Reading FC Match Report: 2012/2013 Season - FA Cup


Reading: A Le Fondre (13 mins), N Hunt (44 mins), A Le Fondre (49 mins, pen),
Crawley: N Adams (1 min).

This competition is chiefly the reason for McDermott's appointment as full time Reading manager a little under 3 years ago so it is pleasing that we have again taken the FA Cup very seriously by fielding a strong side. That said, no fewer than 7 changes made from the side which sank at Spurs is indicative of Brian's failings this season in being unable to find a consistent, solid team and formation. Half way through this season of struggle we are still no closer to knowing our strongest side.

Not that this particular line-up particularly covered itself in glory during the first half at the cramped Broadfield Stadium with its bobbly pitch and a record crowd squeezed in. Strong lower division outfit versus Premier League strugglers had FA Cup headlines written all over it, and the journos would have been sharpening their pens after 14 seconds. Crawley kick off, ball pumped up in the general direction of captain for the day Ian Harte who was snoozing and miscontrolled, allowing Adams in to cut inside and curl superbly beyond Federici. Surprised? Not one bit. Anyone who has watched Reading defend dopily for most of this season would barely have raised an eyebrow, the only surprise was that this was to be as good as it got for Crawley.

Reading were dreadful in the first half. Players such as Morrison and McCleary will have played a large chunk of their career at venues such as these, with a poor surface and the crowd on top of you. But they failed to dominate their supposedly inferior oppisition, McCleary being particularly cuplable with his dalliances on the edge of the Reading box when more awareness would have allowed for an easy clearance or even a counter attack. Adams tried his luck again from similar range and then Federici flipped a Walsh header over the bar. Reading completely allowed the opposition to dominate these early stages which will have alarmed McDermott because this competition has provided the catalyst for an improved run of second half of the season form in two of the last 3 seasons.

Then, with the large Reading contingent beginning to lose a little patience, Reading scored. Harte centre, McLeary proving more effective in an attacking sense by pulling the ball down for Le Fondre to drill home the equaliser. These games are made for ALF; a big ocassion and - it must be said - lower quality opposition are the kind of ocassions on which you expect the little man to thrive. He and Hunt were primarily working off a post-Christmas diet of scraps however, long balls smashed into the channels as is the 'style' to which we have become accustomed and it is the kind of primitive football which is meat and drink to the likes of Crawley. Close to Gatwick we may have been, but that does not excuse the aerial bombardment. It is no coincidence that Reading were more effective when getting the ball to feet to the wingers and it was from a right side centre which Hunt nudged us undeservedly ahead two minutes before half time. Reading were still looking decidedly uncomfortable before this however as Federici plunged at the feet on an onrushing attacker following more defensive uncertainty and getting two strong hands to a crashing effort with Reading utterly unable to dominate the midfield. The switch from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 made perfect sense in the circumstances but it must be said that Karacan and Tabb were poor in that first 45 and struggled to orchestrate much quality possession.

Going in 2-1 behind however must have knocked Crawley given their strong first half performance and their spirits would have been hit further as Reading extended the lead following a strong start to the second half, Hunt's cross was flicked on and drifted wide before the genial and lively Irishman was chopped down just inside the box with our very next attack. Le Fondre stepped up to smash the penalty into the roof of the net in front of the packed away terrace. Reading - to their credit - now largely controlled the game as we had been accustomed to them doing against less clinical opposition in the Championship when taking a lead. The shape was better, the passing crisper and quicker and we played out time with relative comfort whilst the travelling Royals entertained themselves by fighting amongst themselves, scrapping with stewards when being ejected and dismantling advertising hoarding. Ah yes, this felt like a proper old school cup tie alright.

Federici pulled off two tidy saves from long distance efforts and the goalscorer Adams almost punished us again with a howitzer of an angled drive which flew wide but in truth Reading rarely looked like losing a lead. We ended the game very much on the front foot with Le Fondre threatening a hatrick and Hunt bringing out the best from Crawley 'keeper Jones. The scoreline perhaps marginally flattered Reading and if truth be told we looked - as we so often have - a good Championship side making ultimately light work of a tie against a decent League One outfit. It is good to make progress in this brilliant old competition, another good run can only help with the league form so let us hope for another very winnable tie in the fourth round because winning is a good habit and it is a habit we have largely fallen out of.
Neil Maskell

This FA Cup game took place 2601 days ago in the 2012/2013 season.