals coach Veljko Paunovic said: “It is a technical problem that his contract expires today but that does not mean he is leaving.
“His performances during his time with us will provide an opportunity for him but in my conversation with him I just felt that he looks forward to staying with us from the end. together.
“It’s also a footballing opportunity for him but hopefully he stays.”
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https://www.thesun.ie/sport/football/8211852/boro-reading-championship-andy-carroll-matt-crooks/ Matt Crooks scores twice in late comeback after Andy Carroll’s Burnley transfer target opened the scoring