Reading FC Match Report: 2014/2015 Season - FA Cup
BRADFORD 0 READING 0
Reading and Bradford fought out a tense nil nil draw in a scrappy FA Cup quarter final. On a pitch, not fit for Sunday league football, a physical encounter ensued forcing the Royals to dig deep against the giant killing Bantams. A replay and a place in the FA Cup semi-final draw a fitting reward.
The Royals made two changes following the midweek game at Bolton, with Kelly replacing Gunter and Williams back into the starting line-up for Gareth McCleary. Jamie Mackie and Hal Robson-Kanu were designated with the task of supporting Pogrebynak, while Clarke packed the midfield with Norwood, Chalobah and Williams.
Within the first five minutes the pitch, whilst looking in decent condition before the match, started to cut up like it was harvesting season. In a game where good football wasn’t going to win the game, it was imperative that the Royals showed mental and physical toughness. From the outset the Royals were determined not to be beaten.
Reading got in some early challenges, one in particular from Chalobah, that showed intent. Chalobah going through Gary Liddle in the 4th minute with purpose of winning the ball and leaving his mark on the Bradford player. The opening exchanges saw the ball swap sides continuously with neither team able to get control and create any clear openings. Oliver Norwood in particular struggled to cope with the surface and the intensity of the Bradford pressure. From a couple of early free kicks he was unable to throw the ball into the danger areas. In the 12th minute Hanson had the first chance of the game for Bradford following a cross from Meredith. His header was poor and trickled through to a waiting Adam Federici.
Stephen Kelly was the first real victim of the pitch. Pushing forward he received the ball in a good wide position in the 21st minute. As he prepared to hit a cross to the onrushing Pogrebynak, the ball bubbled off the pitch resulting in Kelly slicing the cross behind the goal. In the 25th minute, Danny Williams picked the ball up out wide on the right. In typical style he had a driving run into the area. His cross took a deflection that almost wrong footed the Bradford keeper, Ben Williams. Williams adjusted his position well, diving to save and hold the cross.
Jamie Mackie showed spirit to push the ball past Meredith and with an intelligent cut back found Pogrebynak in the area. Pogrebynak managed to get the ball from his feet and drove a shot against the post with Ben Williams stranded to the goal line. Reading were starting to get on top with Jamie Mackie the inspiration. An inviting cross from Mackie in the 30th minute deserved to have a more determined run from a Reading player to attack the ball. Bradford almost got lucky in the 36th minute. A hanging cross from Liddle evading everyone in the box and rebounding off the post. Federici was left scrambling across the goal.
As the first half played out, the endeavour of the Royals wasn’t matched with the quality of the play. A combination of the pitch and the time they had on the ball from Bradford pressing saw many misplaced and rushed passes. Hal Robson-Kanu in particular failed to make any impression in the game. From distance Danny Williams drove a shot over the bar in the 41st minute. It was the last attempt of a hard fought first half. Reading matching Bradford in difficult conditions but lacking the extra quality needed to unlock a stubborn unit.
Bradford started the second half on the front foot. In the 46th minute a Bradford cross found Morias at the back post. He was like a rabbit in the headlights though, unsure whether to cross or shoot. As he dithered Obita managed to get back across, clearing the cross when it eventually came. Roared on by some vigorous and vocal home support Bradford kept Reading pinned back. It took a match winning tackle from Stephen Kelly to prevent Stead a run and shot on goal in the 61st minute. In the 70th minute, Jon Stead got clear wide right. His cross was just behind Hansan, who did well to turn the ball goalwards but was left frustrated as he saw it go just wide of Federici’s post.
Bradford most dangerous moment came in the 75th minute. Davies driving a powerful header over the bar following an excellent free kick from the right. Following his heroics in the previous round Yakubu replaced Mackie in the 78th minute. He was given a rapturous welcome as you felt the Royals would yet get a chance to win the game.
