Match Report vs Cardiff City

24 January 1998 (FA Cup Round Four)
Cardiff City 1 READING 1

Att: 10,000

Team: Hammond, Booty, Bernal, Bodin, Swales, Hodges, Parkinson, Lambert, Morley, Asaba (Lovell), Bowen (Meaker).
Subs not used: Bibbo, Thorp

Report from PA Jones:

The sight of Paul Bodin wearing a Reading shirt is enough to strike fear into anyone at the best of times, but when the 5'7" left back detailed to fill in as a centre back... too horrible for words.

When I saw the size of our central defensive pairing relative to the Cardiff forwards I feared the worst. If Reading had been up against a team more interested in shooting at goal than kicking Jason Bowen up in the air, then my fears may have been realised. Cardiff are division three's draw specialists, and have found goals hard to come by this season. You could see why. On a number of occasions, Reading's makeshift defence left a Cardiff man in space on the edge of the area, but they seemed reluctant to shoot, and would attempt to pass the ball to a colleague in a worse position. Very odd.

The first half saw Reading playing by far the better football, but still looking a shaky at the back when Cardiff were attacking. The contrast in styles was classic cup tie stuff. Reading were passing the ball around in fast neat triangles, with Bowen and Lambert both looking impressive, and Cardiff playing a more physical direct style, roared on by the hostile crowd(Aside: do you think that Cardiff fans adopt such an aggresive stance to compensate for their effette nickname? Bluebirds- I ask you! Their mascot was straight out of a Disney movie). There were very few clear-cut chances. The best of the half fell to Asaba. An intercepted clearance was slotted through the Cardiff defence for him to run onto, the defence hesitated, anticipating an off-side whistle for Morley, who was offside but running back upfield as the pass was made. The flag stayed down, and Asaba shot well against the crossbar.

The second half started disastrously. Barely a minute in, and a Cardiff throw near the corner flag went over Booty towards an unmarked Bernal. He ducked as if to head the ball, but misjudged its height and it bounce behind him and across the goalmouth. Hammond and Bodin looked uncertainly at each other, and a Cardiff forward bundled it into the net. Bedlam. Mercifully, parity was soon restored, in a similarly scrappy way. A Reading corner was a headed on by Morley at the near post. Asaba jumped with a cluster of Cardiff defenders and the Cardiff goalie. Amazingly Asaba came out best! Hooray(or quiet smile in my case, surrounded as I was by extremely disgruntled Cardiff fans)!

Cardiff's best chance of the game was an excellent shot from just outside the box which Hammond could only push straight up into the air. Cardiff forwards rushed in, but Hammond recovered, and palmed it over for a corner. It remained fairly even until the last fifteen or twenty minutes, when Cardiff began to dominate. The catalyst for this seemed to be the substitution of Houghton and Lovell for Hodges and Asaba. They seemed quite reasonable changes, as Asaba seemed to be limping, and Hodges had done very little all game, but from this point onwards Reading seemed to lose their shape.

However, despite all Cardiff's blustering, they didn't really look like scoring, and it was Reading who looked like they'd nicked it at the death when Morley curled a beautiful shot into the top left hand corner of the goal from the right hand side of the box. However, this effort was mysteriously ruled out. Any idea why, those at the away end?

Curiously, this disallowed effort has been omitted from all match reports that I've seen so far- even the South Wales echo, which devoted two while pages to the match, including two paragraphs dedicated to Jamie Lambert's booking for playing on and scoring after being ruled offside(I saw the flag, but didn't hear the whistle where I was sitting, so I have some sympathy with Lambert's protestation that he didn't hear the whistle-the SWE seemed to think that justice was served though.)!

To summarise, I enjoyed the game, and thought that a draw was a fair result. I would expect Reading to progress into the fifth round after the replay, especially assuming that we have a slightly more robust defence in place by then.

Here's the Soccernet report:

Nugent (47)      Asaba (56)

Managerless Cardiff so nearly produced a famous cup shock at Ninian Park. The Third Division club's battling finish and second-half bombardment of Reading's goal could easily have produced a winner to satisfy the romantics. And Kevin Nugent, injured for most of the season, had already struck first blood with a glancing header in the 47th minute from Chris Beech's bouncing throw-in.

Given their superior passion, it was unfortunate that the Bluebirds never quite mastered Reading dangerman Carl Asaba, who head home Welshman Jason Bowen's corner in the 56th minute amidst some chaos in the six yard box.

The final quarter certainly belonged to the underdogs. Anthony Carss curled a skilful effort just wide and Cardiff midfielder Scott Young's free header could have won it if properly directed from just six yards.

Defender Mark Harris squandered another glorious chance in the 74th minute and striker Carl Dale looked to have stolen the headlines at the death. But somehow Nicky Hammond, in Reading's goal, scrambled across and stretched out a left arm to deflect that potential winner for a replay.

The battle of wits began before the match. A 10,174 crowd meant kick off was delayed for five minutes. Reading duly took to the pitch at the appointed time but were kept waiting by their hosts and it was 3.08pm before a ball was kicked in anger.

Perhaps Cardiff were discussing who their new manager might be. Russell Osman was sacked only 48 hours before the game and Kevin Ratcliffe, Colin Addison, Peter Nicholas, Gerry Francis and Bruce Rioch were all immediately linked with the post.

Since Director of Football, Kenny Hibbitt, picks the team anyway at Cardiff, it might not have upset the team's course unduly but Division One opposition is daunting and his charges seemed shot shy for the first half hour.

It took 37 minutes for the game to explode into life when Nugent connected sweetly with a 25 yard drive which the scampering Hammond did well to turn round a post.

Only seconds later, however, pacey Asabe launched a thunderbolt which almost broke Jon Hallworth's crossbar. The Cardiff keeper later produced heroics when James Lambert broke clear on goal but it was the Welsh who ultimately deserved to be in the Fifth Round in their own right.

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