SHANE Long is hoping to top his Player of the Season award by firing Reading to promotion.

The 24-year-old striker was the runaway winner in the club's official, Chronicle-sponsored awards after an outstanding season.

The Republic of Ireland star has rattled in 23 goals this term including 21 in the league, though he was unable to add to his tally on Saturday when he was rested in the 2-1 win against Derby County at Madejski Stadium.

The victory was Reading's first in four matches and it secured fifth place in the table for Brian McDermott's men who now face fourth-placed Cardiff City in the Championship play-offs.

The first leg takes place at Madejski Stadium this Friday with the second leg at the Cardiff City Stadium next Tuesday night (both 7.45pm ko).

Long said: "A few players played out of their skins this season so it makes this award even more special.

"It's a wonderful honour and obviously I'm delighted. Hopefully we can finish the season on a high now.

"I think we took our foot off the pedal in the previous couple of games once we knew automatic promotion wasn't possible, but Saturday was a good win.

"It would have been great to get on the pitch and I have a good history of scoring against Derby. It would have been nice to get one or two more goals but the gaffer gave a few players the chance to show what they're about and put a few problems in his head.

"Now we want to continue where we left off and beat Cardiff City over two legs. We have to do it the hard way now through the play-offs and hopefully I can score some telling goals to help us get into the Premier League."

The results on a dramatic final day saw Reading avoid former manager Brendan Rodgers' Swansea City who took advantage of Bluebirds' draw at Burnley by thumping Sheffield United to nick third spot.

Swans now face sixth-placed Nottingham Forest in the other semi-final, though Long feels the pair are destined to meet in the Wembley final on Monday, May 30.

"It's inevitable that we might meet Swansea in the final now," he suggested. "But we've got a tough test against Cardiff to get through first.

"We've had two good battles with them this season and they're two games we thought we should have won. Hopefully we can get it right third time around.

"It would be nice to beat them. It will be the hard way to go up but I think on our day we can beat any team in the Championship. Now we've got to go out and prove it."

Reading lost to Burnley in the Championship play-off semi-final two years ago and the club has never been promoted via that format.

However, Long believes that bitter disappointment taught the team some valuable lessons.

"We were disappointed that season when we lost to Burnley because we didn't do out job against Birmingham City on the last day of the season and it showed on the pitch.

"We battled away at Burnley, but still lost the game. Then they came to our place and won as well.

"I think it may have been a confidence thing, but a lot of players from then are in our current squad while others know what it's like to play at Wembley.

"There's a lot more energy around the place now, our squad is very fit and we out-run teams a lot of the time and work harder than them. We have to look forward to Cardiff and let's hope we enjoy it."

Meanwhile, McDermott revealed he had a hunch Reading would meet his former club Cardiff City in the play-offs.

"We're now in a cup competition and I had a funny feeling we'd play Cardiff. I know the atmosphere will be great at our place and then we go there," stated Royals boss.

"Whoever we played, either Swansea or Cardiff, we had already booked a hotel in Cardiff so this is perfect.

"There's been nothing in the two games between us, and you look at Forest, Swansea, Cardiff and Reading, there's nothing to choose between us all, every manager will say that.

""We'll be ready and looking for the right result in the play-offs."