That chance came in the 86th minute. A Norwood free kick finding Pogrebynak at the back post. In true Maradona style it went unnoticed as his hand pushed the ball against the post. The ball fell back in the middle of the goal, Reading players lined up to swing at the ball but failed to connect. The ball was driven back across the goal and as the scrambled continued, the Yak was unable to turn the ball into the net. The referee’s whistle for a free kick ending the sequence of events. It turned out to be the final chance of the game as the game came to a close. It wasn’t a pretty but Reading demonstrated the determination needed to grind out a result. In difficult circumstances they came out of the game with a second chance. The replay won’t be easy but with the same commitment in this and the remaining league games, then avoiding relegation and a continuation of the cup run is a realistic ambition.
With a place in the FA Cup Semi-Finals at stake, the game between Bradford City and Reading was always going to be a hard fought game. The overall quality of football on display at Valley Parade, however, was more often than not below par with both teams failing to keep the ball under control on a poor surface. Despite several half-chances from both sides, neither team managed to find the net with the game eventually finishing 0-0.
It could be argued that Steve Clarke set up his Reading side for the draw from the off. Choosing to field Pavel Pogrebnyak up top as the sole striker, with five in midfield, it was difficult for the Russian to get many opportunities in front of goal. Pogrebnyak's best effort to open the scoring came in the first half. Jamie Mackie got through on the right wing before cutting the ball back to Pogrebnyak in the middle, whose snapshot rocketed off the post. Apart from that, the striker struggled to get the ball up top with Bradford players constantly surrounding him.
Reading seemed to start the game brightly, taking control in the first twenty minutes and silencing the home crowd. Both teams were not afraid of going into tackles and it was nice to see players from both sides getting straight back up from them and carrying on without fuss. Bradford themselves were to hit the post, with a Gary Liddle cross going through the crowd of players in the box before rebounding off the goal on the right hand side of the box. Going into the second half, it must be said that Bradford were the better team. One Jordan Obita mistake gifted Filipe Morais an opportunity which, fortunately for the Royals, was scuffed. Further chances fell to Jon Stead and Andrew Davies but neither were able to put the Bantams in front. The introduction of Garath McCleary and Yakubu did little to help Reading going forward, as Bradford continued to pressure the Reading defence. A late injury to Alex Pearce, with a nasty looking facial wound, threatened to see Reading end the game with ten men but following a complete pitch-side kit change, the skipper soldiered on to see his side through to full-time. Despite much pressure from Bradford, especially in the second half, the match ended goalless.
Defensively, a special mention must be given to Michael Hector and Nathaniel Chalobah. Prior to his substitution, due to an injury inflicted by Alex Pearce, Chalobah was key particularly in clearing out a number of successive balls into the box from Morais. Michael Hector also continues to impress, being a strong presence in the back four when needed. Stephen Kelly is also deserving of a mention as his sliding tackle to dispossess Jon Stead in the box was another key moment, preventing Bradford from taking the opportunity to take the lead.
No report of the game is complete without a mention of the state of the pitch. Post-match, Bradford striker Jon Stead said that the pitch did not effect the game, but he is much mistaken. Reading fans will be fully aware of the current state of the Madejski pitch, but the Bradford pitch was much worse. The condition of the pitch in areas was so poor, it was impossible to string any passes together along the ground. As a result, the game was made up of long hopeful balls and scrappy clearances which were headed back and forth between the two teams. Stephen Kelly's attempted cross particularly highlighted the impact of the pitch. In plenty of space down the wing, Kelly waited for the ball to roll across the ground before hitting it towards goal. The ball, however, bobbled over the poor surface causing Kelly to miskick the ball out of play.
After a poor quality display from both sides this time around, Reading will be confident of getting a result next time around despite their currently poor form at home. On a slightly better pitch, Reading players will be able to play the ball along the ground more effectively and have more opportunities to run at their opponents. If anything is to be taken from today's match, however, we know that Bradford won't go down without a fight. Back at the Madejski if the fans can replicate the atmosphere from today, Reading will be favourites to make home advantage count and get through to the Semi-Finals.
- Replay: Monday 16 March at the Madejski Stadium
- FA Cup Semi-Finals Draw: Monday 9 March at 9:45pm (BBC1)
This FA Cup game took place 1625 days ago in the 2014/2015 season.